Writings


BRAM

FUCK. The sun is fucking blinding. Why did I forget to close the fucking cover? The rats in Kampung Bali are fucking THICC! Why am I speaking in retroslang? ZZZZZ. I can’t go back to sleep now. Have to get out of this dumpster. Was good though this one, the vegies were fresh, didn’t smell too bad. The hydrolettuces were fat and juicy, I could hear ‘em melt from the heat of my own body last night. I’ve got to do it today, yeh, gotta set my priority straight meng. Gotta join LA Résistongs. Buswit was zapped last week. Yusi two days ago. Maes just yesterday. They’re coming for me. BRAM**. BRAM is coming for me. Fuck him. Fuck this dumpster life. Ah yeah, at least that was a good dump. That public toilet has always been good to me. I like that bitch who mans it.1) HAHA! She’s so beautiful I could fuck her right now. But not now. She’s too stupid. I’m not gonna get anything out of her. Probably just how many people pay her the 5 million*** Giramondos to use the fucking toilet so far today, how many yesterday, the day before that, blablabla. She also cooks for that Indomie warung around the corner, maybe she also has memories of who orders what flavour which order comes with chopped rawit on the side.

I’M FUCKING HUNGRY! She’s a fucking beauty though. Skin of copper that gleams under the neon of the toilet’s waiting lounge. Her perfect white teeth (kok bisa ya!****). She’s short-ish and walks like Chaplin but yeah, her imperfections only make her even more beautiful. Even her splayed out toes and her Human Made thongs. Gotta focus though. I need to find someone from LA Resistongs to fuck and tell ‘em I’m in. No more revolution on for later (ROFL! HA!). Gotta do this now. I don’t want to lose Anya. Where is she now? I hope she finds a good dumpster last night with Jae. Our next meet-up is not until the next full moon, I fucking miss them. Fuck this BRAM meng. But it’s not safe to go looking for them. Remember when we did that seven full moons ago. Just so I can see them from across the road in that Wendy’s. I missed the zap gun by inches. I don’t even know how they knew where I was or what I was doing. The Silops***** are with BRAM, I know that. But there was no Silop that day. Whatever. Fuck if I know. They were glowing with HAL. That’s what’s important for me. Anya was having her fave hydrobroccoli avec cheese and Jae was drinking KLIM. They had enough money and they looked full. That’s what’s important for me. I don’t even know why BRAM started zapping peeps in NKRIQ✙. I didn’t think this place had any AI nay-sayers. This place had no AI enthusiasts to say nay to. We were always just indifferent. Maybe I was wrong. Some people are serious I guess. Like that du who wrote that stupid historicorealist apologia of BRAM. Zapped! HAHAHA. Fuck that was so satisfying. He didn’t see it coming. BRAM is clever meng. He knew hagiographies would just turn more people off him and on to LA Résistongs, so—basic principles of utilitarianism—that du had to go. Even though the LIT MACHINA✙✙ declared the text “BERES DALAM SEGI PENCERITAAN”. I have to fuck Engga today. The last time I fucked someone who was in LA Résistongs, his body told me I have to fuck Engga to tell the other Revos that I’m in with them. Engga is at Aisereht, the ruins of it anyway. Not too far. What the fuck did that bitch say. She screamed something at me. Fuck. These 4N-D0nks✙✙✙ are fucking savage meng. Why couldn’t they stay in their line. But I can’t afford them. Better to save the Giramondos for Anya and Jae.

IKLAN

The streets are empty. A bit alarming. It’s never as busy as people said in old books since the Sarinah building was demolished. A girl got her head decapitated by debris from the detonation. Remember that. The parents sued the Ur-Batavus✙✙✙✙ council and they got zapped. That was when peeps worked out BRAM was here. BRAM WAS HERE. That was real fear, wasn’t it. We’d heard about BRAM for so long but we thought, nah, not here. Where’s she. Engga. I’ve seen her before, a long time ago. She had beautiful, slender, dark fingers. I saw them resting on the back of a church pew. I knew she was in LA Résistongs, which wasn’t so hard to work out, since everyone said it was full of beautiful chicks. Now I just have to remember her face. The guy I fucked last time told me Engga was in the nunnery. There was a room left standing underneath all the rubbles. She’d be waiting for me there. It’s funny. When BRAM turned off the internet in 2028 and peeps slowly realised the only way to get information was by fucking other people, that was nutz.

Ilustrasi oleh Putri Larasati
For 13 months, people were fucking everyone, everywhere. On the streets, in the dumpsters, in abandoned 4N-D0nks, everywhere, all of the time. Even me. Life’s orgiastic, it’s fantastic. Loved that time. But then you worked out, you don’t want too much information. And you start to get selective about what kind of information gets transferred to you when you fuck. I remember I fucked this girl from school I used to have a crush on, because she wanted to fuck me to get quotes from Aristophanes’ Sphekes (she was a lawyer), and dang, all the time we were fucking, I got all these useless info about KUHP and KUHAP and judicial review procedures and all that shit, fuck meng, I just didn’t need all that KNOWLEDGE. Especially since this fucking knowledge gets stored in your memory for at least a year before you can delete it. Fuck if I know if we now have limited memory storage, but my head always feels incredibly full after a fuck. Hang on, someone is in that room in the nunnery. And it was me. Fuck, that was totally fucked up. I had to do it. Otherwise, I won’t be able to see Anya and Jae again. Huhu. Someone asked me what did I just do, I said, what did I just do, yeah meng, that’s what I’ve been asking myself, fuck. He told me, yeah, BRAM does that sometimes. If he can’t find someone, he clones him/her, and then zaps the clone. It’s as good as zapping the real you. Don’t ask me how. So I told him, Engga wasn’t there, it was just me. I didn’t know it was not me. I was there and he who was I told me I had to fuck him to tell the other Revos in LA Résistance that I was with them. I thought this was some kind of security procedure, meng. What do I know. FUCK. I had to fuck him, me. Otherwise, I won’t be able to see Anya and Jae again. And yeah, you were right, he was zapped just after we were done fucking (which wasn’t very long, I assure you). He just disappeared like that as he was washing his face in a basin. There was a droplet of water left suspended in the air when his body disappeared. I don’t understand though, I’m still here, and nothing seems to have changed. You said I’m as good as dead? But I’m in LA Résistongs now, and we’re making progress. We’re building these fortresses underground made of used Bajajs. Apparently the metal the Indians used to make them are purer, so BRAM’s zap guns can’t penetrate it. What? Have I seen Anya and Jae? No. It’s still two weeks until the next full moon. No. NO! FUCK YOU ASSHOLE! NO! NO! FUCK! NOOOOO!!!

(*) This story is inspired by Roko’s Basilisk
(**) Bisexual Robotic AI Manimal, the universe’s AI overlord in 2238.
(***) Ur-Batavus currency in 2038.
(****) Everyone codeswitches in 2038.
(*****) The police
(✙) Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia Queer
(✙✙) NKRIQ’s equivalent of Académie Française
(✙✙✙) Luxury minibus, equivalent of present day’s Alphards
(✙✙✙✙) Present day Jakarta.


  1. (The bitch who mans it 

Call Me By Your Name, Which Is Irresponsible and Not Meteoric

We both know it’s easier between two beautiful people
We both know it’s easier when it’s a nice mountain mansion in Italy
with a shallow pool and a live-in adult-nanny
And we both know it’s easier since it’s summer with ripe-pink peaches
and nobody interfering without knocking
“He looks like he never has to work a day in his life,” your friend said
over Vietnamese coffee, while you are feeling despair, feeling ugly
(must be the weather’s blue)
“But how do you hate a movie this good?”
Since it’s as if the executive himself has come through the party crowds
to hand you the rolled-up movie poster:
“The whole thing, Hon, is tailor-made just for you!”
Even the father is very gentle and educated so you’re sure he won’t hit
Admit it: it’s always two hot dudes and neither of them looks like you
See how the camera cleverly pans away since everyone would agree
a depiction of a late summer night in Italy
is better than two guys making love to each other
“He’s such a reticent guy,” your friend spoke in defense of the director
“He’s even currently meditating in the west wing of the castle, considering a sequel.”
“Maybe they will have something fat next year,” another friend presumed
“If you put your money on this one.”
“His abs tastes like jelly,” another friend, the pretty one, texted
“If you want to date someone beautiful, be BEAUTIFUL first,” the pretty friend
texted again
But beauty in fashion is like rotten bread
It poisons your brain and gives you intellectual diarrhea
It drives you to think of death
And remember: this isn’t a story where a fat boy comes to love himself
and no longer finds nothing in the mirror
This isn’t a story where a fat boy comes to love every single blue on his body
This isn’t even a story where a Japanese girl is saved from a meteor crash
despite the similar title:
instead, it tells how one summer such love
strikes such boy like a meteor
(but thank you God, he can still play the piano)
Think about it: it’s most important for the silk-stocking middle-class
to discover that they too are capable of love
and also of adapting a best-selling novel
into a movie
and a movie
into a once-in-a-lifetime experience
since it doesn’t show at your homecountry or homecity or home.
Alone in a theater in Bangkok
you kept looking at your phone
waiting for this boy to call back, until
“Can you please stop with the phone?” said a Korean girl
three seats away from you
she later giggled with guilty pleasure so palpable
when the pretty boy thrust his obscure penis into the ill-fated peach
(the latter likely grew up with the story of the human gods, their holy teeth
sinking into him as his soul ascended to fruit-heaven)
If I were you:
Hey, in spite of everything
I do love food
I like my egg sunshine
my cake full moon
And I want you to stop peaching with my heart
“Pass my heart to, ugh, anybody,”
a late poet that I turned into an imaginary friend once cried
You are worthy of anyone’s time, you know
Some people like your look and personality
Even your mom
And do you remember your lost ID?
See, in the end, you found it
under the towering dirty laundry
Now you know which country you come from
which species you belong
to and even your birth religion
So you know who you are, I guess…?
That means he doesn’t have to call you
AL
or any of his names anymore

Censorship is returning to Indonesia in the name of the 1965 purges

Even by the standards of post-totalitarian nations’ lingering paranoia the last month in Indonesia has seen a disheartening return to Suharto-era tropes of repression and neurosis.

A week ago I received a message from Janet DeNeefe, director of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.

“I just wanted to let you know that the UWRF is being censored this year, and we have been told to remove all programs to do with ‘1965’,” she wrote. “Or else next year they will not give us a permit to hold the festival.”

I felt a chill when I read these lines, and a faint sense of absurdity that accompanied the sting. For one, I was on my European book tour, having done almost nothing else in the past one and a half month but speak to German and Dutch audiences about my novel, an epic love story set against the backdrop of the Indonesian anti-communist purges of 1965.

In Düsseldorf or Erfurt, Amsterdam or the Hague, I encountered nothing but genuine empathy and solidarity for Indonesians’ collective struggle to come to terms with our violent past as well as to render tangible justice for an untold many. It was particularly so in Germany, with its experience of national trauma.

Cepuk Flies Everywhere

Can a book take you to fly far into the land of mystery? Of course, it can! And that’s what happened to me. It all started with the suggestion of a favorite editor for me to audition for the author of a children’s book organized by Yayasan Literasi Anak Indonesia (YLAI) for a joint project with Room to Read. I was not confident! At that time, I was just an article writer in various media and never once wrote a story for children, let alone a book! However, there is no harm in trying. And then I sent a short script. However, I received no news for several weeks ….

Until one rainy afternoon in December 2014, I received a phone call from YLAI announcing that I was chosen to attend a children’s storybook writing workshop. Surprised? Of course! And at the same time my heart was pounding as if I were entering a completely ‘new world’ which was totally bizarre. So, my adventure began. I was so awkward in the midst of dozens of famous children’s book writers, so embarrassed to have to read out the scripts I made at that time and so confused by the various children’s writing terminologies. I was also confused to summarize long sentences into short sentences without diminishing the meaning of the story. Honestly, writing a children book was not as easy as I had thought before!

At that time, I really missed Owlet, my pet owl at home. So I was inspired to write a story about Owlet. The Cepuk character was originally called Owlet, but then the YLAI editor asked me to replace it with a more local name. I chose the name ‘Cepuk’ because my pet owl is a species of owls Celepuk which is endemic in Indonesia.

The illustration process was also astonishing. I sent a picture of Owlet to Jackson, who illustrated this book. Honestly, I cried when I first saw the illustration of Cepuk made by Jackson, the illustrations were very much like Owlet!

After ‘Waktunya Cepuk Terbang’ was published, I received various feedbacks that Cepuk was quite impressive on the hearts of the children who read it. A very moving thing I experienced when Owlet died due to his old age. I received many condolences for Owlet/Cepuk from children, even from various countries, touched by this book! I never thought my first work would be so loved by these young readers.

It is undeniable, in a way, that it was Cepuk who brought me flying to other countries, starting with the award achieved at Samsung KidsTime Author’s Award 2016 in Singapore. Then, Cepuk took me to England to join in a writer’s residency for 1.5 months with the full support of the Ministry of Education and Culture and the KBN (Komite Buku Nasional/National Book Committee). Cepuk is also my main review to illustrate how vibrant the world of children’s story books in Indonesia is today, when I became one of the speakers with the theme ‘Indonesia’s Children Books and Its Development’ at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2017.

What a memorable experience and of course all this can not be separated from the support of Room to Read mentors, the YLAI editors, designers and illustrators who make Cepuk so ‘alive’ and accepted by many children! My cooperation with YLAI continues. ‘Ketika Paman Kala Diam’ became my second book published by YLAI in the following Room to Read project. There are also 2 new titles we are working on. Please do look forward to having these books!

Churning Waters

jakarta is silent like no other – the ghost of honking cars and scorching heat haunting its horizon, as if the city is saying: it was not supposed to be like this.

the water crashing against skyscrapers and concrete isn’t a welcome soundscape.

wulandari steps out of the paraheli with a grace that can only be derived from frailness. she’s trying,
honestly – but she knows she’s failing. to be stronger in that grace, to keep her head high and walk to the edge of the viewing platform without a trace of pain in her features – for the cameras around her; for this wretched, lovely city; and for herself. she looks out to this city that she tried her best to save – but seeing the destruction, even amongst the new and glittering structure built on top of its deceivingly calm waters, just breaks her chest even more.

every year. even after four years, four years of her standing on top of jakarta, the bitterness has never left her.

the gathered media around her is silent. her bodyguards are silent. sometimes she loathes it: this too-late showmanship of respect to her, when that should’ve been done fifteen years ago.

fifteen years of begging to every political party around her, every person in power, to please, jakarta will
drown. please, if you do not want to save its land, if that’s not profitable to you, at least save everything
that is above it. countless years spent campaigning and her voice being dampened, until at last she was
arguing in the headquarters of a property conglomerate in north jakarta when they all felt the crack
splitting the building in half – the roaring waters outside that should not have been there, screaming to
her, you were too late.

IKLAN

it wasn’t fear that seized her heart that day, no.

wulandari was already familiar with that, the choking starting to sit just behind her ribcage years ago while nobody seemingly listened. but at that point, herself and countless other important people being dragged to the newly-deployed first generation paraheli – it was anger that clouded her. it was no wonder that everybody tried their best to look away from her in that crowded heli, either in shame or discomfort, because wulandari had made herself known for being a doomsdayer since the first day she held even an inch of political power – and now, a doomsdayer with proof.

with jakarta crumbling on its drained aquifers, the sewage water mixed with the rising seawater of the
coasts – she had said that, over and over again, but her voice was a wisp in the midst of intolerance,
scandal, corruption.

cassandra of jakarta, the international headline news of that day called her.

only after being in her hotel room in palangkaraya, surrounded by unneeded paramedics asking her if she had any injuries or family, the news listing out the number of casualties and playing her broken voice just days ago – pleading, begging about this exact scenario – did she let herself sob into her hands.

she was so, so tired.

she was forty five, yet the exhaustion in her bones then told her otherwise.

but that didn’t stop her from jumping to the next paraheli back to jakarta for months after the collapse –
even after the president held her hands, trembling as he asked for forgiveness, which she replied to, like
a broken record, with a not to me. even as she collapsed in fatigue in her first press conference after the
sinking, and woke up to chaos on the streets and shattered holoscreens with streaked blood strewn
around the country – demanding why it was only her that is acting up, and to the subsequent
impeachment of the then-acting president – her guilt only ate her up endlessly.

IKLAN

she’s done enough, the experts on TV would say in their early-day discussion to the newscasters, she’s
done everything she could have. but her mind goes back to the historical artifacts and documents that
she didn’t save, the laughter sliced from every kampung, the kaki-lima vendors and the small businesses evaporated from jakarta’s asphalted streets, and think: not enough.

“langsung dari daerah istimewa jakarta,” the voice brings her back to the present, her mouth protesting
from being kept in that tight-lipped smile for too long. “ibu wulandari, politikus dan pendiri tur nostalgia maya jakarta, pada hari peringatan keruntuhan jakarta yang terjadi empat tahun yang lalu.”

even as she wants to be silent, even as wulandari wants everybody who’s watching this televised and
livestreamed to know and feel her bitterness across the holoscreens – her first instinct as a politician will
always take over.

“selamat sore, jakarta,” she feels like she should be choking on tears, but the blinding light of the cameras distracts her. “sudah lama kita tidak bertemu.”

after the first anniversary of the sinking, her advisors showed her the playback of people’s livestreams
and footage of their reaction to wulandari’s bittersweet speech. she can imagine it now, the newly elected president clenching her fists, the crowd with their somber faces, students trying to ignore the pang in their chest as they divide their attention from the split-screen of their lecture and the mandatory nationwide newscast.

IKLAN

her uban-streaked sanggul is drooping, and her kebaya is definitely wrinkled, but she cannot bring herself to care. her thinning skin does nothing to beat the now-characteristic whiplash of hot and cold wind alternating between the tops of the skyscrapers.

it’s eerie, her magnified voice blasting all around the tour platform without the rowdiness that usually
accompanies the virtual nostalgia tour area – the noisiness that, when she visited incognito and closed
her eyes in, she could almost see as the crowded streets of jakarta just years ago.

all the technological advancement made by the world – and still poverty, still motorcycles on roadwalks,
still smog up in the sky.

“tur nostalgia maya ini adalah dua-duanya surat kasih sayang dan permohonan maaf saya kepada
jakarta,” and that is what all this grandeur is for – to remember what they have lost, what they once had
loved, but can now never touch. “untuk museum-museum yang saya tidak bisa selamatkan, untuk nyawa- nyawa yang saya tidak sempat selamatkan – saya berharap kota ini bisa memaafkan keterlambatan untuk itu semua, tapi saya tahu bahwa itupun tidak mungkin.”

the held-back sobs from the crowd around her are starting. she can’t even bring forth that initial anger, if you truly cared, you would have done something earlier, because she’s so, so tired. the headache is

already starting and is threatening to clasp her head in a vice and make her start crying in front of the
masses. they’ve seen her tears, they’ve already seen her sob – but her twenty-year old voice that still
won’t go away is still trying to put her pride first, and not let the nation see a woman breaking down
because of her heartbreak.

it’s these times that wulandari will never wish that her thirty-three years old self – still full of tentative hope and trust in the people and in this country – can grow old to witness this sunken city. grow only to witness her last attempt to make this city real, for generations after her that will never hear the broken hum of the hovering bajays lurking in the city’s jalan tikus, the smell of sate and bubur during the evening, ordering martabak at ungodly hours after most of the city has closed down.

these are what the churning waters have buried.

“untuk jakarta yang kita tidak bisa selamatkan,” her voice cracks – and after that, one of the reporters in
the horde before her breaks out a sob that he cannot hold onto.

wulandari’s steps are unsteady as she carries herself across to the end of the viewing platform, but she
motions her helper away. the batik covering her feet drags on the inactive holo-glass – showing not an
aerial view of jakarta as it progressed through the years, but when turned off, only the drowned city
below. the air is misty with a the faint smell of burning garbage and salt, but it only makes her chest curl up.

so familiar, and now nonexistent.

now high above the skyscrapers, wulandari can feel every ray in this sunset blinding her sight – but she
doesn’t want to close her eyes, not now. the glittering, rusted skyscape sways in front of her eyes, which
once upon a time could only be seen from a rooftop bar or in an airplane at the perfectly timed moment.

she stays still, as her chest cracks yet again.

because even after this devastation, life still goes on. this is, after all, her first visit in over a year.
wulandari’s work has never stopped in palangkaraya; poverty is still here, even after this world of
holograms and hover transports. other nations have asked permission to continue this series of virtual
nostalgia tours for those cities ruined by climate change worldwide – and so, she never has time.

even if her heartache is still there, everything before that will always comes first.

and jakarta, even after its destruction, does not stop for anyone.