Sobriquet: A Memoir

Azzahra Putri Habiba

“Okay, then. I think that’s all of it. Do you need anything before we go?”

After I heard my mother’s question, I shook my head. All of my stuffs already unpacked and neatly placed, new sheets and new blanket already placed in the upper-bunk, and a container full of my snacks and cartons of milk quietly hidden under the bunk inside my assigned room. Mom nodded her head as a response.

Her hands slowly wrapped around my shoulder, pulling me into her embrace. Even without seeing her face, I knew she cried with the way my shoulder slowly gotten wet. Afterall, I won’t see my family anymore for another month. This is also her first time to let her children go out from the ‘cage’. “Don’t forget to give a call, okay?” I gave her a nod, afraid if I let out any voice, I’d cry in the end.

After a moment passed, she let go of me after she gave me a peck on my forehead. She goes into the car, and waves at me after she lower down the glass. I waved back, only stopped when I didn’t see the car anymore before I went into the building.

My body froze when I realized I wasn’t going to be alone. Inside the room, another girl was placing her sheets just below my bunk. Nervous, I didn’t know whether I should go in and introduce myself or leave her to tidy up her stuffs. It seemed going to be the former, when the girl glanced up from her bunk and spot me beside the door. Her eyes lighten up, a smile widely curved upon her lips. “Oh! Are you my roommate?” she asked.

As I tried to put a smile on my own, I went into my room, closing the door behind me as I tried to introduce myself to her.

It’s just the three of us (the room should’ve been occupied by four occupants) and we’re getting along well for the start. Our small talks were still animated, but not loud enough to disturb other rooms. Eventually it’s just Rasqia and I who are still awake that night after she told me from below that Andini already asleep.

“So this is it, huh. Can’t believe I go here for school.” She said. I can hear her huffing in the darken room. Unlike me, she doesn’t want to go to dormitory school.

“…Me either, actually. Never been into stay-over, and here I am, sharing a room with two other people.”

I could hear some shuffling from below. Curious, I moved my body so that I could look down for a bit. Rasqia raised her head to meet my stare. Even if the darkness in the room obscured my eyesight, I could feel her smirk and her mischievous tone.

“Soooooo … it’s our ‘first night’, then?” I grabbed my stuffed doll and throws it into her head. It hits.

Our group of three soon evolve into group of eight. I think it is a common thing, I saw other ‘group’ and even though I’m getting along with them, it’s not as comfortable as I hang out with my ‘group’. We have different background stories, we have a lot in common, and the most important of all, we’re having fun.

Not everyday is all sunshine, though. There were times when some of us had a thing against each other and giving a cold shoulder. Rasqia and I fought a lot too, and sometimes escalated to hurtful insults.

If those things happened, my friend Putri, would made us to gather in one of our rooms to sit and talk it out. More often than not, it went rough. It can result into another argument, tears, and shame. But as rough as it is, eventually, everything can be solved and slowly, we made up.

It’s pretty often to have the ‘talk’, even people outside of circle wonders about it. One time, I was at the same place when I heard Cia, someone who was outside of our circle, asked Putri about it. “Why do you always insist on making a talk every time they argue?”

Putri simply answered, “I just believe that there’s nothing that can’t be solved with talking to each other.”

Since in elementary, I could count how many I got sick with one hand. My friends sometimes wondered, and I simply shrugged about it. So when I entered high school, I never bothered to buy a lot of simple medicines. At least with that I could help my friend who was sick.

Perhaps I overestimated my physique. I never thought my body would got affected by new circumstances. Moreover, the mid term exam was coming, and the stress of it finally triggered my body to fall. As a result, here I am, stuck in the lower bunk bed under my blanket with a high fever and an urge to vomit almost all the time. Alone, because it’s time to go to mosque and dinner.

I was asleep when someone nudge me to wake up. When I opened my eyes, I am surprised to see that it was Qalbi who woke me up. I was close to her, but I never thought she went and visit me. I tried to sit as she placed her hand on my forehead, she frowned.

“Have you taken any meds?” She asked, I shook my head. Qalbi sighed, before she gives me something that I just realised she brought along with her; a bowl of chicken soup. There’s a drumstick inside and also small patch of chilli sauce.

“Eat that while I head to my room to find some meds, okay? It feels better than an empty stomach.” She said, and left before I begin to utter a protest. The bowl in my hands feels lukewarm, but it didn’t stop me to eat it—although my tongue feels so sour because the last vomit I did before. I didn’t know if it’s because I’m hungry or I didn’t want to face Qalbi’s wrath, but the bowl has been emptied by the time Qalbi went into my room again with a medicine and my water bottle.

After I can feel the medicine downed with my water through my throat, I let out a sigh before I take a glance towards the damsel. “…Thanks. I was surprised you came. I did tell our dorm mother to not bring food, and, well..”

Feeling Qalbi’s questioning gaze, I somewhat feel embarrassed. “Well, we’re not close enough so … yeah.”

Qalbi didn’t say anything as she retrieved the bowl and my water bottle and got up to put it on my table. I was about to fall asleep again when she opened her mouth.

“Well, you don’t need a reason to care for someone, right?” I blinked at her words. She turned her back, and gave me her small smile. “Besides, we can’t let our Ace of Math to get sick.”

It felt so long since someone aside from my family cared for me. It’s been so long I was caught off guard. But it’s not something uncomfortable. I smiled towards her, giving a nod.


Truthfully, there are so many memories from that building that always brought me laugh and tears. But actually, the most memorable for me was, the moment I introduced myself to others; Precisely when I give them my sobriquet—my name.

I actually hate my old nickname. It reminded me so much of pain; the pain being pushed too hard to do the best, the pain to being mocked physically and academically, the pain being ignored, and last but not all, the pain being left behind.

That’s why, being in a new school where no one knows where I came from excites me. It was like being given a new chance. A chance of rebirth. So when someone came up to me for the first time and asked, “What’s your name?”

I gave them a new name. As the beginning of a new story.

Photos taken from

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