It’s Day 14 in Jakarta and my body is tearing apart. My shoulder aches. I think I sprained my neck too. After a wild rave at a nightclub last night, I’m not sure whether I could trust my old high school friends anymore.
First, they talked me into going for a quick night out at Ancol. I said yes, half-wittedly. “Come on, it’s your last night in Jakarta! You have to spend it well!” said Dina, one of my best high school friends. I meant ex-best friend because best friend don’t lie to you like that.
I raise my arms, stretching. “Is there anything more you need, dek?” a sprightly waiter asks me. Oh, it’s Ko Along, the owner of the neighbourhood restaurant I’m visiting at the moment. Apparently, he misread my gesture. “Sorry, ko, I was just stretching,” I say, quite flustered by my stupidity. He smiles, and then leaves.
A minute later, he balances his way towards my table with a red food tray, on which lies a bowl of lamb curry, a plate of rice, and liang teh in a pint glass. “Wait, Ko. I don’t think I ordered liang teh,” I raise the it in front of his face. “Don’t worry, it’s on us. We kind of miss having you around in our place,” says the middle-aged guy.
This is one of the many reasons why I love to be back in my hometown. North Jakarta. Or what’s left of it at least. Not that I hate the new face of North; but dang, everything has…changed, if not totally revamped.
My mum would never approve of me eating here. It’s not ladylike, she’d say. Then she’ll go on and on about how I should be more like my younger cousin, Danissa. How I should dress and put on more make up like her. Basically be like a copy of her. Nah, I still prefer my pants and sneakers anytime over heels and huge ugly handbags.
Liana this Liana that, I’m tired of playing Miss Congeniality at home.
After downing my bowl of curry, I say goodbye to Ko Along and get into my car. Strangely enough, driving in Jakarta has a little bit of paradox against my mental being. It’s an activity that keeps me sane. My car – my dad’s car – is my second home.
I’m meeting an old friend of mine, Bima. He said this café we’re visiting is going to remind me of Melbourne. But I don’t want to remember a transitory city that has nothing to do with my childhood nor moulds half of what I am now whatsoever. I would like to remember my Jakarta.
As the surrounding scene transitions from a wasteland to rows of ruko, my brain switches for a spur-of-the-moment decision. I text Bima. “Change of plan. Meet me at Ancol. I’ll send you the location. As for coffee, I can have it in Melbourne tomorrow anyway.” Send.
I steer my way the opposite direction and head for Ancol. Ironically, nothing much has changed in this place. I drive pass Dufan. I drive pass Seaworld. Now these places have become an empty shell of their former glory.
My car halts right next to the warung roti bakar. I choose the usual spot, facing the sea. The place is still empty but I decided to sit on top of my car’s bonnet and lean back against my elbows. I’m taking in everything: the vast stretch of skyline, the humid sea breeze, the strange mix of pungent ocean smell and roti bakar.
I’m recording my hometown in my mind.
Short Story by Pingkan Palilingan
Art Direction by Sharin Yofitasari
Voiceover by Yohan Liliyani