Just Another Day: South

by Julius Kensan
26th June 2015
For the last episode of our tribute to Jakarta's 488th Anniversary series, we present you a short story from South of Jakarta.


“Tell mum I’ll be back in half an hour time,” I yell out to our helper, Santi, who is watering the plants in our front yard and is always seen with one side of her earphone permanently stuck in her right ear.

I’m going out for a quick run. Judging from my schedule today, I won’t have enough time to head to the gym. I have to accompany my mum for brunch then head out to pick up Danissa, and then we’re off to our graduation ceremony. A half an hour run should do the trick.

I turn on my Nike Run app, strap my iPhone on my left arm and make my way out as Pak Yanto, our security guard, slides open our enormous steel gate.

It’s 6.30 in the morning and the streets of Dharmawangsa are gratifyingly quiet, only disturbed by the occasional passing of motorbikes. The day is starting to break and the morning fog hasn’t cleared up entirely yet. But I like it anyway. This is the view I’ll be used to once I move to Boston to pursue my Finance degree.

Well, if I could have it my way, I’d much prefer to take up Interior Design instead. But since my authoritarian father works for the government for the past 30 years, he insisted that I must enrol into a more “serious” course. To him, anything outside the economic, social and political spheres are frivolous. “You could not see it now but you’ll thank me for it in the future,” That’s how he would always dismiss me whenever I stand up against him.

Still, whether Finance or Interior Design, I’m glad I’ll be able to start a new life in a foreign country on my own. I’ll get to drive my own car and I don’t have to explain to anyone when I arrive home reeking of alcohol and cigarettes.

The thought of my freedom makes me grin from ear to ear. I notice a couple of passers-by are staring at me. I better stop grinning. They must have thought I’m a loony even though I’m wearing a limited edition Nike running gear from head to toe.

I turn left to the other corner of Dharmawangsa. On one side of the street, it is lined with vendors selling potted tropical plants and flowers. Ah yes, flowers. I need to get a bouquet for Danissa this afternoon. Or maybe I shouldn’t. After all, I’m planning to break up with her. There’s no need to play it too nice. Then again, it’s our graduation ceremony, maybe getting her a bouquet of flowers is still acceptable.

I guess there’s no going around it. If I want to do this, I better get it over and done with. Sigh. I probably shouldn’t have peppered our six-month relationship with so many romantic outings and promises. There’s that candle light dinner on Valentine’s Day, weekend trip to Singapore for her birthday and not forgetting countless couple selfies everywhere we go. I’m sure she’s not going to take it lightly. If only I could just turn back the time and remain friends then I wouldn’t be faced with such wearisome decision.

Looks like I’ve overestimated myself with a 30-minute run. Funny, I could hardly break a sweat running on a treadmill in the gym and here I’m gasping for breath like a fish out of the water. Maybe the air is too polluted. Maybe my Nike attire is weighing me down. Or maybe the thought of breaking up with Danissa has drained me both mentally and physically.

I decide to turn right towards my favourite haunt, a place where I end up whenever I need to escape from my nagging parents. An Ice Latte would suffice. I place my order and sink into a nearby couch. Just how cool would it be if I could return from Boston and start a café with Japanese sensibilities like this on my own. Then I wouldn’t have to be stuck with a 9 to 5 job every single day.

The morning light is slowly sneaking into the café, basking the entire room with a stylish warm glow. Man, I wish someone could take a picture of me now. It’s an Instagram-worthy moment!

A postcard-sized picture on the wall to my right catches my attention. I think I’ve seen it somewhere.  “It’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich,” the barista informs me, probably noticing my curious expression.

In the picture, a dapper man stands on the mountain peak, overlooking a landscape covered in thick sea of fog. That’s me. I don’t know why but I could almost feel what the painter was feeling when he carefully applied his gentle brushstrokes on the canvas.

My phone rings. It’s Danissa. “Hey babe, I’m just getting my morning coffee,” I say. Danissa is whining over what to wear on our dinner after the ceremony tonight. My eyes are still fixed on the painting.

“Honey, are you listening?” she asks.

I snap out of my brief reverie. “Yeah I am. Hey look… Ah… I’ve got something I need to tell you.”


Short story by Julius Kensan for Manual Jakarta

Art Direction by Sharin Yofitasari for MALT Studio

Voiceover by Aldo Rumantir