Sometimes it feels like we are not going to make it. There are too much uncertainties ahead of us (and between us). Sometimes it feels like a sweet dream, and that I will wake up one day, realizing that you are no longer here. That our time is up. Sometimes it feels so temporary, so all-of-a-sudden, it scares me to the bone. Sometimes it feels like we’re hanging on a very thin rope, almost touching—just as close as almost. Sometimes it feels like we are just two lonely souls hovering around the earth and find a clear reflection of ourselves in each other. Sometimes it feels like we’re as distant as stars, as hopes, as wishes, as memories.
Sometimes it feels like we’re meant to be together—not just in the now, but 6 hours later or 10 days later or 8 years later. Sometimes it feels like the world is ours and nothing else matters. Like we understand each other so well we need only to look at each other’s eyes or squeeze each other’s hands or rub each other’s shoulders. Sometimes it feels like we can talk for hours, for days, for weeks, as if we’ll continue to discover new things about the world every day. Sometimes it feels like wanting to slow things down because every moment is way too precious.
Sometimes it feels like I am going to get myself hurt again. Sometimes it feels like I have found what I have been looking for. Sometimes it feels like I will cry again. Sometimes it feels like having the chance to laugh out loud and having fun. Sometimes it feels worrying—like risking my heart to be crushed into pieces again. Sometimes it feels liberating—like not caring about the future because the now is effing awesome. Sometimes it feels like I am going to lose you anytime soon. Sometimes it feels like we’ll be like this for a very long time. Sometimes it feels confusing because I have no idea about what is actually happening. Sometimes it feels relaxing because things just happen naturally, without anyone forcing.
Yes, sometimes it feels like that.
But most of the times, it feels like being thankful.
Like being blessed.
Like being happy.
If there is such thing as “ingredients of love”, maybe mine would look like this: Love is 50% companionship, 35% romance, 10% solitude and 5% of the unknown.
I think love—and all great relationships are about companionship. It’s about watching movies together, cooking meals for dinner, shopping for groceries, deciding on the countries to visit for the next 6-month trip, arguing about which is best: tea or coffee, attacking pastries in a small bakery, driving around listening to the radio and singing stupid songs, laughing on the floor to some random jokes only the two of you understand, stopping for a while on a crowded street to pet a stray cat or dog, cleaning up the mess at the terrace after last night’s rain. It’s about someone with whom you can talk for hours about different things, someone who can be your best friend at all times, who will always be around to support you. Best friends are those who will always become a clear mirror of yourself, showing your true reflection. They are not bound to you, yet they will always be near because they like you and you like them (you can “love” someone you don’t like, though—that’s why some women and men are still involved in abusive relationships). Best friends like you for all your great qualities and embrace your flaws without any terms or conditions. So, when it comes to best friends, no matter how long you haven’t been talking to each other, and no matter how bad your latest argument has been, when there’s something very pressing, you’ll know whom to turn to, whom you can count on, whom you can go home to. So, what I want from love is someone I can grow old with, gracefully, and that the two of us can be best friends to each other, no matter what.
Now romance, why only 35%? Because that’s enough. You know how we always want something that is scarce, but when something is abundant, we tend not to desire it as much? Imagine eating too much chocolate. Or tart. I think romance (including sex) is like a good dessert. The portion is small, thus you’ll always crave for more. It’s not only about the taste, but also the way it is served, the ambience of the restaurant where you have it, and the person with whom you’re sharing it. So, I guess, 35% is enough to spice up things, rock your world, and keep you craving for more.
Then comes 10% of solitude. I think no matter how close a couple is, the healthiest is to keep a certain distance; a space to breathe. It’s about having your own time: you and your thoughts, you and yourself, you and a good book, you and those soccer games, you and your friends. It’s about being alone. It’s about being with someone else. It’s about being apart. It’s about being somewhere far. It’s about balancing things out, to leave something for a while so that you’ll miss it—so that you’ll appreciate it more, so that you’ll want to go back home.
And the last 5% goes to the unknown. I think loving someone is like peeling the layers of an onion; to find out more about your loved ones everyday, and to fall in love more and more and more as you unveil their true self. It’s about discovering new things every steps of the way. Great couple should never think that they know everything about each other. Because there is always something new, something great, something sweet, something fresh, something surprising, something wonderful, waiting for you when you least expected it.
There are only a few places I like in Jakarta: my office (seriously), the giant bookstores, coffee shops with bookshelves, the stretch of street stalls selling everything vintage in Jalan Surabaya, Seaworld and Planetarium (again, seriously), and… the Old Town area.
I love the Old Town not only because this 1.3 square kilometers area is very picturesque; but also because it reminded me of the pictures I saw in my history books. It gave me those “colonial romanticism” feeling (you know how I love to imagine myself living in a different era; the 1920s fascinates me the most).
A lazy stroll along this area is always a pleasant one. All those old buildings with beautiful architectures, street artists drawing your sketch or silhouette, tattoo stand, fortune-teller… It was unfortunate that several historical sites had been destroyed by the provincial government during the development of Jakarta, including Fortress Batavia, Gate of Amsterdam, and tram lane of Batavia (we had tram lane, once!).
I went to the Old Town again last weekend with my friend, Chris—me with my DSLR camera, running around taking pictures, and Chris with… nothing. “Who is the tourist, actually?” Chris laughed. “Yes, I am playing tourist!” I answered to that and mindlessly snapping some pictures again. Anyway, if you’re around this area, pay a visit to Warung Kota Tua. They have the best chicken noodles.
unsent letters. heart-shaped memories, bursting in words. lonely sentences, never leave those torn pages. crumpled secrets, inside a stack of envelopes. silent phrases and faraway wishes at the back of your plane tickets. the farthest distance is one that is not crossed.
And this is the exact reason why you got those letters.
Dim, happy (belated) birthday! I am wishing you a great year ahead, full of love and sweet memories to keep! :) And, I know it’s been a while… sudah lama kita nggak menulis untuk satu sama lain seperti dulu. Untuk ulang tahun kamu, let’s do it again, for the sake of the lovely (and awful) memories we have shared along the way.
Oh ya, Dim, ada banyak hal yang terjadi dalam hidupku (will spill all the details when we meet in Bandung)—dan mulainya waktu aku pergi untuk sebulan itu. Aku pergi tanpa mencari apa-apa (selain sedikit pantai, sedikit laut dan sejumput kata-kata), tetapi aku kembali membawa banyak hal tentang hidup. Tentang cinta. Tentang kesempatan kedua. Sewaktu pergi, hatiku kosong. Sewaktu pulang, hatiku penuh dengan setumpuk surat dan puisi yang ditulis tangan, percakapan demi percakapan yang tidak putus-putus selama lebih dari 7 jam, cokelat champagne dan es krim vanila, perjalanan di tengah hujan, genggaman tangan di pagi hari, puluhan huruf X dan D, juga film-film yang diputar di HBO.
Aku diberikan banyak pelajaran tentang menikmati ‘sekarang’, Dim. Masa lalu sudah tidak bisa diapa-apakan, masa depan belum lagi akan datang. Perjalananku membuatku lebih menghargai yang ada ‘sekarang’. Seorang temanku bertanya, what is the sense of life? Aku bilang, mungkin hidup ini adalah lebih tentang kesempatan-kesempatan yang kita raih, daripada kesempatan-kesempatan yang kita lewatkan. Hidup ini adalah tentang sekarang—tentang hal-hal yang terjadi sementara kita sibuk memikirkan masa depan, begitu kata sebuah kutipan yang entah dikatakan siapa.
Teman yang sama bertanya lagi, what is love? Mungkin sama juga. Cinta adalah apa yang terjadi ketika kita tengah sibuk mempertanyakan arti cinta itu sendiri. Mungkin cinta adalah momen. Ketika kamu tengah bersama seseorang dan berpikir bahwa dengan dia di sampingmu, kamu bisa melakukan apa saja. Ketika kamu pergi jauh dan merindukan dia, dan mengetahui bahwa jika kamu harus pulang, tempat yang akan kamu tuju adalah tempat-tempat di mana dia berada. And I-love-yous, maybe they are not forever ever after. Maybe they are moments. Moments you can never get back.
Jadi hadiah ulang tahunku untukmu, Dim, adalah saat ini. Sekarang. Nikmati saat-saat ini, ya, Dim. Setiap momen. Setiap kesempatan. Setiap jalan yang dibukakan. Setiap pertemuan. Karena di akhir hari, kamu akan mengenang semuanya. Mungkin tak seluruhnya indah. Tapi setidaknya, kamu akan mengenangnya tanpa rasa sesal. Dan itu adalah hal terindah yang bisa kita katakan tentang hidup yang sudah kita jalani selama ini.
Dear ___ ,
Have I told you that this journey is different? I have decided to skip all the touristy spots in Kyiv, and left my camera at the hostel. The idea was just to enjoy Kyiv from a perspective of a local—and to spend more time connecting with people: just hanging around, laughing, talking, eating out. It was fun. It was a great fun.
From Couchsurfing, I met Kyryl and his lovely girlfriend Ieugenia.
They were such a cute couple! I had so much fun taking pictures of them both, because they were so kind and fun and affectionate and down-to-earth. They made jokes out of each other, yet you could clearly see the sparks of love in their eyes as they looked at each other (I was thinking of us when I saw them).
Together with my wonderful interpreter at TechCamp, Inna (right) and her friend Anna (left),
the five of us went for a stroll around Kyiv one lovely afternoon, practicing some Russian phrases along the way; and ended up in a small Sovyet-style diner with loads of magazines and books from the Sovyet era,
attacking a plate of Vereniki (a kind of dumpling that can be filled with mushroom, beef, chicken, etc., served with sour cream)
and drinking Kyiv’s local liqeur Hrenovuha—that was made of horseradish (smelled and tasted like one, too, with the after-effect resembling eating too much wasabi).
It was raining that evening, as we got out from the diner. Inna and Anna went back home, and I went with Kyryl and Ieugenia to Ieugenia’s apartment. “It’s a typical Sovyet apartment,” said Ieugenia. “All the apartments look the same, with the same furnitures, cupboards, stoves…”
We talked all night long on Ieugenia’s kitchen table, sipping cognac and eating melon; while listening to the government’s radio playing on the background. The cold wind was blowing from the open window and it was drizzling outside. It was such a wonderful time.
Earlier that week, at the hostel, I also met Francois—a Canadian who lives in London at the moment,
and Fransisco, a Brazilian who gets fascinated by my name and kept on teasing me when we bumped into each other (Hey, Hanny *wink* Can I call you Hanny? *wink* Hello, Hanny *wink*) and we laughed out loud every time. “Sorry, I can’t help myself. I know, lame jokes, but I just love it!” he said.
With the boys and some other Ukrainian friends, we went for a bar-hopping experience in Kyiv one night, and ended up eating chicken soup at a restaurant and spent the rest of the night conversing as we walked back home.
On my last day in Kyiv, I met Natalya Kovalienko as I walked around the artsy stretch of Andriyivzkyy in the morning. Natalya sells arts & crafts in a street stall. She is an artist; a painter—and she painted all of the souvenirs she offers: matryoshka dolls, fridge magnets, hair combs, mirrors, jewelry boxes…
In one of my letters, I told you how I was scared and nervous and anxious when I first traveling alone, because I was such an introverted shy girl, and I doubted myself a lot. I told you that often times, I wasn’t sure that I could, that I would make it. “But soon, I started to enjoy the feeling of being on my own: of making connections, of trusting people I have just met, of initiating a conversation with a total stranger,” I said.
And this was exactly how I met you. This was how you ended up in my letters and I ended up in yours. I am glad for now I can say that when it comes to us, I have no regret. No matter what awaits us in the future, we know that together, we’re awesome, and we’re great! See you in a couple of weeks!
What do you know about sadness? About being left-behind? About seeing those backs, those steps, walking away from you, over and over again, and you found yourself looking at them with your eyes welled up with tears every single time, hoping that they would stop and look back but they never did? And you tried to brace yourself and looked up to prevent those tears from falling, but no matter how hard you tried it didn’t work because it still hurt?
What do you know about opening up and letting your guards down and falling in love and getting hurt? About how it sucks, and about how the fact that you can’t get away from it makes it sucks even more? About not being able to trust anyone ever again because you have been betrayed so many times you can’t even cry anymore? About how you kept thinking that you should have killed the feeling right away?
What do you know about trying? About wanting to believe in something good, something special, something real? About wanting to believe that people actually mean what they say when you keep on hearing lies? What do you know about wanting to believe that some people will actually stay when you are always the one being left behind?
What do you know about disappointment? About thinking that this is the one and that this time it should be different and that this is real and later on knowing that everything is nothing but the same old lies?
What do you know? What do you know about me?
Dear ___ ,
There was the night when I went to the Opera House (opirnih thiatr), then found myself stranded in an al-fresco restaurant with a bunch of (old and new) friends—and there was another night when I went to the Irish Pub with them and some other fellows from Kyiv and Belarus. They kind of mixed up, those nights, in my memories. I couldn’t really tell which was which. I lost my sense of time when I was traveling.
But I had a wonderful time the night after the Irish Pub; after a few days and several conversations and long walks and taxi rides and another round of conversations and a few drinks and another round of conversations and a movie… a moment that (no matter how indirect it might be) led me to us. A few weeks later, I told my friend that expectations and imaginations could become our worst enemies. We blew things out of proportion, we didn’t see things as it was; we made things up in our mind about how things should end up and we ended up getting hurt. If life is measured by moments, what’s yours: a collection of moments you’ve missed or a collection of moments you’ve embraced?
I went for coffee with Sam that morning, she was about to fly back to London while I would still be in Kyiv for another 4 days. We had a quick stroll at Marinskiy Park—where people sat lazily and read books and kissed and bought ice creams. When Sam left, I became a solo traveler once again and took my luggage to my hostel in Andriyivsky, Uzviz; located only five steps away from the turned-out-to-be-famous Lviv Chocolate (handmade chocolate shop).
Soon, I felt at home. And I fell in love with the stretch—lines of colorful street stalls where people sell arts and crafts, the way the street performers play their guitars and dombra, the music, the chatter, the downhill and uphill gravel path, those ever-smiling grandmas with whom I practiced my Russian with… I was so happy I found my eyes got teary after a while. The vibe was just amazingly lovely.
I spent most of my mornings just to walk leisurely (sometimes with my camera but more often not), and chatted for a while with some of the street-sellers and performers: a casual Dobre Dien and Dasvidanya and Spasiba, and more phrases would come out when they encouraged me… and I ended up getting some new phrases along the way. It was a great way to spend the day before I retreated at a small cafe for lunch and then locked myself in my room to write (I had a great view from the window!).
Oh, and speaking about writing, you would be surprised knowing that I had written about you even before we met.
Dear ___ ,
I went for a stroll around Kyiv that afternoon. The weather was nice; it was almost dusk. I started to fall in love with the city: the wide and clean pavements, the lovely parks, the abundance of taxis, the people…
And as I was about to reach the Independence Square, this Floral Clock caught me off guard. I was thinking about time, and whether we had ever discussed it. (A few weeks after, you will find yourself asking me what do I think about love, and I will answer to that by saying: “I-love-yous? They are moments.”)
The sun was about to set when I snapped some pictures of the Independence Square, or Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Майдан Незалежності) in Khrestshchatyk Street. The sky was so beautiful with a tint of pink and orange and purple. I stood there for a while, gazing at the Berehynia (Береги́ня) statue—the female spirit in Slavic mythology; the protector of the home, that was beautified by the fountain underneath.
As night fell, I sent a little prayer for you—for us, to those times that we would be spending together; to the chance of meeting you and to know your name and to write these letters for you. We were looking at three weeks from now, more or less. If only I knew, I would have brought you something from here.