The Escape: A Memoir

Daria Riksa Anugerah

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Stasiun Depok Baru was always busy. Some people ran to chase their train, some waited on the bench looking at their phone. Mothers with kids were busy trying to keep their children in the safe zone, and the officers were talking to each other, accompanied by their cups of hot coffee.

This station was my routine when I went to a university in Depok; I used to go there at 6.45 a.m. when it’s packed with hundreds of people. My morning was usually started by running out of breath because I rushed to catch the train. However, in the middle of the second semester, it changed.

It was Wednesday, April 2016, the second week after the mid-term exam. I arrived at Depok Baru at the usual time. I looked around, there were so many strange faces and they seemed to know where they were going. Their steps were steady and focused, while I was just standing at the entrance gate—didn’t know where to go. I dragged my feet to the bench, I knew I should’ve taken the train to my university because it has been almost a week since the last time I went to class. I told everyone I had business to do in my hometown, while actually, I was still in Depok and never left.

I was running away.

The train stopped and the door was opened, people immediately rushed to get in. My body was trapped between them, I was asphyxiated—I panicked and drew myself from the crowd. I took a deep breath and looked at my phone, there was a text from my best friend, asking me where I was and told me he was worried. I was startled, then with a heavy sigh, I pushed the block button on his profile without replying anything to him.

I regretted how rude I was.

I switched the lane then stood on another platform, hopped on the train and headed to Bogor, ditching all the classes I should’ve gone to that day. When I arrived at the station, I noticed it was raining before, the smell of fresh scent after the rain was in the air. I walked away from Stasiun Bogor, thinking about where I should go. There was a lot of angkot near the station, I randomly got into one without knowing where it would take me.

The angkot stopped in front of the building I’ve never visited before—Perpustakaan Daerah Kota Bogor. I didn’t know where else to go, so I got off there. The library was dull, it looked like no one even bother to re-paint the wall and clean the scattered leaves from the front yard. The reading room smelled like dust and old books, there were tables with wood partition and chairs, and bookshelves around the room. It didn’t look nice but at least not many people were there so I could be at peace.

I sat on the chair on the corner, rethinking about what I have done for the past week. I looked around the room, I wasn’t alone but the loneliness hit me. The smell of old books reminded me to the storybook Mom used to read me before bed. There was a highschooler couple giggled while reading a magazine. They looked so happy, I wondered if I would ever be happy again. Then everything I saw became blurry, I cried quietly in the reading room.

I ran away because I didn’t want to study at that university anymore. I realized the only reason I applied there was because my brother used to study there too, and I wanted to prove my family that I had the same capability as my brother to be accepted in one of the most prestigious university in the country.

I decided to keep running away, and I promised myself not to tell my family.

I constantly went to the library for a month, it was like my second home. I never went to the university anymore and blocked everyone I knew from the university. I was afraid of meeting or talking to people. When I went to some places, I wore a mask because I was paranoid, afraid someone would recognize me. Whenever I was outside and someone stared at me for a slightly longer time, I would be anxious and break down immediately.

Perpusda Bogor was my only sanctuary, I became very familiar with it. I knew which faucet worked and which one didn’t in the woman’s toilet. I knew which locker could be opened by any keys and which one couldn’t. I knew exactly which side of the particular bookshelf that I could use as the perfect spot to sleep comfortably without blocking other people’s way. When it was raining, I used to order a cup of hot tea from the stall near the library and drank it while studying on the red, full-of-stain sofa outside the reading room.

The hiding went “peacefully” until one day when I was studying, my mom suddenly called me. I panicked and didn’t answer, then she texted me. She asked where I was and told me to call her. I was terrified, my hands were trembling. I dialed her number and Mom picked up the call. Softly, she asked me if I was in class. I stuttered, then she asked me again,

Your department just called. They said you didn’t come to class for a month. Why?”

I couldn’t say anything but cry. I was scared and felt so small, it felt like the reading room shrunk and barely fitted my body inside. Not long after my mom hung up the call, my brother’s name showed up on my phone. I felt a little bit relieved because I was so sure I could talk to my brother about this.

I was wrong.

The second I picked up the call, haven’t said anything, but all I heard was my brother yelled at me. He said that my department kept calling my family, asking them why I never came to class anymore. I had the feeling like my soul just left my body, I was scared and the thought of people was looking for me made me want to vomit. My brother kept yelling, he didn’t even give me a chance to speak and explain nor asking me why I did it. He cursed at me, and before he hung up, he said one thing that I remembered vividly,

You’re a pathetic liar and a disgrace to this family. I’m ashamed to call you my sister.”

I was angry, frustrated, and exhausted at the same time. I wanted to punch every table in that room. I hated the fact that even the one whom I thought would always support me said he was ashamed to have me as his sister. That time, I was alone in the reading room but I heard noisy voices. It was so noisy but I couldn’t scream to muffle them. I could only wish the voices to shut up—but then I realized the voices came from my own head. I found myself crying in agony on the floor.

It all felt so cold and I wished I’ve never been born.

The words my brother said became a turning point in my life. I didn’t go home for three months. I spent most of my time in the library. I went there at 8 a.m. and went back at 4 p.m. every day. Sometimes I even arrived when the staffs haven’t even come to work yet.

For almost two months, I basically lived in the library. I read almost every book that could help me understand the materials for the entrance exam, I studied a lot and almost gave up. Sometimes my parents called me and asked me to go home but I refused. There was one time when I was doing the exercises from a book, they called me. We talked and in the end, they thought they had hung up the phone but actually, they hadn’t. I heard my father said what happened to me was a small matter and I was just overreacting, it embarrassed the family. When I heard that, my heart dropped. I felt dizzy and betrayed. He was my own father and he thought like that. I was hurt. From that moment on, I swore to myself I wouldn’t trust anyone.

The library became the silent witness of everything I went through in my hiding. It captured my tears, muffled screams, and I realized no one had my back except myself. The time in the library was short, but it was meaningful for me. I truly learned a lot. I knew what I did was wrong and cowardly, but life kept going on. I couldn’t say I was glad to be able to get through this, but somehow what happened to me and all the emotion, heartbreak, and pain I felt in Perpusda Bogor really helped me to grow wiser.

Photo was taken from Shutterstock (https://cms.dailysocial.id/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/shutterstock_83045623.jpg)

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