Name : Marthasha Aurahmalina
NPM : 180410160106
I remembered the tilled window colored the carpet a faint of yellow. I remembered seeing the dark shadow of my mother standing tall next to the seat. And I remember the smile on my mother as she knitted something colorful. Don’t remember what it was though. But I did remember the sound of a car horn stopped her hands and she got up from her seat, going to the door no doubt.
Expecting the sight of my dad’s face, I followed mom to open the door. There’s my dad. But someone else was with him too.
It was grandma and grandpa.
Dad said grandma and grandpa would have to stay with us for a while because he’s rebuilding their house. “So that the whole Iwin family could have a place to gather” he said. And it was fine. Grandma and grandpa’s house does need a little fixing I thought.
They left without me noticing. Mom said the renovation was done so grandma and grandpa went back to their new house. It was fine. There would be a chance for the whole family to go there anyway. And again, I have seen too few of them to actually cling to their leg hoping for their stay.
But grandpa left before I had the chance to visit the house.
I was in my checkered school uniform. In the middle of the class I was asked to be pardoned. I had no idea what happened, but mom was looking all kinds of panic and pale. “What happened?”
“Grandpa died.” It was short and it was curt. But I get it. He is no longer here with us.
So there we were. In the car, just the two of us going to Tasikmalaya. I don’t feel sad, angry or anything. Just curious. What was the new house like.
It was big. Like, big big. And it was unfamiliar. But mom pulled my hand and suddenly we were inside it. It’s the guest room. Mom pulled me to sit next to grandma. And right next to gramps. Mom sat on grandma’s other side and they began to talk in a foreign language. For a supposedly Sundanese, I am bad at Sundanese. So I just sat there looking around like a lost child, looking rude no doubt. But there weren’t many people to offend anyway.
It’s my first time to one of these things but I know it wasn’t supposed to be this barren.
‘The others might have left already.’ I convinced myself. And so I let it go. Finding more interest in the new house. ‘If grandpa is no longer here then who else would be staying here except grandma?’ I found myself thinking. Suddenly the new house feels too big and too lonely to my liking.
“Let’s go home.” I said to my mom almost pleading.
“Already? But we just got here.”
“I’m tired. I have homework for tomorrow.” I reasoned. Mom looks exasperated. She glanced at grandma and grandma seems to take the hint.
“You can go home. Aca must be tired.” Grandma said. No feelings of anger nor sad to have been left behind. If I were to know my grandma better, I might’ve chosen to stay. But I don’t. And so mom and I left the house that seemed to go on forever as I watch it got further away through the rear mirror.
On that same year, dad asked us to spend our holiday in Tasik. Against my silent disagreement, the whole family agreed. I’m feeling more and more like I am forced than I am asked to be there.
“It smells like old people, this place”. My brother and his jokes. A stupid joke but it is what sticks to me about this place for years.
Strangely enough, in this old people smelly place, I have been given a chance to meet relatives I did not know I have, and they would coo me like a baby I’m not. Strangers scare me. I’m not like my brother who is always the center of attention, nor I am my sister who gets along with every person she met. So I would rather hide from them strangers rather than trying to chit-chatted them. Then again, I’m too conscious of this house to actually be alone anywhere in here. Thus, my days in this house would be of me following either my brother, sisters, or my mom.
Following my brother is a mistake I found. He would do the craziest things and as a follower I would have to do the same craziest things. One time he convinced me to take a dip in the fishpond in front of the house, promising he would hold my hand to make sure of my safety. He didn’t. My dad saved me from dying in a pond together with the fishes. All the while my brother was laughing at my incompetence for swimming. I swear I get him for this.
I never did.
Following mom is a safe bet I thought. She wouldn’t drown me, at least not deliberately. Then again, she gave me a knife and told me to; “Skin it alive”.
Thus my days of following mom came to an end.
“There’s something wrong about this house.” Said my sister. The only choices I have. She sat next to me in the living room while the others have slept. I can feel the cold air seep through my skin and from the window a weak light glimmer through. It was dusk.
She decided that it would be a good idea to tell me horror stories after I told her that I have problems falling asleep in this house. She told me her experience from a few days ago when she slept in grandfather’s room. “Something is pulling my leg” she said.
If I was smart, I would have declined her saying ‘it might’ve just been in your mind’. But I’m not. That, and I have a need to make a substantial proof that there is something going on in this house. That I was not the only one feeling like going back to the safety of my own house.
“This place is scary.” I answered her.
“Yeah. Not to mention this place is mostly empty most of the time, so of course there’s bound to be a ghost or two.” Yes. A ghost.
I have concluded. This place is haunted.
Even more reason to go back to the safety of my house. It’s not that I hate this house, it’s just that I can’t be bothered leaving the safety of my house to this haunted place that smells like old people.
Just as I was lamenting my own sorry fate having to spend my holiday in this house, my brother came knocking at the door. “Wakey-wakey, you’re awake?”
He grinned at me, knowing I’ve been trying to hide from everything.
“Let’s go outside. We’re having a barbeque.” As if knowing I was about to ask, he said again; “It’s almost New Year”
And so I went outside, not hoping much from a bunch of relatives I did not remember the name of. Wearing my knitted sweater I walk barefooted to the front porch.
“There you are, where have you been?”
“Are you tired? Let’s enjoy the firework.”
“Are you hungry? Have some barbeque.”
Overwhelmed. That’s the only word I got for this situation.
Feeling too awkward to answer their question, I half run to my mom and sat next to her. I can hear them laughing. “Why are you so shy? They were worried about you.” Mom whispered to me. I had no answer to that so I just sat there hugging myself. It’s cold.
“Here comes the firework.” My brother screams. Suddenly a burst of light comes out of his hand and goes high high to the sky. A series of firework light up the night sky. It wasn’t just of my brother’s. Another and another series of fireworks lit up from all the area near the house.
One of the fireworks shot up to the top of the house. And somehow, I can’t help but follow it with my eyes. Up to the top until it blew up. The sky atop the house seemed to glow.
It was mesmerizing.
Now my grandma has decided to live together with my uncle’s family, leaving the lonely big house even lonelier. Grandma said; “Everyone seems so busy with their own thing now, they don’t have time to gather like we used to be.”
Somehow hearing it I feel sad. The big lonely house has lost its meaning of existence. I’m reluctance, but that place has become familiar to me. Just like an old relative I have seldom met. I miss that house.
Illustration credit goes to Marthasha’s personal archive.