It was 2 in the morning.
It was 2 in the morning.
It was 2 in the morning
I laid my head carelessly on the couch's puffy arm, simply not in the mood to sleep. In fact, I'm not in the mood to do anything but to think. Think, think, just think with my blank mind. Yesterday's work was almost the same as how it usually is, plenty, but easy to do. Today it won't be much different. I will have no difficulties in finishing them even without sleeping for a couple of days or more. I glanced at the clock just to give my wide-awaken eyes some job. Why, I wasn't surprised that I'm right.
It was 2 in the morning indeed.
17th. That date. It hasn't even been a week after I had to come to that celebration she held at her place, as a mandate from my boss. It was a big celebration, as how such an event supposed to be celebrated, every year. She hasn't changed much since before that time; still with that long, straight black hair, dark eyes, tan complexion, small nose, accepting smile. That's her. That's how I remembered her. Different clothes, different surroundings, but that's her alright.
I came to her with a bouquet of tulips, red and white tulips, careful not to add any blue ones among them; though I always think her choice of colors are incomplete without blue. They were wrapped in white plastic wrap and red ribbons. I knocked at her door, pretty early in the evening, didn't know what expression I should make, what words I should say. Should I say "hi"? "Congratulations"? "Damn it"? I remember I stood there for quite a while, felt weird; reminded myself that she almost never does anything on time. But when she opened the door and had that smile, that wide, happy, grateful smile as she took the bouquet
"Thanks for coming," I clearly heard she said, "
I couldn't help but to smile as well; though smiles can never really stay in my face for a long time. The usual flat expression of mine came as quickly as the smile disappears. But at least I know I'm on a good mood. And she knew it too.
"It's nice to see you. Glad you can make it this year too~"
I shrugged, "Enjoying your celebration, huh?"
"Ahaha, of course I am!" she nodded and opened her doors wider, "Come in, come in! I cooked a lot every August 17th, you know~ I wouldn't be able to finish them alone! Someone gotta help me, hehe
as long as you put some spices on them." I snorted and pulled off my shoes, put them hesitantly outside. Those were not my best shoes, and it's not like I didn't expect anyone to steal it. It's her place; I wouldn't be surprised to see a perfectly random person stole those shoes when they can. But manners are manners. I was the one who drilled it into her; I was her teacher, and I must admit I was strict about this. Naturally I'm supposed to give some examples.
"Of course, Meneer, they're filled with spices~" she said in a cheerful tone, laughed a little, "I'm not called the Spices Paradise for nothing, don't you think? And if it wasn't for the spices, you wouldn't even think of coming all the way from the western Europe to the south-eastern Asia. Benar?"
In all honesty, that was true. Indeed, it was her spices that attracted me the most; that made me willing to sacrifice a lot of time, money, and ships to go around the world to find this unknown land. I've always been an efficient nation. I think about the cost and advantage of everything before I do something. When I had to I give a lot
I got paid two to four times the amount I sacrificed. That was how it always is. That's how it was supposed to be. And her spices were not an exception.
"Ah, cold as usual," she prepared the table and brought some homemade dishes, put them on the table, slightly looked gloomier but still smiling, "
though it has been 65 years. You still cannot accept it, can you, Meneer?"
"Cannot accept what?"
"That I'm independent from you already," she said in a quieter tone, motioned over the chairs as if she didn't really want to bring up the subject, polite as usual, "Please sit down."
I sat casually; saw that she sat as well after putting a glass of hot honey, milk and ginger mixed drink near the dishes for me. I wanted Heineken, but alcoholic beverages are never popular in her place. Guess I had to be satisfied with this drink. I sipped it a little, it didn't taste that bad. Actually I quite like how she always mixed several weird things into her drinks and how they somehow taste not as weird as I imagined they would be with all those ingredients.
It tastes funny
"Hm," I sipped more," I thought I accepted it on 2005. Your so-called real independence year, that is."
"Eh...? But that's not
not all," she bit her lips.
"Still not satisfied?" I frowned, "What other date do you plan to change?"
that's not what I mean," she looked down, "It's true that you finally agreed I was already independent on 1945 and not 1949 as you insisted all this time, and for that I'm happy when at long last we came to an understanding on 2005. But eh
what I meant is
"Just say it," I demanded.
She shook her head, tried to find a more polite words.
"It seems to me," the words came from her mouth one by one, carefully, "That you're still thinking of me as your Netherlands East Indies. That was what you called me when we met again just a while ago, right? East Indies? I mean, of course I understand that you've been calling me that for hundreds of years, but
"Ja? But what?"
I waited for her every word; wanted to shake her or something so the she would sputters those words faster. So slow
why so slow? I always thought I couldn't deal with her slowness of doing things. But at that time, I just waited. And I slightly cursed my brain for knowing what she would say.
And then she said it with a small, sweet, almost understanding smile.
no longer what we're used to be, Meneer."
And though I knew she'd say that, that sentence struck me like a loud gunshot in the middle of the night. Those words, as clearly as a lightning on rainy summer day, ran inside my head in a deadlocked circle. Again, again, again.
No longer what we're used to be.
No longer what we're used to be.
No longer what we're used to be?
My mind came back to the present time, where I laid down on my couch, alone, thinking. Perhaps she was right. We were not what we were used to be. That fact seems obvious to me now, I mean
no one is what they're used to be 65 years ago, ja? It's just not possible. People changed. Nations changed as well, if not as drastically and quickly as humans.
But then I was thinking again.
What were we used to be?
I frowned, glanced tiredly to the dark-tiled floor. Perhaps it's true. Perhaps we were not what we were used to be. But what was she to me? Was she my underling? My subordinate? My colony? My servant? Did she mean that less to me? Was she my friend? My girlfriend? My lover? My wife? Did she mean that much to me? What the hell, all of a sudden I wasn't even sure of my own feelings. I'm never the type to let my feelings get involved in my thinking process, but this is somehow surprising, even for me. Who wouldn't be surprised? I stayed with her much longer than I ever with other girls. Three hundreds and fifty years. I spent three hundreds and fifty years with a girl without knowing exactly what I think of her.
My body ached slightly, demanding some sleep. But my brain and eyes refused. I suddenly remembered that time, when I came to one of her cities and saw it myself. She was standing in front of a battlefield, a battlefield she created herself. Her eyes looked darker than they usually are, her hair spread messily all over her shoulders, her face frowning in rage, and for the first time I saw how deep her hatred towards me at the moment. Quickly, angrily, she grabbed my flag and tore the blue.
She tore my pride right in front of me.
And she shouted at me, said that it's better for her to be dead than to be under my rule. Better be dead. I couldn't understand. I was confused. I knew I colonized her, at that time. Really, what other option do I have? I was just being independent myself, and the chance is either I have to start colonizing or be colonized again. And I, of course, preferred the first. It turned out that I was not so bad a colonizer. Better than that bastard Spain, England, Russia
and almost everyone else, in fact. But she said it, clear as ever, that she preferred to be dead that to be with me.
So, what was I to her?
Was I someone she didn't even know who accidentally saw her place on the map and decided to stay? Someone who was predicted to take over for a while? Someone who was destined to go after my time with her is over? A superior? An old friend? A big brother, like Japan? A boyfriend? A husband? An uncle? A teacher? An acquaintance? A stranger? A damned colonizer?
I stretched my back a little. It screams for a rest, but I hadn't finished thinking, so I ignored it. My hands reached on top of the small table next to the couch, grabbing a smaller frame of two frames that stood there. The girl on the picture inside the frame smiled happily---a little shyly, her hands clasped together, her body was wrapped in batik-patterned fabric and she wore her hair up in a knot bun; put some flowers on it. I looked at the picture for a couple of minutes, resisted chuckling when I saw again that the flowers on her hair were tulips. I remembered I said to her that she was not supposed to put tulips on people's hair.
Who the heck put tulips on their heads anyway?
But she insisted, said that it was one of her ways of showing her goodwill to build a good relationship with this particular European nation---me. I let her wore them, then. And took her picture, put it on this frame. My fingers caress the tip of the frame, feeling its tiny wood texture. I remember I took the picture with the first Polaroid camera I got from England at the turn of the century. My first Polaroid camera, my first picture of her. And definitely my favorite among all other pictures of her. It still is, though the time has passed.
It still is.
Wearily, I put back the frame on its previous place right beside the other frame on the table, and muttered a deep, grunting "Verdomme
" to myself before I glanced at the clock again. I can't help but to frown.
It was 2:15 in the morning