by Putriyana Asmarani

My dear Liu,

 Sayonara. Time is no longer a number, time is but an anesthesia. It stung from our gaze through our veins, towards numbness. In a flash, sense becomes senseless. The call of duty is supreme, it is above and beyond. The tip of your middle finger landed on the final stroke of your right eyebrow. All the tensions were there, hidden under the earth-colored military uniform. Lips tightly sealed, knees shook a little, eyes glued onto me. Sayonara, you said in a solitary salute.

 Sayonara. We were twenty meters away, body rooted to the ground. Because we both know dear Liu, distance is real, it is a lover’s circus show, where feet must bleed on the scattered broken glass. We won’t let ourselves shed more blood. But there I was, twenty meters away from you, bleeding anyway, wailing anyway. It’s your final damage on me, stroke me, hurt me anyway. The train’s swing door was closing, you disappeared after a deep brief bow.

 Sayonara. In an instant that hollow tunnel converted itself into a melodic theatrical narrator. The stage was there, a rectangular train window capturing the back of your body, no looking back, not a swipe of a waving hand for me. What makes you vanish, dear Liu, was it the moving train or your sayonara? That massive hole where the train was gone is the architect of my prolonged narratology. The site alone could strike a dramatic effect on me, disallowing me to find another joy possible. 

 Sayonara. We have a gazillion wants, noted them on a lengthy list. Weird, what comes after that is the most unwanted. That was the course of making a list dear Liu, we made it flow like river water. Our sensibilities circulated otherwise, as it drifted, we swam against it. Because we are not dead fish dear Liu, only dead fish follow where the stream ends. Whatever we avoid somehow summons itself in an undeniable call; to be a citizen or to be a lover.

 Sayonara. Two eyeballs sharply piercing into yours, I once asked you, darling, are you a devoted citizen or a good lover? When duty calls, it is no longer a choice. Duty is above and beyond, do you know where love is? Love is below, it is where you stood, on the surface. Thus, to be a real man, a real soldier, you must go high, and in order to go high, love is the cost. No, no dear Liu, the cost of going high is you.

 Sayonara. Time is the best runner, the night you asked me out, we had two more weeks before the call. You appeared next to the football field where the grass shone under the lamp because it is artificial. Your cloud bright-colored t-shirt, night-black casual pants, and face beamed an intense spark like the surface of a lake with the moon ray dancing on the rippling water. You didn’t blink much, those two dark circles are the depth of oceans, bearing mysteries of your soul. You did smile though. Because you know dear Liu, your smile is my weakest point.

 Sayonara. You told me, you weren’t there to play football. You were there to show me this destination of our life you call ‘goal’. You pointed to that horizontal bar, stood firmly supported by other two vertical bars, your smile was wider, and with teary eyes you asked, “Will our love reach the goalpost ever?” Dear Liu, what I can learn from a destination is that we are coming to an end. My right palm has landed there, on your collarbone, lips reaching yours, the hour stopped, the moon shrank. I hated the idea of destination, but at that moment, I realized that my destination is not a place or a purpose, not a goal or a gain, it is you.

 Sayonara. The train, dear Liu, never leaves the station. The crowd grew, people moved in a hustle. The sounds got noisier. Am I deaf? Am I dysfunctioning? The train never leaves the station, it is Nick Cave’s song. Does it really matter then, the train returns without you inside it. That metal railway track, this cramped station, is all feverish. My body was still, as if I was a stone-carved figurine. Lifeless.

 Sayonara. I remember that night in Meizhou. Shoulders up straight, two palms folded firmly, foot thumped reaching me, shocked me in a blow. “You are very beautiful,” you said. My friends went ecstatic. Your friends fell in stupefaction. Our eyes met, you endured it, my gaze, you endured it. In such an electric stroke, you remained where you stood, pouring responsibilities of that desirable expression. I was supposed to say thank you. Instead, I said, “Ha?” Your fingers shook, in a rush you pulled your phone in your pocket. Writing in a blink of an eye, you showed me a translation app with a translated message, “I regret I didn’t pay attention at English lessons in the past, now I have a hard time explaining myself to you.”

 Sayonara. From Bian Lian, we both learn that a face could never still. We also learn that among the shifts of the changing face, no matter how many we wore in a blink of an eye, we should be brave enough to face, let our eyes meet and gaze. Yet, it took me one full moon to finally realize that silence is actually more spoken, thus in our brief electrifying gaze I surrender myself to the silence, let it translate. Slowly you reached my right index finger, softly letting it rest on your right palm. The eyes of yours locked me, in there I was a criminal begging to get prisoned. Your nose was the first landing on the surface of my cheek. Then, everything felt like Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets.

 Sayonara. I left the station, like a dying autumn leaf blown by the rustling wind. Getting lost even though I knew exactly where my address was. I felt drunk enough to realize I wasn’t drunk. Sinking in disorientation, too late to finally notice that there’s no painkiller for the heartbroken. Memory is a flood, said Ocean Vuong, and I did not survive this disaster. You told me, you will serve your country in dust and dusk. You warned me that as soon as we fell in love, we must learn to end it quickly. Then, it is not duty separating us, it is your unwillingness to feel whole.


 The word I can’t heave to the tip of my lips. Sayonara. It’s not even my mother tongue. If only I could just spit it out. 

About the Author:

Putriyana Asmarani is a content writer in a creative industry agency in Malang, East Java, Indonesia. One of her research The Political Identity of Malay Rajas has received a research fellowship scholarship at National University of Singapore. One of her short stories was published in The Jakarta Post.

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