Short Story by Anton Kurnia (The Jakarta Post, July 02, 2018)

A Love Story ilustration Budhi Button - The Jakarta Post.jpg
A Love Story ilustration Budhi Button/The Jakarta Post

Yusuf’s Soliloquy:

I was born with a kris — a Javanese traditional dagger — inside my body. It was a naked kris with nine curves.

It was my father who saw the dagger for the first time. Three days before I was born, on a dry and silent afternoon in a town hospital, my mother was lying in bed. My father, who didn’t sleep all night long, was sitting by her side, feeling drowsy.

In the beginning, there was smoke. It slowly thickened and made the room look foggy, blurring everyone’s view. My mother thought my father had been smoking his usual kretek cigarettes inside the room; but he hadn’t touched his cigarette. The smoke grew thicker. My mother screamed out in fear and asked my father to close the door. My father rose from his seat and walked toward the door, but then he stopped. His face looked pale.

It was the strangest scene. Inside the small room, covered in smoke, my father saw an old man surrounded by bare-chested men in ancient costumes not unlike the ones worn by soldiers in an ancient Javanese kingdom. One of them brought a tray on which lay a naked kris.

My mother was startled. She screamed when the old man lowered the tray onto the bed, right between her thighs. He was wearing a white turban on his head. The naked kris vanished before my mother had time to stop screaming, it was as if her womb had sucked the dagger into her body. Afterward, the smoke disappeared.

Three days later, I was born.

One rainy evening, as the last adzan — call to prayer — was broadcast from the mosque, I came out of my mother’s womb. The sky was dark and starless. My father recited the adzan in a whisper into my right ear; then he recited the iqamat — prayer command — into my left ear. Both of my parents believe there was a kris inside my body. They also believe it was a sign.

My mother said I did not cry when I was brought into this world. I only screamed once; and then I was silent — my eyes wide open as if hungry for the light. My parents cut my placenta and stored it in a small terracotta jar before burying it in the backyard of our house.

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