A Pipe Dream ilustration Budhi Button - The Jakarta Post
A Pipe Dream ilustration Budhi Button/The Jakarta Post

I had never thought of coming back to this city and finding out that everything was the same and everything was different at the same time, like your mother had walked into your bedroom and started tidying up everything inside it.

Just like any other metropolitan city, the traffic was still the same. If not, it was probably worse, but just like any other citizen of a metropolitan city, I had gotten used to the sound of the city, the same way you would get used to the sound of your lover’s heart beating. I had become accustomed to the listless chattering around me, the honking horns of cars and motorcycles and buses and flickering lights, which replaced the stars we could not see.

I had gone straight to the place where I had had my first kiss. I had stood at the same spot where I had seen her, dressed in a robe like Harry Potter’s, with her glasses and a handmade wand in her hand. I was there and I wasn’t dreaming because I remembered everything: from the sound of the dropped wand and the sweet taste of cherry lip gloss.

“I didn’t think you’d even turn up.” I whipped around just to see Persephone, standing behind me.

She hadn’t changed much, physically. With her hair let down like that, she seemed a lot more mature, and of course, she was still wearing a shapeless jumper and rolled up jeans, despite Jakarta’s humid weather. When others had looked past that good girl facade, she had opened herself to me, and I saw someone else behind those glasses that framed her dark eyes and her unruly hair.

“You can’t blame me for wondering how much you’d changed,” I replied, and she shrugged.

“I haven’t changed. At least, not as much as you have.”

As irritating as it was to hear her say that, she was right. I was a 25-five-year-old entrepreneur with a soft spot for poetry and music, had chosen to stay in Indonesia, meanwhile Persephone, who managed to split her time between Jakarta and London, spent most of her time writing books and watching Gilmore Girls in one of her apartments.

“What is it like in London?” I asked her.

“It’s chilly, as always,” she shrugged again. “What’s it like in Jakarta?” “It’s humid, as always.” We had lived so far apart from each other for so long, and seeing her again was like hugging a teddy bear that your mother had put inside the washing machine and finding out that it didn’t smell the same anymore. Even though she was the one who had changed the least out of the two of us, I realized that she was no longer the girl who would rather stay in class, reading, than talk to her friends.

According to Persephone’s careful planning, which did not always guarantee the outcome of events, she should be staying with her mother, who also lived in Jakarta, but she had decided to retreat to her apartment, where she would find comfort in the pages of her favorite books, a deserted place in the middle of a bustling city. “Will you be staying in Jakarta?” I asked. “Just for Christmas.” “You don’t celebrate Christmas.” “Neither do you.” It had never occurred to me that people like her were the people who changed yet still looked the same. It had never occurred to me that she was just like a kaleidoscope, always revolving, always changing, yet when I laid eyes on her, it didn’t seem like she’d been through a lot of change. But maybe kaleidoscopes look equally beautiful, no matter how many times they change. “My friend’s hosting a party in the middle of the city,” she said. “And I was wondering if you would like to go with me.”

It was past midnight when the party had eased up, and what was left of it all was just me, her and the moon.

The party was held in one of the students’ flats, and everyone else was either dressed as dead Welsh kings or something out of a Shakespearean play, which meant we stuck out like a sore thumb. Persephone was dressed as Cho Chang, and I had dressed up as Harry Potter, just to make her feel like she wasn’t alone in this.

A lot of people had gotten wasted before they played an Elvis song, so we ended up being the only ones dancing to Elvis Presley, the only people who had decided to pass the drinks for the night, and I felt the dead moon watching us warily, reminding me of the boundaries I couldn’t break, the lines I couldn’t cross. There was always going to be something between us, and there was always going to be something hidden.

“Have you ever heard of a pipe dream?” Persephone asked me, her careful eyes watching me.

In the night, everything else seemed to be more dramatic than they really were. “A pipe dream,” I repeated. “It’s an unattainable or fanciful hope,” she blurted out, as if she’d been dying to tell me the meaning of the phrase. “It’s the best way to describe someone like you.”

“Why would it be the best way to describe someone like me?” I wanted to know. “I am nothing like that. I am not dramatic or fanciful or beautiful.”

“You’re everything they associate with beauty and fear and everything else in between,” she whispered softly, and as her words pieced everything together, I let the rest of my world fall apart.

I had never thought of coming back to this city and finding out that everything was the same and everything was different at the same time, like your mother had walked into your bedroom and started tidying up everything inside it.

Just like any other metropolitan city, the traffic was still the same. If not, it was probably worse, but just like any other citizen of a metropolitan city, I had gotten used to the sound of the city, the same way you would get used to the sound of your lover’s heart beating. I had become accustomed to the listless chattering around me, the honking horns of cars and motorcycles and buses, and the flickering lights, which replaced the stars we could not see.

***

 

The writer is a 14-year-old student from Jakarta, Indonesia. Her short story, A Certain Kind of Love, had previously been published in The Jakarta Post.

 

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