Minggu, 24 Februari 2008

an unexpected blow

cerpen ini dimuat di Jakarta Post 24 Feb 2008

Once again she appeared when I least expected it, along with the drizzle that whispered against my windowpanes and soaked the edge of my bedspread. I shut the window and hurried to the front door. I wouldn't have notice her if it had not been for a sharp crack of thunder. I was astounded to see her soaked to the skin, standing at the front gate. Folding her arms, she braved the rain.

"Hey, why are you standing there?" I shouted at her.

"Don't be stupid! How can I get into your house when the gate is locked?"

I had forgotten it was locked, or to be precise, I had purposely locked it to avoid being disturbed by anybody while I was painting.

Rainwater dripped from the tips of her hair right on her chest. I gulped as thin mist obscured the sight I had imagined upon opening the gate. She scolded me. I was rendered speechless by a feeling of guilt, and quickly headed back inside.

She followed me up the front steps, dripping water across the floor.

"Let me get some clothes so you won't catch a cold!" I said while entering my room.

"I wasn't going to come here, but it started to rain and I didn't have anyplace else to go," she said as I brought her some clothes and a towel.

In the past she had made countless excuses to see me and I had never found one reason to turn her away. She came as unexpectedly as the rain.

She took the clothing from me and dashed to my room to change and hang her own things on the line. Meanwhile, I prepared a cup of sweet tea to sip on the porch.

She appeared from behind the door, drying her long hair with the towel and walking to the porch. I saw her clothes bulging with something. My heart was pounding amid the chill of dusk.

The rain had already subsided when she sat down beside me. The fire in her brown eyes scared me. With her hair still damp, I kept staring in silence. Uncomfortable with my gaze, she tossed the towel on my face. I stood up, desperate to hug her.

But a beggar standing at the gate startled me all at once. "Money, please!"

Instead of taking her in my arms, I walked to the gate, handing spare change to the beggar. He left satisfied. But, before I turned around, a punch landed on my back. It came as a shock. Out of breath, I saw stars and almost dropped to the ground. Yet I felt something odd in my groin. Faintly, I could see her shadow behind me. I tried to grab hold of her but she escaped.

I chased her to vent my anger. But finally I gave in. She burst into tears, forcing me to drink the tea I had served. The taste confused me. It was salty.

"Sorry, I may have mistakenly put in salt! OK, let me make another cup for you!"

"No!" she sobbed, "get me a glass of plain water if you don't mind!"

I brought her a glass of water and some tissues. She drank it and dabbed at her eyes. She blushed; I was burning with desire. I touched her damp cheeks. The chilly dusk still made her quiver. I was aware of her wish. She, too, realized what I needed as in previous encounters, in which we made love in showery coldness.


She turned up unexpectedly, again and again, like the unpredictable drizzle.

It was not raining, though, the first time she stopped by with her lover to ask me to paint her portrait from a photograph. As I had not painted for a while, I tried to turn down the request but she insisted. She said some of my friends had told her I was a painter.

Then it started drizzling. I felt a fool when I agreed to take her order; but somehow I was convinced I would no longer be lonely. I told her to come back in a week. As the rain stopped, she left with her boyfriend. Her shining face captivated me.

I had been living alone in this cavernous mansion of mine since my wife left. I hadn't been able to paint a thing.

I was absentminded, awaiting a miracle that might restore my vitality. And this young woman seemed to be bringing me back to my comforting past. The loneliness haunting me after my wife chose to marry another man made me waste my days at home. I rarely went out, only waiting for her at dusk. I was certain she would not return, but I kept expecting her as if I had been waiting for the sun to go down in the West.

In spite of her long absence, it was as if I was being guided by a magical force when I painted the woman. My brushstrokes were deftly executed; never did I question the placement of a line or a color choice.

In less than three days, the woman's picture was finished. After exactly a week, the woman returned as the sun went down. A light shower had unexpectedly developed.

"Where's your boyfriend?" I queried, ushering her to a seat on the porch.

"He's been assigned to another region. I'm not here to collect the picture, I just wanted to see how it was going."

You can see for yourself in my room! If you're not satisfied, I'll start again," I interrupted.

"You're a gifted painter alright," she said after scanning the portrait in my room.

I nodded. I wondered why her praise left me speechless.

I said she could look at my other paintings while I made tea in the kitchen. When I came back, she was standing dead still, fixated by one picture.

"Are you interested in the painting?" I asked, surprising her as I emerged from behind. "If you like it, you may take it home."

Making no response, she continued to stare at the picture I had painted of my naked wife on our wedding night.

I could recall the midnight hours when my wife grew passionate, while I was so taken by her body in the light that my urge to paint her overwhelmed my desire for her.

During the hours I painted her, my wife stared blankly into space.

Afterward, I covered her body with a blanket and, finally we made love, beneath the blanket.The woman remained absorbed, taking in every detail of the nude of my wife. "How about painting me like that?" she said and climbed onto the bed. Readily she took off her clothes. It made me gulp. Hiding my bewilderment, I picked up my brush.

Admittedly, I had never painted a naked woman other than my wife. In two hours, the painting was finished. Out of the blue, she closed the curtains. I can't remember who started it all. She relished the warmth of the evening. Later she would turn up at dusk, with no excuse left for me to reject her. She would announce her presence by pounding at the door, and following the love making I could always complete my work with ease.

That was until the time she punched me in the back.


We had become accustomed to ending quarrels with intimacy. But that evening I felt truly defeated.

She put on her clothes and prepared to leave in a huff. I noticed the smooth skin of her back, covered with butterfly tattoos. In the corner of my eye, one of the butterflies was seemingly flying through the window to the garden beside my house. I sat still, as if watching the butterfly disappear on the horizon.

And since that time, I have no longer enjoyed the warmth of sunset.

-- Translated by Aris Prawira

1 komentar:

D.A.Sujana mengatakan...

Mas Nur,

Sudah tahukah jikalau Resensi Buku penjenengan masuk Sinar Harapan hari Sabtu 23 februari 2008? Resensi bagus yang judulnya Burung Merpati dan Paradoksal Sebuah Simbol itu mejeng di koran tersebut.
Kalau tak percaya, buka saja in:


salam takzim,

denny ardiansyah alias dhe