In commemoration of me being home. Also celebrating people who are aboard and away from home, and travelers seeking out the beauty and truth of the world (and theirselves).
andohbytheway, mentioned this piece in Mencari Diri.
“Hey, let’s leave this island someday.”
He awakens from his sleep. The Subuh azan has just ended. He’s still on his bed, staring at the ceiling. The dream he had still lingers on his mind. A dream of the past. A memory so vivid that it felt like it was just yesterday that they vowed to each other to leave that rotten island.
Years later, he did leave the island. So did she. She had leaved for the world, becoming a travel writer, writing about places he’d only dream of. He, on the other hand, had landed on a job in the capital, working like hell from day to day, hanging out with friends who wear masks, whom stab you in the back when you’re not looking. Well, he stabs others in the back too. That’s just how life in the capital is.
He had long heard about her, until one day, he noticed a name on top of a column in the newspaper he reads on the way to work. It was a pen name, but that pen name is his nickname for her when they were kids. The column was about travelling tips to places around the globe which the writer claims to have laid foot at. She talks about the Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Japan, Canary Island, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and much more. Her columns come out every Wednesday in the travel section. Each post is about a different place, and each post is one that he’d read to the very last letter.
Wednesdays changed for him. Now, every Wednesday is waited with much anticipation. Although the writer never reveals her true name, he is sure that it is her who’s writing those stories. Well, she always said that she’d like to travel the world when they were kids and leave that birthplace of theirs, which they both hate so much.
The island is actually a very nice place to live, though everything is old school. They don’t have electricity or running water, and the drought season always brings sighs and bickering from the young ones, including them. They’ll come home from the rural school in the afternoon, only to go out after lunch, if any, to fish or help their parents in the fields or orchards. Life was harsh, but was quite simple. Every day was an accomplishment the islanders were proud of, as they know that they survive because of their own strength, and that makes them really proud of themselves.
But the young ones don’t think so. They hate that harsh life, and hate it even more when they heard stories of the mainland and of the capital across the sea, the big cities with electricity and cars and computers and running water that will not dry up even when the drought season came. Including him and her. They dreamed of leaving that rotten place called home, and now they managed to do so.
But life in the capital is not as beautiful as the words portrayed it to be. Of course it has all the facilities, the electricity, sky-piercing buildings, fast-moving trains, fantastical theme parks, the big malls, and so on. But it lacks passion between people, the love for a stranger, the smile for the little kids, the nod to a familiar face, the bow to the elders, the care for the ones needed. The capital has trained people’s hearts to be as hard as the concretes it stands on, moved empathy as high and unreachable as the top floors of the skyscrapers, created a farce like those theme parks envisioned. As an islander, he can’t escape the fact that he longed for a friendly face on the streets he roam, or on the trains he ride, or at the office he works at. But islanders are stubborn, hard-headed beings. As an islander, he doesn’t admit his defeat towards the pressing tides of un-human-ization and steel cold hearts the capital has created. He too became one, a cold-hearted human. He realizes that, and he dislikes himself for succumbing to the depressing situation he is in.
So when he knows about her progress in life, he envied her. She still has her free-spirited self. Her words convey the smiles she had on her trips, the prose of her writing enveloped in passion for the world and the humans inhabiting it, the monologues itself was so tactile, it gives off the feeling of being home.
Huh, being home? He wonders why he had thought it that way. Until one day, an unusual sparkling Wednesday, he reads the travel column that he claimed she wrote. Surprisingly, the place mentioned in the article sounds familiar. A little island off the coast of a bigger mass of land which is actually also an island. The people lived simple lives, fishing, harvesting their crops when the time came, caring for their orchards and the fruits their trees bore. The people are friendly, always giving that warm smile even to strangers. They’ll even have a chat with you like they know you for ages.
Just like at his island.
At the end of the article, the writer wrote something that caught his eyes, and heart. A simple note. ‘This island is very much like the place I hail from. It reminds me of the roots of myself, the origin of me and this passion for travelling. It has taken quite a long time for me to realize this, but all my travel articles up to this point has mainly focused on places that are actually islands. Truly as they say, the purpose of travel is to know where your home is, and to appreciate what’s important to you. Your home. Your island. And I think no matter how much I hate that place before, I can’t escape it. So, I’m going home and will be on hiatus for a while, and this will be the last article I’ll write for this column. Thank you for reading.
– Island Heron.’
The last sentences she wrote had awakened something inside of him. A consciousness. A feeling. An answer. He now knows what he’s missing in this unfulfilling life, what tempted him to hate his present self. Its not about not being himself. Its about not being where he’s supposed to be. Its not about the smiles he’s not getting. Its about the smiles he’s not giving. Its not about what he doesn’t have. Its about what he didn’t know he had.
After doing his Subuh, he packs his bags and straps his boots on. He had given his resignation letter to the office and he’ll not regret it. He will be going back to the island he hated so much before. He will meet his long lost best friend, his childhood memory, his secret crush. As an islander, he can’t escape the island. The waves will surely wipe him back to the shore if he ever drifted afar, and the island’s gravity will hold him dearly.
He’s going home.
21st July 2011