Category Archives: Gender

Short Story: Mrs Geni in December

Mrs Geni in December

By Arswendo Atmowiloto

For Mrs Geni every month is December. Last month, this month, or next month, they all mean December. So if you have to deal with Mrs Geni, it’s better not to rely on dates, but rather on the day. If you want to book her you have to say, “Two Fridays from this Friday.” If you say the seventeenth you could be in trouble because the seventeenth won’t necessarily be a Friday. If you book her for the seventeenth she just mightn’t show up on the day.

The problem is a great many people deal with Mrs Geni. For anyone wanting to arrange the wedding of a child there is only one choice. Mrs Geni. Bridal makeup artist. There are many other bridal makeup artists, but none that can match Mrs Geni. Even after considering the many other beauty salons, people stay with the choice of Mrs Geni.

According to past clients Mrs Geni is no ordinary makeup artist. She can transform a would-be bride and make her so beautiful she is truly stunning. Unrecognizable. One of her specialities is infusing cigarette smoke onto the face of the would-be bride. According to tradition, she explains, this is bronzing. The application of a bronze, not gold, hue to the skin. Almost every bridal makeup artist uses the technique, but none can match her skill. At one wedding the host fainted because she thought the daughter she was marrying off had disappeared. The mother of the bride-to-be fainted, the father was embarrassed, and all the relatives started to search for the bride at friends’ houses. Even after she was found, the mother of the bride-to-be could not accept it. “That is not my child. That is not my child,” she exclaimed.

“Well, if it is not your child, that makes her my child. Let’s go home.”

Only later the mother of the bride-to-be realized and said, “How is it possible my child could be as beautiful as this?”

Despite this, Mrs Geni does not always please everyone. Her voice is loud and the people who have to listen to her do become annoyed. “This child is already pregnant. Why are you hiding it? Why are you embarrassed? To have children, to be able to fall pregnant, this is a gift. This is not something to be covered up, to be squeezed down inside clothes. It’s your own child after all.”

If I am not mistaken the incident happened at the district head’s house. As a result the news spread and continued to reverberate long after the incident was over. Another wedding ceremony was almost cancelled simply because Mrs Geni could see a sad face on the bride-to-be. Usually two or three days before a ceremony Mrs Geni needs to meet the bride-to-be in person. Why not with the bridegroom-to-be? “Well, his fate rests right here doesn’t it.”

When she met the soon-to-be bride who she felt was wearing a sad face, Mrs Geni said, “Can’t be like this. You have to start off happy.” No matter that the invitations had already been sent out, the reception hall paid for in advance, and, more importantly, the food prepared. The story would not have been unusual if it had ended in cancellation. What was unusual was that two days later a bus crashed over a cliff into a gorge. It turned out that if the wedding had actually gone ahead and not been cancelled there was a big chance the bridegroom-to-be would have gone into the gorge because he had in fact planned to travel on that very bus at that very time. Mrs Geni’s story continues next with the time she was asked to prepare the makeup of the daughter of a government minister – possibly a senior coordinating minister – but she replied, “Just tell the daughter to come to my house. A lot of people here are going to be put out if I leave them.”

Last seventeenth of August, the residents of her neighborhood waited to see whether Mrs Geni would put up the national red and white flag at her house because according to Mrs Geni that was identical with the seventeenth of August. It turned out that Mrs Geni did have a flag put up. “What’s wrong with flying the flag on the seventeenth of December?” she asked.

The officials in the village were happy too because if Mrs Geni hadn’t put out the flag on the anniversary of independence there could have been a problem. On the following thirty-first of December Mrs Geni did not object to having a party at her house. But to her, the following day was not New Year’s Day, but rather the first of December again.

Many people say that Mrs Geni’s magic is to always look young. And Mrs Geni does indeed seem to have always looked the same, whether it was doing the makeup for a neighbor or doing it for her own child. Her face and presentation have been the same. Photos taken at that time are able to prove this, along with the photos taken over the succeeding twenty years. And maybe the twenty years before that.

“Marriage is the most illogical of ceremonies. It causes a lot of trouble. You all stress about working out an auspicious date, what sort of matching clothes to have, and it all has no connection with the marriage itself. Just look at the people who make the speeches at weddings, the people delivering advice to the newlyweds. That is the most boring part, the part that is listened to the least. But it is always included. That’s weddings for you.” It is somewhat odd for these words to come from Mrs Geni because she in fact makes her living from weddings. “Yes, it is strange. Isn’t marriage a strange thing. Because something strange is thought of as normal, the people who do not marry, who are widows or widowers, are even thought of as strange.”

On a different occasion Mrs Geni said, “The strange expression ‘soul mate’ hides the fear or questions that we don’t have the courage to answer. ‘Oh, such and such is my soul mate.’ We commonly speak like that. Or if it fails, ‘Oh, such and such was not my soul mate.’” Mrs Geni then laughs at length. “So, is my soul mate actually Mr Geni? Because I married Mr Geni he becomes my soul mate. Not, because Mr Geni was my soul mate therefore I married him. It would have been different if before that I hadn’t married Mr Geni. Then he wouldn’t have been my soul mate.”

Why marry Mr Geni at the time?

“Well, because it was time to get married, like everybody else.”

Does that then mean it wasn’t out of love that I married Mr Geni?

“As with soul mates, as soon as you marry, well, that has to be accepted as love. That is more important. Because if you rely on love beforehand, it might not last. What you have, that is what you love whether there is love there before or not.”

The question arises because there is word that Mr Geni is to marry again. “Yeah, don’t worry about that. And I will do the makeup for the bride,” she says easily, in a flat almost emotionless tone. “To try to forbid it would be hard and it would be useless anyway. Just let him do it.”

Maybe that is the reason Mrs Geni is still happy to do the makeup for the soon-to-be brides who are to become second or third wives. “Let people experience joy once in their lives.” For Mrs Geni marriage is joy, happiness. “If someone does not even experience joy when they marry they aren’t going to find any other joy.”

According to Mrs Geni no marriage really fails because marriage itself is not a success. “All you need is a little courage and a lot of foolishness. That is what is needed for a marriage. In order to divorce on the other hand you need to have a lot of courage and a small amount of foolishness.”

Has Mrs Geni ever thought about divorcing Mr. Geni?

“I’ve never thought about getting divorced. Have I thought about killing him? Often.”

And so, Mrs Geni, bridal makeup artist, has done the makeup for all the women in her village. You could say for everyone who has been married, as well as for those who have not. The latter Mrs Geni makes up as bodies when women pass away having never married. Before burial Mrs Geni makes them up completely. Many people do not approve. For many it is to be regretted. Still others fear being made up. “Frightened it will come to pass during the marriage. Frightened of being too happy, too free, too enjoyable, so that is why we commit ourselves to a marriage that regulates responsibilities so much, regulates obligations, including the providing of a living and the raising of children. Only it is strange, but basically we are afraid of our own happiness and restrict that through the existence of the power of God.”

Even though she says that humanity’s most restricting and frightening discovery is marriage, Mrs Geni continues to prepare people’s makeup, still uses the infusing of cigarette smoke. For someone able to make time for herself – even though it is still tied to December – Mrs Geni is able to do the makeup for people, bodies, bridal statues and trees, as well as buffaloes. Mrs Geni also chants the bridal mantra, breathes the three breaths onto the crown of the bride’s head, with the same seriousness she uses to fast before making someone up. “Let the buffaloes experience happiness, just as we have believed all this time that marriage is happiness.”

Fortunately all of this only happens in December.


Mrs Geni in December (Bu Geni di Bulan Desember) by Arswendo Atmowiloto was first published in the national daily newspaper Harian Kompas on 20 May 2012. Retrieved from https://cerpenkompas.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/bu-geni-di-bulan-desember/

Featured image credit: “Tribute to Arswendo Atmowiloto” by Karikatoer (Khoirul Anwar), https://www.instagram.com/karikatoer/

Malam Transfigurasi, Karya Richard Dehmel

Malam Transfigurasi

Oleh Richard Dehmel

Dua orang melalui hutan kering yang dingin;
bulan berlari bersama mereka, mereka memandangnya.
Bulan berlari di atas pohon-pohon ek yang tinggi;
tidak ada awan yang mengaburkan cahaya dari langit,
di mana dahan kering hitam merentang.
Suara seorang wanita berbicara:

Aku mengandung anak, dan bukan milikmu,
aku berjalan dalam dosa di sampingmu.
Aku telah sangat berdosa pada diriku sendiri.
Aku tak lagi percaya pada kebahagiaan
namun penuh kerinduan
akan kehidupan yang bermakna, akan bahagianya menjadi ibu
akan tugas; kurelakan
dengan gemetar, kutinggalkan kaumku
dalam dekapan pria tak dikenal,
dan karenanya aku diberkati.
Sekarang hidup sendiri telah membalas dendam:
sekarang pun aku telah bertemu denganmu, ya kamu.

Dia berjalan dengan langkah canggung.
Dia mendongak; bulan sedang berlari.
Tatapan gelapnya tenggelam dalam cahaya.
Suara seorang pria berbicara:

Biarkan anak yang kaukandung
membuat jiwamu tanpa beban.
Ya, lihat betapa jernihnya alam semesta berkilau!
Ia bersinar untuk segalanya;
Kau terapung denganku di atas laut yang dingin,
tapi ada kehangatan pribadi berkedip
dari kau di dalamku, aku di dalammu.
Ini akan metransfigurasi anak yang asing itu,
Kau akan lahirkan anak itu bagai anakku sendiri;
kau bawa cahaya padaku,
kau buatkan aku seorang anak.

Dia rangkul tubuh yang penuh.
Napas mereka berciuman di udara.
Dua orang melalui malam yang tinggi dan cerah.


—Richard Dehmel, Verklärte Nacht, pertama kali diterbitkan di Weib und Welt (1896)

Rujukan

Featured image credit: www.dehmelhaus.de/aktuell.html

Short Story: Funny Story About Gun Shots

Funny Story About Gun Shots

By Surya Gemilang

Pajenong was putting on deodorant in front of the mirror, listening to the newsreader on television describe the mounting number of rape cases across the city over the past year, when Sarimin’s gun suddenly pumped a bullet into the back of his head. Pajenong collapsed instantly.

Having sneaked into the apartment and quietly watched the owner from under the bed, Sarimin crawled out and examined Pajenong’s cellphone. The cellphone screensaver was showing Date with Vianna at nine o’clock at Cafe X, written in white Times New Roman font against a black background.

To get to the phone desktop, Sarimin would have to enter the correct PIN. If Sarimin succeeded in entering the correct PIN, he was definitely going to send a message to Vianna saying, “Sorry, honey, I can’t make our date today. All of a sudden I want to break up with you. By the way, I think Sarimin is the most suitable man for you.” Sarimin then tried entering a number of PINs at random. When Pajenong’s cellphone was blocked, Sarimin threw it through the open window. She couldn’t have cared less about the head of anyone who might have been hit by the cellphone as it plunged freely from a height of ten stories.

In the end Sarimin didn’t know what else to do. Initially he had intended to come into Pajenong’s apartment armed with a gun, but with absolutely no plan to kill him. He planned only to emerge from under the bed suddenly, scare Pajenong, force him to cancel his date with Vianna, and force him to break up with her. But the sudden anger eating away inside his head had made Sarimin reach out uncontrollably from under the bed and shoot Pajenong in the back of the head, without time to think about how to secure his victim’s body, or how to save himself if he were pursued by the police.

What Sarimin did then, after staring at the clock on the wall showing seven o’clock in the evening, was to move quickly toward Pajenong’s body and kick him violently with the result that he hurt his own foot. Sarimin considered the kicks revenge for the rape that Pajenong had committed against Vianna. Then Sarimin fired the remaining six bullets in his gun until Pajenong’s head was completely destroyed. He thought of the shots as an outlet for his frustration, because he just could not understand why Vianna had wanted to date the man who had raped her.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door to Pajenong’s apartment. The sound of gunfire must have caught the attention of someone who happened to be near the door. A terrible jolt instantly struck Sarimin’s heart because he wasn’t ready to go to prison at all. A cold sweat broke out and began to run down his body as if his skin was leaking.

Then a moment later there was another knock at the door, louder this time. Straight away Sarimin moved quickly to close the bedroom door, turn off the television, and roll Pajenong’s body under the bed. He returned Pajenong’s deodorant to its original place after cleaning off the blood with some tissues. Then he cleaned away the traces of the death from the floor with a towel that he grabbed from the wardrobe and hurled it under the bed too.

Sarimin thought about stepping quietly to the door and peeking at the person who was knocking. But hearing the next much louder knock made him change his mind about approaching the door because he felt the knocking sounded threatening, like the knock of a debt collector on the door of the house of a debtor who hasn’t made any payments on a debt for a very long time. 

Sarimin regretted that he’d used up all his bullets. The regret was just as heavy as when he’d expressed his love to Vianna two weeks ago, resulting in the complete destruction of the friendship they’d been hiding for years out of shame. “Oh, if only that night I had decided to stay quiet, Vianna would not have become angry. She wouldn’t have run out of the house, wouldn’t have met Pajenong in the middle of the road, wouldn’t have been raped in the car. And it wouldn’t have led to the murder I committed here that day,” Sarimin thought.

This time the door didn’t sounded like someone knocking, rather it sounded like someone bashing hard. But it hadn’t come off its hinges yet. Sarimin’s heart almost flew out the open window, which if used to escape now, would definitely mean he was committing suicide. Sarimin also glanced around, looking for anything he could use to save himself, baseball bat, golf club, lamp stand.

Being hit with one of those objects should be quite painful. But it immediately crosses his mind that all that might not necessarily save him if it turned out there were more than one person waiting on the other side of the door. He wondered if maybe he should explain carefully to the person banging on the door that Pajenong deserved to be killed, exactly because he raped Vianna and had then arrogantly called him to boast about the rape?

But killing was just as bad, Sarimin continued thinking to himself. Finally Sarimin’s gaze fell on a large wardrobe. Just as there was the sound of the front door being smashed down, Sarimin without thinking climbed inside the wardrobe. The sweet fragrance of all Pajenong’s clothes fills the inside of the closet, reminding him of the scent of the fragrant flowers sprinkled on to a coffin.

Then he began to hear the sound of footsteps outside. Very light footsteps, as if the owner of the feet were trying to step through the air before ambushing an opponent from above. Even though Sarimin was very frightened, he was still able to focus on what he was hearing, and he could conclude that it was the sound of one person’s footsteps. There could not be more than that. And because there was only one person, Sarimin should be able to climb out of the cupboard right then and fight the person, or simply point a gun at him as he stepped away from the apartment. But neither of these possibilities would be easy. The person out there had to be a strong and brave person, as evidenced by how he was brave enough to break into the apartment.

A few moments later the sound of footsteps suddenly disappeared. There was no way the person had left the apartment. If he had gone, what Sarimin should have heard was the sound of footsteps growing softer and softer, then disappearing, rather than vanishing all at once. The person must be able to fly! Then the door to the wardrobe could be heard being locked from the outside.

***

Vianna had been going to shoot Pajenong when they met at Cafe X at nine o’clock later that night, without caring what the people around her would do. But Vianna had been in a hurry and wasn’t able wait to slay Pajenong because she was so angry. So she had decided to take a taxi and go straight to the apartment of her ex-boyfriend armed with a gun, where the radio was broadcasting the news of the continuing increase in the number of rape cases in the city over the past year. She arrived at her destination at seven o’clock in the evening.

As no one would open the door, Vianna pounded on the door to Pajenong’s apartment until it broke. She surprised herself that she could be that strong. Instead of finding a surprised Pajenong, Vianna discovered that there was no one there. Maybe Pajenong had sensed that she was going to come and kill him, so he was hiding now. The woman then stepped inside very slowly, as if she was stepping through the air before ambushing Pajenong from above.

Pajenong’s apartment was not very large, so it did not take Vianna long to finish searching every corner. She found no one. Not even under the bed. As she sat on the edge of the bed, Vianna wondered whether Pajenong was had been so eager for their date that he had already left for Cafe X?

Suddenly something somehow made her gaze lock onto the wardrobe. Her body suddenly shivered. With a silent step, Vianna approached the cupboard, then locked the door. Next she took several steps back, drew a deep breath, and pumped out the seven bullets in her gun.

Blood dripped from the crack under the cupboard door.

Vianna smiled coldly, dropped her gun on the floor, then left the apartment feeling peaceful.

***

Vianna still went to Cafe X at nine that evening. She celebrated her glorious victory by ordering expensive food. While waiting for the food she had ordered, she took out her cellphone, looked up a trusted news site, and read the news about the continuing increase in rape cases in the city over the past year.

She suddenly missed Sarimin and imagined the man sitting across from her. She thought, “Ah, I shouldn’t have been angry at the time. There’s nothing wrong with him falling in love…”

Just as the food arrived, Vianna noticed a well-dressed man enter the cafe. The man waved at her as he approached. Vianna’s breath suddenly froze. And she almost passed out as Pajenong sat down in front of her, face covered in freshly-dried scars.

 


Surya Gemilang, Funny Story About Gun Shots (Humor Tentang Tembakan-Tembakan) was published in Kompas daily newspaper on 8 March 2020. [Retrieved from https://lakonhidup.com/2019/10/13/menembak-mati-tujuh-orang]

Surya Gemilang was born in Denpasar, Bali, on March 21, 1998. His books include: Chasing Shooting Stars (Mengejar Bintang Jatuh) (a collection of short stories, 2015), How to Love Monsters (Cara Mencintai Monster) (a collection of poems, 2017), A Taste of Death (Mencicipi Kematian) (a collection of poems, 2018), and Looking for a Head for Mother (Mencari Kepala untuk Ibu) (a collection of short stories, 2019). His other writings can be found in more than 10 mixed anthologies and numerous media publications.

Featured image credit: Cafe Batavia by Prayitno

Haters

Haters

By Kotak

Hey, my hater, don’t hate me
You’ll just hurt yourself
Hey, my hater, don’t spy on me
You’ll just be disappointed

I’m having a good time, enjoying my life
Why are you the one who ends up
Hurting, disturbed
Because of me?

You claim to be happy
But in reality, you’ve got problems
Problems seeing, seeing
That I’m happy.. that’s your tough luck.

Hey, my hater, don’t hate me
You’re just wasting your energy
Hey, my hater, the more you hate me
The sadder your life becomes

I’m having a good time, enjoying my life
Why are you the one who ends up
Suffering, disturbed
Because of me?

You claim to be happy
But the reality is, you’ve got problems
Problems seeing, seeing
That I’m happy.. that’s your tough luck.

What’s wrong, see, you want your life to be difficult
Always finding fault, so you can criticize
I’m over it, wow, friends even, what’s the point?
What there is, is you’re disappointed, when I’m having fun
Criticize here, criticize there, you don’t like anything
You don’t even provide, but you’re the one who gets mad
Me, well, I don’t have a problem, but you get stressed
Always wrong, better if I just party
You hate, but I get motivated
For me it’s better, you though, are getting angrier
We’ve stopped being friends, we’re, true, not enemies?
Pull your life together, don’t throw everything away

You claim to be happy
But the reality is you’ve got problems
Problems seeing, seeing
That I’m happy, ohhh..

Claiming to be happy
But the reality is you’ve got problems
problems seeing, seeing
That I’m happy, that’s your tough luck

Maria Ullfah, Mother of Indonesia’s National Women’s Day – @PotretLawas

Dutch East Indies Students in Holland, 1932. Maria Ullfah (right) would go on to become the first woman bachelor of laws from the Dutch East Indies.
Dutch East Indies Students in Holland, 1932. Maria Ullfah (right) would go on to become the first woman Bachelor of Laws from the Dutch East Indies. (Source: @Potretlawas)

Maria Ullfah was the daughter of Kuningan regent R.A.A. Mohammad Achmad. Maria entered the Faculty of Law at the University of Leiden in 1929 and graduated in 1933.

A friend from the same faculty and boarding house, Siti Soendari (left), who was also the sister of Dr. Soetomo, followed by taking a Bachelor of Laws the following year. On her return to the Dutch East Indies, Maria Ullfah worked in the office of the Cirebon regency government, however, this was only to last several months because she chose to study German and government at the Muhammadiyah school in Batavia. It was probably here that Maria Ullfah’s involvement in the nationalist movement began.

The causes which Maria championed included a fair marriage law, which she proposed at the Third Women’s Congress. Maria then became the head of the Agency for the Protection of Indonesian Women in Marriage. Her goal was a marriage law which was based on the principle of equity of rights and responsibilities between men and women.

22 December was declared Women’s Day at the Third Women’s Congress which was held in Bandung from 23 to 27 July 1938. Women’s Day in 1953 was a gala celebration as it was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first Women’s Congress. However, as a national day Women’s Day was not made a public holiday until 1959 with the release of Presidential Decree No. 316/1959.

Some of Maria Ullfah’s other important roles included the inclusion of human rights articles in the 1945 Constitution as it was being drafted by the Body Investigating Steps for Preparedness for Indonesian Independence (BPUPKI). Maria was one of its members. It was Maria who strongly protested when the early draft made no mention of human rights. Drs. Mohammad Hatta played the same role.

After independence, Maria Ullfah became Minister of Social Affairs in the Second Sjahrir Cabinet in 1946. It was under her stewardship that the Office of Workers’ Affairs was born which was the forerunner of today’s Ministry of Labor (@KemnakerRI). She was part of the fight for workers’ rights through her drafting of the social affairs law which aimed to improve the conditions of workers. This draft became law in 1948.

So it was that after this long record of nationalist struggle in 1959 Maria Ullfah proposed that Women’s Day on 22 December be made a national day. At the time Maria was Director of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet office during the administration of Prime Minister Juanda.

Her dream was simple, that women would always be aware of their responsibilities as mothers of the nation.

Hari Ibu, 1939 (Source: @Potretlawas)
Hari Ibu, 1939 (Source: @Potretlawas)


Source: Various tweets from @potretlawas.