In Boneo’s front yard, a pu tao (Syzygium cumini) tree — better known as a jamblang (Java plum tree) — seemed to have trouble holding up its aging frame. The height of the trunk did not break the roofline of the house. Its branches created a thick canopy, but the foliage was dry; many leaves had fallen to the ground.
The tree was as old as its owner’s house. The house had originally been built with black tile flooring and walls made of jackfruit wood boards, but now it had a ceramic tile floor in a metallic color, brick walls and glass windows.
It had been a long time since the tree had borne any fruit. After it flowered, young fruit would fill the leafy canopy. Now, it was too weak to even bear a single fruit. And even if the tree had borne fruit, no one would be interested in eating them. The fruit was no longer served at the table; its sourness made it undesirable.
Even though the tree was old, Boneo had no intention of cutting it down. He still respected his mother’s advice.
Harmunik told Boneo not to cut the tree down before he got married and had his own family. After all, the tree was a living memory of his late father, as well as of Boneo’s birth.
His father had planted it when he found out his firstborn was a boy. A son would carry the responsibility of upholding his parents’ reputation while covering up their shortcomings. He would raise his parents’ stature and inherit the family’s royal surname.
Lately, many little things made Harmunik angry. It was as if everything was not where it should be, and that provoked her resentment. The pu tao leaves that the wind had blown to the ground bothered her. The loud voices of children returning from school annoyed her. Everything felt wrong. The main cause was Boneo, who had no plans to marry. He was like a mature tree that was reluctant to bear fruit.
“What’s wrong with you, Boneo? You have a steady job, you have enough money, and still you don’t want to marry,” Harmunik spoke in an agitated voice. It seemed her only child had no ears for her words or the neighbors’ gossip.
“I haven’t found the right one yet,” Boneo answered casually. “Even though marriage is the law of nature, it’s impossible to enforce.”