Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Spell of Longing - An Elegy for Rose (republished)

It still feels like yesterday when I first saw you. You were late on your first day in campus! The class was having a lecture when you came. You stood there at the classroom door, smiled and nodded to the lecturer, asking for her permission to join in.

The whole French class seemed to be hypnotized by your beautiful smile and so did I. At the right back corner of the classroom, I watched as you walked in and sat down next to Eva, right in front of my seat!

Although the lecturer continued with her lesson, I just could not focus anymore. Sitting alone behind you, I was forcing myself to listen to and digest the lecturer’s explanation, instead of thinking about you. I agreed with most boys in the class at that time. You were a complete distraction!

From then on, you would start asking questions about English lessons to me, and I was always more than willing to explain anything to you. After some time, you moved over and sat next to me. Discussing lectures or common things, we would seem to isolate ourselves from the rest of the class.
Days passed, filled with togetherness. You would patiently accompany me to read in the library, or just to sit in the classroom waiting for the next lecturer to come. There was absolutely no day in campus that I didn’t spend with you. Even when the lecture was over, we used to spend some more time together to do our assignments or just to chat and listen to some music in my boarding house which was within a walking distance from the campus.

However, I didn’t want to misinterpret our closeness as anything more than friendship. I just told myself that it was due to our fondness of reading, soft music, and English. We did have much in common. We could discuss those things for hours without getting bored. What I liked most from being together with you was that you never tried to change me. You seemed to enjoy being with me as myself, not as anyone else. You could move me without having to touch me, and change me without having to teach me.
As time went by, there was absolutely too much for me to avoid a strange feeling for you to grow in my heart, a feeling that I had never felt before. The more often we got together, the stronger that feeling grew. Yet, for the sake of our friendship, it was never said and I decided to remain as a friend to you.

It was 5.30 pm. The class was free and noisy as the lecturer hadn’t come. At our desk, you told me, “Anto, the next lecture is French, right? What a bore! I want to skip it. Let’s go out for some fresh air.”

I had never expected you to give this kind of invitation. Hesitatingly, I asked, “Where to, Rose?”

“Anywhere. Just go with me and leave the class,” you answered.

I was still in doubt. “I won’t go unless we know where to go. Tell me.”

“How can I tell you? I myself don’t know where to go. Just go out with me and we can decide later on the way. I just want to have something to eat and spend this nice evening outside, rather than sit the evening away here to hear a boring lecture from a bored lecturer,” you replied with your sparkling beautiful eyes looking straight at me, begging me to agree with you.

Ten minutes later, we were riding on your motorcycle along the streets of downtown Malang to go window-shopping at the Plaza, and then uptown to eat at a nice and small Soto restaurant.

While eating, you told me that you actually had a boyfriend who was now studying in Surabaya, and that you would introduce me to him someday. It hurt me deep inside and I wanted to tell you it would not be necessary. Whoever that lucky guy was, he was blessed to have you. But I didn’t want to look silly in front of you. So, I decided to be nice and pretended to be happy with your plan. You also asked me whether I had a girlfriend. I had to tell you that there had been a girl in the past that I had loved very much, until she left without enough reasons for me to understand, and it had taken me long enough to get over her. I made it clear to you that I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

That night, I realized that I shouldn’t have hoped much from our relationship. I had to forget all my dreams before they ever had a chance to grow. I would not be prepared to see my dreams fall apart just like what had happened years before. I just didn’t want to take a chance anymore!
One fine morning, you showed up at my boarding house. Your red eyes told me you had been weeping. Sitting next to me and crying, you told me that you had just broken up with your boyfriend. It did hurt to see you in that shape and I really didn’t have much to say. I just couldn’t understand how on earth a man could hurt such a sweet girl as you.

“What can I do for you?” I asked hesitatingly, not knowing what else to do.

You wiped your tears and sighed. “Nothing. Just be as you are now. Don’t change. Be my friend forever. OK?” You said in an uncertain voice. Your sad eyes stabbed mine, searching for a shelter. You smiled then, but it was a bitter smile. It was clear that you were just pretending to be strong.

I nodded, “You could always count on me, Rose. I’ll always be your friend.”

I could not describe how I wanted to comfort you at that time. If you had been a cute and lovely bird, you had surely been wounded. Your wings had broken for some reason, and I had never seen you as helpless as you were at that time. I took your hands softly and held them tight, hoping that I could give you a little strength to carry on.
A year of a beautiful friendship passed. It was drizzling when the lecture was over. The class had planned to throw a small party at Ray’s place that evening.

“Are we going to the party?” Your cheerful voice demanded my decision as we strolled along the lonely street. The rain was not hard enough to get us drenched walking home.

“In this kind of weather? I don’t think so. Besides, there are many assignments to do,” I replied, thinking that I always disliked staying among a crowd.

“You don’t like parties, crowds, and things like that,” you said.

I felt the conversation sounded more personal than usual, so I gave you a puzzled look. You looked back at me. Your beautiful black hair hanging loosely past your shoulder glistened with raindrops under the dim street lights.

“What do you mean?” I asked, pursuing an explanation of your directness.

“You seem different from other boys; reticent, remote and untouched. But I like you that way,” you replied.

You were almost right about that. But you were wrong about my being untouched, because you had actually touched inside me more than you thought you did. However, I decided to say nothing about it, and kept watching our feet stepping slowly on that dark and clammy asphalt.

“I like being together with you, Anto. You’re a nice person to be with,” you added softly.

“I like you, too, Rose,“ I said awkwardly. You didn’t know how I had to force myself to say it.

“Really? What do you like from me?” you asked. I could see your eyebrows raised in curiosity.

“Your personality maybe. You are so kind that I always feel comfortable around you,” I answered, trying to figure out why I liked her.

“We have been best friends for more than a year, Anto. I like you and I know much about you. But, I really don’t know what you actually feel for me.” My heart jumped at what you had just said.

I hoped I had not misunderstood you. I looked at you as I wanted to make sure that I was not dreaming. Your beautiful eyes stared back at me, waiting or maybe searching for a reply. Those starry eyes were sparkling.

“What do you hope from me, Anto?” This time you paraphrased the question.

“This is it!” I thought. “If I ever want to let her know my feelings, I should let her know now. Now, or I’ll have to wait until God knows when.” My mind urged me. My heart throbbed, and I suddenly felt difficult to breathe.

“Do I need to say it to you? Couldn’t you see it in my eyes all this time, Rose?” But those questions were never asked, and remained unsaid when your soft voice reminded me that you needed an answer.

“Tell me. I’m waiting”, you said.

“I don’t know what I feel for you. I’m not sure and I don’t really care about it. All that matters to me is that you’re always around and never leave me. That’s all I want to say.” I said in a trembling voice.

“Do you love me?” You asked. This time I felt you were either interrogating or teasing me.

“I don’t know, Rose. But, I know I care for you,” I said, still awkwardly.

“It means you love me,” you concluded, glancing and smiling at me teasingly. What a shy fool I was!

"Maybe. Now it’s your turn to tell me your feelings,” I replied, trying to escape from your further questions. Honestly, I was also relieved because now you knew about what I had always felt for you this far.

“You know it, Anto. I’ve never been as close to anyone as I am to you now, so close that I think you’re a part of me,” you added.

“But, does it seem right, Rose? Still remember our promise to be friends?” I wanted to tease her back.

Your lips formed another beautiful smile before you answered my question.

“Even a fool knows that friends can be lovers. We can be both friends and lovers at the same time, right?”

I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I had never expected you would say those words to me. I wanted to hear more in order to be sure. “I have to say it that I have many dreams about us, Rose. But, I’m afraid. I just don’t want my dreams to shatter again. You have to understand that.”

You stopped walking and took my hand. You stared right at me and said, “Anto, let’s promise, we will be together and love each other as long as the stars burn in the sky. Promise me that you’ll never leave me.”

“I promise you, Rose. I will always love you,” my eyes pierced back into yours so that you knew that I meant what I had just said.

Then you hugged me. I could smell the sweet scent of your hair when you laid your head on my shoulder. I put my arms around you and held you tight, so that you knew I would never let you go. I didn’t want to lose you, Rose.

“I love you, Anto. You’ve always given me strength. I’d be a fool to leave you,” you whispered softly. From your voice, I could tell that you were crying.

I couldn’t describe how I felt at that moment. It was the happiness and comfort that I had been dreaming of for so long. It was too good to be true. I looked up to the sky, and I felt like flying among thousands of raindrops, leaving the dark clouds beneath us, into a new horizon of tomorrow which was painted with dreams and hopes of togetherness.
Since then, you and I would always be together. Days were filled with laughter and joy. We had it all and we were as happy as we could be, weaving every dream we had. Until that sad morning, a year after the moment we pledged our love, when a friend came rushing into my room, telling me that you had just had a traffic accident on your way to my boarding house. In a bitter voice, he said that you had been taken to the hospital. I was panicking and soon we hurried there on his motorcycle.

I was more than shocked to see you lying motionless on the bed in the hospital. It was a sight that I had never expected to see. Those beautiful eyes of yours that I had always adored were now closed. Those young lips which used to paint your lovely smile now shut and looked cold. There were no signs of life. And from the sorry eyes of the nurses there, I knew what had happened. You had lost too much blood, and it was too late. You had gone away. And I stood there alone. Why did it have to end so soon? Why did you leave me, Rose? Those questions were ripping my brain. I felt my world was falling apart, and the earth beneath me felt shaking. Everything around me seemed moving. My blood stopped flowing. My mouth was bitter. Then, everything went dark.
Rose, it’s drizzling tonight, just like five years ago before you went away. Yes, five long and lonely years have passed aimlessly without you. And I’m here alone, drowned helplessly in my longing for you. The glittering needles of rain only spell out our memories, one by one. At one time, they witnessed our happiness. But now they seem unfriendly and dumb. The sky they are falling from is jet black and saddened. There is no more color there to paint and add to my horizon. They're all cold and empty without you.

Rose, five long years have passed, but every piece of your memory still remains deeply engraved at a hollow of my heart. Let them live there forever. If there’s a missing piece in me, only you can make it complete.

But Rose, where can I find you?

(by PI - for an everlasting "Flower", 18 years ago)

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