What a Fool: A Memoir

Lulu Lailiyah

My grandpa had two wives and my grandma was the latest. She once told me that her two daughters in their teenage once told her that when the first time they spent the night in their father and step-mother’s home, the older girl was having a severe stomachache yet they were just crying their hearts out quietly without waking up their father in right the next room to seek for an emergency help. “What a fool. He is their own father, is not he?” She ended the story with a fiery voice while looking at me with her sad reminiscing eyes. At that time, I agreed with grandma.

Mother had been remarried last year, in Cirebon. I remember it was on the rainy October in Jatinangor. She chose to not having me as the witness on her happy days. Everything had worked smoothly without me. The marriage preparations, ijab qabul, bought a new home and a new scooter and also moving out of our home to her new home in Cibiru. The news itself, I knew it through my relative’s Facebook post on mother’s wedding day. I needed to check the photo in that post several times to ensure myself that it was really the woman that I called mama. The shocked from that sudden news made me feel that I did not even have the right to ask her. What right I have to question her choice? At least, she said “I am sorry” when I replied “why did not you tell me?” to her “yesterday, I married” short text message. It might be best for us. All the changes happened in a span of less than one month those all felt unreal. I was cold-shoulder to mother for a month. I thought I needed a time to fully accepted her new status. Whether she was aware of it or not, I do not know.

I, at last, came to her new home in December. There was no wide yard; side yard or backyard attached to that home. There were only two bedrooms in total. One tight empty bed in a room downstairs and one-bedroom in upstairs. The upstair room was quite wide with a king size bed, a large wardrobe, and an aesthetic white dressing table; their room. The paint color of the home was plain white. The basic color paint of a new home.

There was only a single burner gas stove in the kitchen. She needed more time and effort to cook yet I could not look at the distress in her eyes even a bit. Every time I looked at the pink plate rack, I could not stop throwback at that time when my father and mother came home from the trip to buy this pink rack. It was the exact same rack. A set of the multicolored teacup, she also brought that set to her new home. A black and white wall clock from the old home, she also brought it. Again, it was the clock that she bought with father. Father said he loved the clock for the muteness of it. There was no clicking sound from the hand of the clock movement. The bedsheets that she used to use in her old bedroom, the one my father used to sleep on, she used it to cover her bed with another man. Along with the red floral huge thick blanket. The blanket was special to me. It was in one of my first memory. The blanket was so huge. With my tiny body, I loved to pretend that it was a pool of fur. I was diving or crawling with my baby sister below the blanket and bite mother and father toes. It was a warm memory yet now I could not cherish it sincerely. Along with piles of memory attached to every furniture from the old home, mother had contaminated them all. For all these grief, how could not I blame it to a certain role? How would I feeling better if I did not have the target to hate? Therefore towards mother and her new husband, I could not help but have an indifference; a resentment; a grudge I thought I should have.

One day my sister came to visit for the first time from Cirebon. She had called me before that she would come and requested me to come too. Because that day was not my off-day I just came when it was the dinner time. My sister did not join the dinner. Mother said she was tired from the four hours trip. I directly came to the bedroom rather join the dinner; I had eaten before. My sister was asleep. In the queen size bed, she looked so small. I touched her shoulder to ensure that she was asleep. Taking up the fallen blanket on the floor, I wrapped the blanket until my sister’s chin. It had been two months since we talked. She lived on a school board. To be able to talk to her, I should come to her school. Yet I was too occupied with the activities in college to come to her school in Cirebon. When I saw her tonight, I did not know that she became thinner. I planned to ask her out; visiting Jatinangor and stroll around. After finished the night routine and checked my handphone. I went to sleep beside my sister.

In my sleep, I felt my back was touched. I opened my eyes immediately then flipped my back to check. It was my sister.

“Sister, can you wake Mama up, please? I am so sick.” Gripping my hand tightly, weeping quietly, she was begging to me with a very pitiful murmur. I held her hand. It was cold. I panicked.

“What happened, sister?” I gripped her shoulders and whispered.

“I do not know. Hot.” She felt hot rather the cold. I had checked her neck, sole of foot and forehead; cold. I rushed got out from the bed then went to the right corner of the room. Opened the large cupboard, I was digging out the lower section in a hurry. One blanket, two blankets, three blankets, one towel, two pairs of socks, one wool jacket, I brought out them all in a hurry and put it right on the bed.

“Please, call mama for me.” With the white from the wall and the bedsheet, the darkroom was lightened up. I was able to see her miserable eyes begging me to call mother.

“For what? Be quiet. Just sleep.” I firmly declined. Would she able to relieve my sister’s pain? I neglected her weeping then continued to check her temperature.

I tried to warm her up by piled three thick blankets up on her body. Her feet had been covered with two socks smeared with cajeput oil beforehand. The night was so quiet; I wished the heavy rain and the turbulent thunder had not stopped so I could not hear her gritting teeth and childish weeping. I went to the kitchen to warm up a cup of honey water; avoiding her. Helpless, confused, desperate; I could not hold my tears back any longer. What should I do? Looking up to the stair; wake mother up would be the best option right now, I thought. She always knew what to do in the difficult situation. I realized there was a hesitancy in my heart when I tried to step up. Mother was with another person; he was a stranger to me. It had never been this clear before. Wiped my tears I poured the honey water to a cup and back to my sister. The door was just covered by a golden curtain. I came in.

“Have you called mama?” She turned her head to me and asked with her hoarse voice. Those eyes; full of hope.

“Can you endure it a little more? We can not wake Mama up. She must be sleeping right now. It is 23.00 o’clock.” I avoided her begging eyes. The pain that she felt, I hoped I was able to relieve it a little; I hoped by hugging her the pain was transferred to me. But it was not. On this queen size spring bed, we lay down side by side. I embraced her shoulders and weeping along with her whimper cries.

“I am so sorry, sister. She is with another person. She is not just ours alone. I am sorry.” To be strong and a calm sister was the last thing I could do. Her whimper was louder; she hit my shoulders and shouted beside my ears.

“Why? Why sister? She is still our mother.” Louder and louder.

At this moment, the story grandmother told me when I was a kid rushed to my mind. Her sad reminiscing eyes when she said “what a fool”, I remember. Now with the similar situation, mother and her sister experienced. I could not more disagree with grandmother. What a fool I was. What a fool her two daughters. What a fool.

Photo by Lulu Lailiyah

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