Short Story: The House

Dina Oktaviani   |  Sun, 11/02/2008 10:33 AM  |  Bookmark

For some unknown reason I cannot sleep. The faux-wooden tiles covering the floor fetch my eyes. I should have gone with real wood, but that’s not the reason I cannot sleep. The slight sound of dripping water in the bathroom seeps in through my heart. This altar is my paradise — and my chamber. There is only one person lying on the bed, me. That is not the reason why I cannot sleep either.

Today I moved into this house. The renovations are done. The dusty cement floor has gone, shoddy ceiling and ugly bathroom forgotten. The sweet wooden dining table is in its place. Waving curtains and night surround my bed. Javanese music is in my mind. I close my eyes for no reason. Solitude remains. * — Darling, would you like to walk me to Beringharjo to buy some flowers? — Why would you ask me that, my love? Just reach out my hand and take me with you, for I’d love to! — Thank you, I say. — You are welcome, he says, stabbing my eyes with his gaze so deep that I cannot feel the pain anymore.

“Thank you” and “you are welcome” are our expressions of adoration. I was a “no thank you” person before I met him. He taught me how to say it for the first time when he opened the cab door for me. But I didn’t say it until after he said, “you are welcome”.

— What did you say? I didn’t even say thank you, I said to him inside the cab. — Well, I know your kind. I fantasized you said it, he said as he stabbed my eyes for the first time.

He smiled, I almost cried that night. That was our second night together and could have been the last. The night before was as hot as a honeymoon before marriage, but that moment in the cab his shaded smile had already killed my lust. I later gave him drizzle-kisses on the lips, as many as he gave me. No lust, no loss. — Thank you, I whispered in his ear. — Now I must say, my dear, you are welcome.

He opens the front gate before me, walking hand in hand, heading to Pasar Beringharjo. He’s like my shadow under the broken afternoon sunlight, so huge and close; sheltering, almost protecting, disturbing like dreams. *

For some unknown reason I cannot sleep. I open my eyes and get up. The floral water in the large earthen bowl has been there since this morning. I step into the bathroom. I’ve been naked all evening, and now I’m ready to undress my mind. Sitting on a rock on the bathroom floor, I splash myself, scoop by scoop.

With the bathing ritual finished, I get up and stand still, facing the mirror. I’m shivering. The breeze coming from the bathroom ventilation brushes the floral scent all over my body. But that’s not the reason I’m shivering. I’m shivering inside, just like John Lennon when he was a jealous guy. Only I don’t know what I’m feeling at the moment.

I look deeper into the mirror, right into the eyes. The face gets clearer in my eyes, clearer and then blurry, blurrier. Refraction: there are almost two faces now. No, there are two persons from the one face in the mirror. I close my eyes. And here I am, feeling the sacred touch.

— My bride is a dream come true. You are a dream come true, he whispers very gently, as he touches my cheek with his palm. His voice is soft as the breeze.

My lips are locked. I feel the vague drizzle on them. A mystical Javanese orchestra is weaving its way through the walls and the spirit of Keraton Jogja is in the air. We are King and Queen, Adam and Eve, Visible and Invisible. We were engaged in heaven and become invincible. We have descended to earth and have been waiting for so long to find each other, for bodies to unite our spirits. My heart says “I do” — an “I do” for nothing.

When I open my eyes I suddenly miss his touch. I see my reflection in the mirror, alone, smiling, with tears. *

For some unknown reason I cannot sleep. The breeze from outside the open window attacks me ceaselessly. Our bedroom windows, our paradise windows.

This is what I never get right: using the word “our” for the house. Let’s put my fantasies of being with “him’ in the house aside. Let’s focus to the absurd word “our” now.

We decided to find a house together. But I found the house, and I have spent seven days doing the renovations. I went to the material shops myself and chose every single item to put in the house: the tiles, the toilet, the shower, the sink, the paints, the cements, the sands, the colors. Even the pipes and the nails and the bamboos for the fence — everything. I supervised the laborers, the plumbers and the carpenters directly every single day of the renovation. I knew exactly what they ate and what they drank and what they smoked every day. I knew their type of women — wait, that’s too much.

I even managed to be an accountant to clear everything financially; I always have problems with budgets both foreseen and unforeseen. I gullibly fall into a trap where the unforeseen budget turns out to be much higher than her brother the foreseen budget, but that’s not the point, OK?

The point is that I am a Libra. Wait, that’s not the point either. But what happened to my Libraness? I am structured and organized now. That’s not my job, to be that scary-structured-and-organized person. I descended to earth as a Libra to be uncertain; flowing like water in the river; easy going and looking forward to what’s gonna happen when I’m already there in the moment — and not beforehand — to love anything that can be considered art, to be idealistic and at heart a perfectionist, to be free but secure and yet not to be so certain. I was born to doubt everything. Who did all this to me now? No doubt that’s him (see? I have no doubt now).

This “him”, after telling me all the nasty-scary things via e-mails, phone-calls, SMSs and bank accounts, has not managed to come and take a look at the house. I mean what is left to be done now? The gardener has laid the carpetish grass on the yard. Birds and butterflies appear every time I imagine they do. The house is perfect now. Why wait?

Wait… I think I know the reason. The reason why he hasn’t arrived now that our paradise is ready is because he is structured and organized (and in that respect I am very grateful for having not become as bad as him.) He promised me he’d come on a date but he’s not here yet. He wouldn’t care whether the renovation was done or not. He wouldn’t care whether I can stand this yearning any longer or not. He wouldn’t care — oh he’s not that bad. Please. He does care, just, the house is…Wait! I think I know the reason why I cannot sleep, it’s because…

I was asleep. As I open my eyes, I hear heavy knocks on the front door, they sound more like bangs. My mind is on the blink, again like John Lennon in his other song. I reach the door, and I say to myself: Let’s face who’s outside.

Well, my dear, I say to my bitch, it’s not him. It’s not him at all. It’s the material guy delivering the first cement sacks for the renovation.

I talk to myself, talking to him: If the perfect house is still a dream then what are you?

I am not happy. If anyone asks me what I’m feeling, I am not happy at all. Yet I stay in the house, for some unknown reason, it feels so important.

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