Posted in Personal Musings

The Jeremy Project, Pt. 1

Last week, I stumbled upon one of my junior high school friend. She didn’t change a bit. She looks exactly the same like when I saw her the last time, around 15 years ago. She still got the same child-like face, with a small pair of eyes, small nose, small lips, small straight and soft hair in a ponytail. Her petite figure could easily made people think that she’s a school kid.

As she walked down the stairs of the oldest mall in my hometown, I greeted her.

“Hi, Prama!”

She brought a massive backpack on her shoulder and seemed to be in a hurry. She didn’t say anything, not even looking at me. So, I gleefully asked again,

“Hey I am your classmate from junior high school. We were at class VIII together. You don’t remember me, do you?”

“I do remember your face. But I forgot your name,” she said.

“What are you doing, where are you going to?” I asked without hesitation.

“I am taking a half-day work shift and I just reported my presence to the boss.”

“Oh, so you work here?”

“Well I work in this area but not at the mall,” she reluctantly explained.

“Okay,” i thought ‘how did she end up working in this area, what kind of job, etc. etc.’, but somehow I didn’t ask the question. I didn’t want to come across as rude or lack in sympathy. Instead, I asked her, “Do you want to see my newborn?” I didn’t know why I offered her to see my baby. Who knew? She might be interested. We hadn’t met for a long time, there’s a lot of catching up to do, and this might be a good start.

“Where is your baby?” she asked me her first question, regarding to my question earlier. She might not be interested at all to meet her nosy long-time-no-see friend and just wanted to walk away, quick, and end the (perhaps) uncomfortable encounter with me.

“He’s in Optik X with my mom.” I assumed she might have known already that the optic was located just inside the mall, ground floor. I thought it wouldn’t create such a hassle to walk perhaps 100 steps max to see my precious and spend 2 minutes max to at least see him and then got back to whatever she was going to do. But how I was wrong.

“I am sorry. I am in a hurry. I have to get my bicycle.” So, she’s riding a bicycle. I commended her on that. I knew where she lived and I assumed she still lived there with her parents. It’s not near from the mall. Why didn’t she ride a motorbike like any other people in this town? It’s saddening me to imagine her petite figure and childlike face had to go through danger on the road every workdays. I knew how hard bicycling is, I was riding a bicycle myself during university days. But maybe I underestimated her. I still thought she’s a 13 year old little girl from junior high school who needed to be protected.

The thought of her daily struggle on a bike consoled me from the fact that she probably didn’t want to have anything to do with me. Who knows when will we meet again? I am not going to be in this town for a long time. But she didn’t know my backstory. I also didn’t know her backstory. The difference was I wanted to know and she didn’t. Perhaps each of us thought of ourselves as the “normal” one and the other one as a “weird” human who had a problem. I might thought of her as distant, cold, unwelcoming. She might thought of me as annoying, unnecessary, not understanding. Or maybe she thought I was going to sell some Multilevel Marketing products.

She didn’t even think that what she did could make me feel unwanted. She was so preoccupied with God-knows-what. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it was the way I approach her. I should’ve asked “how are you”, so she might have a chance to explain what’s going on. But I thought that question was such a wishy-washy and people just replied “Oh I am fine” every time.

I should just stop over-thinking. Right there.

I didn’t know why I felt like I lost something. Some imaginary, one-sided, past friendship maybe?

I was demanding some sort of acknowledgment or recognition of the good things that I’ve done. I thought I did something noble by accompanying her during junior high school. Do you notice that on every school there were some students who were kind of isolated and nobody wants to be with them? Prama was definitely one of those students, I don’t know why, but because of that I decided to befriend her and really see her as a person. I was probably the only schoolmate ever to visit her house and witness her fondness of her turtle pets. Well I shouldn’t expect anything in return anyway.

If only she knew that I cared for her so much. I was the one who wrote her a fake love letter and put it in her school drawer. A letter on fancy paper with seven pink hearts on top and poetic words of secret crush. The letter made her smile so widely, a smile never seen on someone so shy and quiet. After school she talked to me giggly on our way to the bus station. She tried to guess who wrote the letter. I knew I lied to her, I wrote her a fake love letter. But it was all worth it by the look of her sparkly eyes.

There’s something about solitary students that make me want to take some action. I called it “The Jeremy Project” from Pearl Jam’s song, Jeremy. I will elaborate more on this in the next posts: what it is, how it started from an experience I had during elementary school, etc. Bottom line is, in this project I would try to be friend with solitary person who are rejected and singled out by all of their peers. I got some best friends from this life-long personal project. Yet some of were also caught as a pathological liar or someone with other mental disorder who needs help from professionals.

It was indeed fascinating to learn a wide range of human character. But lesson learnt, at least from Prama’s case, I should’ve known that such friendship would not last, because, it was not based on an equal relationship. I felt like I was doing a favor by being her friend. Not surprisingly, it couldn’t work out. Genuine friendship could only happen between equal partners.

… to be continued.

Posted in Personal Musings

Of Broken Dreams and Broken Nights


Are you afraid of dark?

Last night, you did not sleep at all. The same thing happened the night before. And the night before. And the night before. It is basically every single night. You never sleep. At night, that is. Then in the morning, I have to turn all lights off. It irritated me, the way you have to turn on every single lamp in the house. It doesn’t make any sense. At least for me. But perhaps you are different. For as long as I could remember, since little you are always afraid of the dark.

The whole night you would play your electric guitar, over and over and over again. On loud speaker. You didn’t play any song. I hear no pattern but pure randomness. My untrained, suffering, sleepy ears secretly wish to ignore it because for them it was absolute noise. Madness.

To people who glorify hard work, I want to ask how they perceive what you do every single night. To people who admire music stars, I want to ask how many aspiring musicians do they think make the cut. To all of them, and to people who believe in merit, I would like to know have they ever witness such constant hard work that does not pay off?

Who should decide whether or not you have what it takes? To be that “something” that justifies what you do every single night? To play a note on repeat, over and over and over again, because you found that particular note still “hadn’t got any soul”. To play solely for the sake of practicing your hand, so you would just jump to whatever note your finger brought you to, one note at a time. To put it on loud speaker as you feared of missing small tune details without it. To be inconsiderate and merciless to our humble, longing-for-rest ears.

Before the episode of “guitar is your life and your life is guitar”, you were a simple, innocent boy who was overly keen to play the Play Station. During junior high school, you got your first guitar, not the electric one. It was your birthday gift. The initial purpose of giving it to you was to reduce your attachment to Play Station. But who would’ve known what that simple gift might bring.

Who would’ve known, oh boy, how talented you are. Of course you are incredibly talented. Overly talented. No doubt about that. Your fingers and ears and music tunes started to take over your life.

There were an episode of Jimi Hendrix. Then consecutively Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Not to mention everything else in between that my uninterested mind failed to remember. You played them like it was the easiest thing to do. Every note flew effortlessly. Your fingers with the guitar were always more fluent than your mouth with words.

One day, you’ve got selected as the youngest participant at a national reality show in search of the next “it” band. I am still upset writing about these particular times. I don’t like to remember it at all. Not because I didn’t support you. No, not at all.

Do you remember, when you’re still a beginner, I stayed sitting next to you, listening to you playing those notes for hours and hid my excruciatingly painful headache to myself, you said truthfully that when you got famous I would be the first person to whom you would say thank you. That was how supportive I was.

I supported you because you deserved it. Then, a year or two later, came the break, the opportunity, the chance. It was a life-changing moment, the reality show boom and your brief moment of fame. You were plotted to be the guitarist of a band that branded itself as the teenagers band. The tv people dressed you and your band in shocking colors. You wouldn’t want to remember the pink sticker they attach on the frame of your glasses.

Behind every elimination, behind every glamorous stage performance and live show on tv, behind every optimism, there were a lot of ugly cruelty. If I were your parents, perhaps I could not forgive myself for letting you join the show. The make or break show. Of course it was a hard dilemma. You were eager to join the show. It represented a door, a huge chance, a bright future in the music industry. Also, you truly deserved to be there because, of course, you were indeed absolutely capable and very talented. But you were underage, not yet seventeen. You’re still in school. The show didn’t even care about all this little seemingly irrelevant situation. If I were your parent and I didn’t give permission for you to join the show, although the tv show did not require such parent permission, you might not forgive me forever.

The show went on and there were winners and losers. The winner still plays as a band until today, despite changing the vocalist. The others, who knows? Who cares? Who could measure how much sacrifice is too much?

Everything couldn’t be turned back from that moment on. Psychologically, you’re affected. You’ve became psychosomatic of school. You got some hints of dangerous “stamina” pills from the show, to make participants able to pull off performing new arrangements every week with a band that is basically newly-formed. How ugly does ambition look when they let an underage consume such drugs and let education slipped away as second priority.

There’s still a lot more to write of, the end is anything but near, but I just want to stop. I am tired and I don’t know how to end this. It was ten years ago but clung like no other distant past. It was a brief moment that affects forever, a moment when everything was supposed to start finding its way but turned terribly wrong, all the way wrong.

At the end it was all summed up as a painful memory and I am stuck awake at night listening to you practicing guitar. The soaring guitar filled the dark night, absent mind, and empty heart with sounds of a broken dreams. You might hope it could fight and transform the darkness to an escape: to something, anything, that is more bearable.

To those who see you as a hardworking guitarist, I would say I only see a little boy who is afraid of dark.

Posted in Personal Musings

Misplaced Compassion

Laura Parrott-Parry in In Others’ Words raised a very important subject on her post, Law of the Wild. She talked about the guilt-feeling of rape victims. It seems that a lot of victims are putting blame on themselves, at least partially. Yes, you got it right. The victim is blaming themselves and they mean it. “Down to the very core of who they are.”

This is, to say the very least, problematic. Or downright insane, to be absolutely blunt.

But what’s going on in the victims’ mind are way more complicated than what other people may comprehend. This is not to endorse the victims’ self-blaming. Nor to let rapists get away feeling less guilty.

What I want to add to the discussion is the tendency of victims to cling on to a sort of misplaced compassion. It might stem from the very beginning, since their earlier encounters with the rapist. Being victims or victim-t0-be, and STILL empathize the rapist. Trying to understand the rapist. Where did they come from. What were their tragedy. Why did they misbehave. And then everything else was justified but the inability of the victim to avoid what happened.

You may or may not be surprised to find out that a lot of rapist does not seem violent. Quite the contrary, they appear caring (or overly caring). They know how to carry themselves. They looked like a harmless, kind-loving type of person. They approach gently but with full measure. The truth is, they know how to mentally and emotionally manipulate the victim.

That, my friend, is part of the abusive act.

How come someone so caring and friendly commit rape? How come someone with whom the victim had already maintain emotional attachment commit rape? This is not how rape should look like, is it? The same person who the victim accept with full embrace for their nice attention, is also the person who made the victim helplessly scared to their marrow.

So scared it’s difficult to have full consciousness intact. So scared it felt choking to let go the nice parts and accept it as it is. So scared it took them years to call it rape because they feel reluctant to offend the rapist.

Troubled is an appropriate word to describe what was happening to the victims’ emotion and mind. Feeling guilty as a victim? Feeling compassion to the rapist? And you still expected them to defend themselves? To be capable of avoiding what happened in first place?

Get yourself together.

When the victim asked, “was it me?”, that’s when we should declare with no doubt, “of course not.” When the victim has to feel detached to their own trauma and analyze, “What is force? How does being forced look like?”, a question pondered in order to see themselves fit to the meticulous classification standard and harsh judgment posed by society in general, that is when we should not forgive ourselves as a collective who are supposed to do way better than this.

That is why we, as a collective, should not accept rape or any kind of abuse at all, for once and for all. To tolerate is not what we do to crime.

I could provide an example. When I was in Jakarta, I went to a mall to buy a new phone charger at night. I hired a taxi-motor to get back home. My place was supposed to be only 10 or 15 minutes max from the mall.

Apparently, the taxi-motor driver was evil. He brought me round and round the area not following my direction. He seemed to be unable to communicate and having some sort of mental deficiency. He couldn’t respond to me unleashing my furious desperation. Instead, he was mumbling, looking right and left. Finally, I said stop and immediately got a cab.

I was shocked of what had just happened. I couldn’t believe that i trust a fake taxi-motor service. I was terrified to imagine what could have happened.

The worst part was when I got an unbelievable realization revealed before me:

After knowing he brought me not straight to my home, I still tried to give him a chance, thought positively of him. “Maybe he’s just unaware of the route. His harmful intention might be something i just made up in my head.” This was why I didn’t get down the minute I felt threatened. I still thought of not wanting to be rude to him because I pitied him who looked like someone with mental deficiency.

At this point, don’t say it was my own fault or that I was supposed to know better. Don’t ask what was wrong with me nor expect me to ask myself the same question. Just don’t.

The courtesy of not wanting to be rude overpowered the instinct to defend oneself when threatened. And, pity? Who pity who? Who was the victim here? Who was to blame?

If that is not troubled, I don’t know what is.

He abused my trust. He potentially harmed me. He shouldn’t offer taxi-motor service in first place because he’s clearly incapable. Yet I still chose to be considerate of his feelings. I know that i can defend myself in that situation. But to have someone, to whom i was trying to be nice to and not offend, mistreated me, was a super alarming experience.

In The Perks of being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky indicated that whatever the whatever, the decision to commit rape or to control that evilness is in the hands of the rapist. In Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story, Only Goodness, the protagonist felt the blame of clearly another persons mistake and wrongdoing. She felt she had contributed to that mistake, which made her reluctant to set boundaries to define right from wrong, while clearly the other person is the one who is supposed to be able to control his act.

The self-blaming put risk to innocent people.

So, how did the victim get to that place, where they got all blurred and confused?

That, my friend, is why rapist a criminal.

My wild guess, perhaps the misplaced-compassion syndrome is more prevalent than what we would be prepared to admit.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Companionable.”

Posted in Personal Musings

Bitter Me, Not


When you’re say, eighty, and looking back to your life, how would you see it?

Hers is a story of betrayal. Worse, it’s exceptionally ironic when all she’s trying to do for more than eight decades of her life is to conform.

Her childhood is unheard of. She’s the dutiful daughter and sister. Her teenage years and growing pains passed by in a blink of the eye. The first defining moment of her life was her marriage. It was her rites of passage. How strange it is that her first “autonomy” was acquired when she submit to devote her life to a man she never met before. But that’s just what you’re supposed to do as a woman. There’s no question on that.

By getting married, she fulfilled the first milestone of her life. It’s her only option to be accepted and be safe from never-ending communal pressure. A bit late as compared to other women in her generation, but, she’s married, at last. Her husband was her reason to exist, no matter how much he betrayed her. And when she had kids, her life was complete. She was whole, because she saw herself through the lens of other people’s expectation.

After all those years, during her senior age, the time has come when she has to let go of trying to control other people’s life, the way other people directly or indirectly control the passage of her life. She, the one whom people depend upon, felt hard to accept that it’s her turn to depend on her juniors. She had to stay with, life by means of, and under her junior’s authority. In this situation, nothing and nobody could please her. It’s even harder to accept that things are just not the way it was.


She held in contempt that her grown-up children who were living in a distance did not ring as often as she expected. She felt neglected, forgotten, and especially lonely. It felt somewhat like another hint of betrayal though she knew her hearings had passed its prime. Her own ears betray her, her weak legs, her ever-painful body, her shaking hands … exactly in the time when, very late in life, she finally aspired to show to other people how accomplished her life is.

She wanted to show it through controlling the kitchen and awe people with her dishes—the thing she could be most proud of herself. Or, by showing off her objects of personal adornment such as her shiny jewelries and her collection of beautiful garments. She tried to gain back whatever was left, such as return to her hometown and built her house anew—the house that had been abandoned for ever. This short period was as quick as a wink, until her glorious glittering things couldn’t save her from falling in her bathroom, alone. She could do nothing but return to live as a dependent.

It is to her utmost repugnance that other people couldn’t care less about living their life according to her expectation, no matter how blurry it might be. After all, she had dedicated her life for other people: her parents, her siblings, her husband, her kids, the ever-nagging surrounding community who never really cared. It felt like being defeated, and no, she wouldn’t give up as yet. Her constant bitterness was her way to fight back.

old not bitter

As her grandchildren, I am impressed by her bitterness. I am also aware that it’s toxic. It could perhaps affect me unbearably more than I want. Hence, the question: how difficult it might be to live and not end up bitter? For now, I don’t know. But, the more I observe people, young or adult or old, the more I realize that bitterness is prevalent.

Here, as unsure as I am, I attempt to avoid ending up bitter. Hence the title “Bitter Me, Not”.

I suspect that bitterness could stem from betraying yourself in order to conform to ready-made values that you never challenge and never dare to question. Just as explicitly and bluntly said by Jeanette Winterson:

Everyone, at some time in their life, must choose whether to stay with a ready-made world that may be safe but which is also limiting, or to push forward, often past the frontiers of commonsense, into a personal place, unknown and untried.

And when you choose to stay, the raven said, your heart turns into stone.