Short Story by Jonathan Tan (The Jakarta Post, January 14, 2019)

Because You Remember ilustration Budhi Button - The Jakarta Postw.jpg
Because You Remember ilustration Budhi Button/The Jakarta Post 

Dunia ini pang mantaganta (This world where we dwell)

Ibarat Noraka pakkasiatta (Feels like hell)

Hidup tersiksa ri tomo butta (Living in dread)

Terombang-ambing ri jene matta (Tossed in tears)*

You can’t recall who wrote it. The verse was in the language of your home. Makassar. The world has become an increasingly difficult place to live in.

So it comes to this. You decide to die today.

When the door opens, you shout at the Ibu who steps in. This is express lift. Why did you come in? The Ibu retorts quickly. You gila. In a hurry to die, are you?

You are ready to die.

But in the meantime, you are hurrying to catch the bus.

How can the Ibu understand?

These are new faces. The old neighbors at your block are mostly gone. Some moved abroad, the lucky ones upgraded for better lives, some others get sent off to homes in the countryside. The cost of dying is cheaper somewhere else beyond the city. Gone are the days when someone asks how you are, and you would say, never been better.

The sun meets your eyes as you walk toward the bus stop. The bus arrives just as you reach there.

Your body is still agile enough to heave the weight of solitude and sadness in you.

A young chap gives up his seat for you. You blink your thank you to him without a word. He thinks you are old. You think: Am I?

As the bus melds into the morning crawl, you look out to see men who arrive in life, their faces stained with light and life, comfortably ensconced in their fast cars. Their faces tell you a thousand things, of a past you have too.

You are fast forgetting the faces.

Your mind is falling behind. Some days so far behind that you can’t remember much. Other days, you remember a thing or two. Most days, you struggle.

Your mind has become a darkness so dark that it absorbs every living sound and memory that has been a part of you before.

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