De De

“Kalau bukan aku, siapa lagi”, said Dede, adopting a more serious tone. I’ve never seen this side of him. He rarely ever takes anything seriously, much to his mother’s annoyance. “Dede! Dede!” she would call for him every evening, when we were kids. The Javanese are superstitious about still being out during the sunset call to prayer. They say bad spirits are lurking about and that they could hide you in a parallel universe, never to be seen again. Ibu Soriati made me feel like one of her own even when the rest of the village felt that she was practically playing with fire. “Anak itu bukan dari kita!” claimed some of the women. Ibu just smiled and dismissed them casually. “Bukan salah dia” she would say to them, in my defence. I never knew the full story of how I came to be. My Dutch father disappeared before I got the chance to ask him. He’s the reason my appearances betray me. That I could never completely be considered of this land until my outsides matched what I felt on the inside. My mother, according to Ibu, was the prettiest young woman this village had ever seen. “Wajahnya seperti purnama. Warna kulitnya kayak kayu manis. Rambutnya panjang, sehitam malam” she said, in one of her stories. I could only imagine what my mother must have looked like. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I wonder how much of my face is like hers. But I was too young to remember anything. All I remember was the evening she drowned. Everything else was a blur. Since then, Ibu took me in and Dede became like my brother. “Kamu itu anak ibu, ngerti?”, she said, the first night I came to live with her. She kneeled down to engage my eyes, “Walaupun rupa kita berbeda, jangan pernah mikirin yang ga jelas”.