Finding Home Underwater

By: Patricia Kusumaningtyas |

This post is a creative nonfiction interpretation of Hindia and Rara Sekar’s “Membasuh,” based on my current state of mind. Put on your earphones/speakers, listen along while you read.

Telat ku sadar hidup bukanlah / Perihal mengambil yang kau tebar
Sedikit air yang kupunya / Milikmu juga bersama
I’ve realized way too late that life isn’t about reaping what you sow
The little water I have is also yours

Every Thursday by the start of spring, my family would drag me to church for Maundy Thursday. My religious upbringing taught me that before his death, Jesus washed (“membasuh”) the feet of his disciples. (This is indeed Baskara’s own inspiration in using the word “membasuh” for his release.) After a lot of thinking, I thought, water is such an important element in human spirituality and religion: baptism in Christianity, wudhu (الوضوء) in Islam, mikveh (מקווה) in Judaism, the Gangges river in Hinduism, water offerings in Buddhism, and water being one of the four pillars of Confucianism. Water is essential to everyone, no matter their faith. Then, why do we keep fighting rather than sharing?

Bisakah kita tetap memberi / walau tak suci?
Can we still give even if we’re not holy?

Being a final year student in college, everyone’s talking about finding a career, and most prevalently, everyone is talking about social impact. They throw the word around like confetti. Social impact here, social impact there. The two words are extremely overused that people started dismissing it as a buzzword.

At the same time, I find myself stuck in the rut of the quarter-life crisis. Am I ready to face the world as a fresh graduate, willing to sell myself to a corporation for a payback of a fulfilling starting salary? I’m afraid that no matter how much I get paid, I will never be spiritually fulfilled with myself. But when I think of it again, I have no idea how to make myself fulfilled. The only thing I know is that I don’t want to die before I make an impact to the community—before I give back to the people out there that’s not as privileged as I am.

The word “social impact” flies into my consciousness yet again. I started to find ways I can make an impact through my career. But at the same time, I’m just another fresh grad—I don’t know anything yet. I’m just a big ball of anxiety pretending that it has its shit together. Am I knowledgeable enough for social impact? How the hell am I supposed to help other people if I’m still unsure of myself?

Everyone kept saying to me, whatever you do, do it with kindness. I guess I’m standing by that piece of advice.

Bisakah terus mengobati / Walau membiru?
Can we still heal even if we’re bruised blue?

Last night, I found that the very friends that I hid from are bruised, too. Struck with the same alienation from society, faced with resistance from all sides. Outside, we’re always sad, always unfulfilled, never get to be who we truly are. But in private moments, with people we love, we found our escape; we found our release in the wee small hours of the morning laying in bed, or late at night during car drives that never seem to end. All of them far, far away from this goddamned nation and its sick, discriminative society.

As long as the press still represses our right to be free, we will never be free, one of us said, in a restaurant of a mall in South Jakarta. I just want to be myself, without hiding anymore, another one of us said. The last one, out of all of us, made me shed a tear. I don’t want anything much; I just want my parents to love me once more.

At that moment, I felt like I can’t help them. How the hell am I supposed to help them when I’m still bruised blue? The least I can do is to make them feel like they can be their truest selves when they’re with me.

Kita bergerak dan bersuara / Berjalan jauh tumbuh bersama
We move and we speak out, walking far, growing together

A few months ago I sat next to him in the subway on the way to West Village. The subway car was empty—or is it just empty in my mind?—and we talked about the music we like; how he discovered Led Zeppelin at 13 after listening to “Good Times Bad Times” on the radio, that Nina Simone documentary I haven’t finished watching, .Feast’s “Peradaban” that got me ruminating for days on end, the Gorillaz cover he did in high school lost somewhere in the YouTube expanse. It was 11 p.m. in New York City and it feels like the ever-moving city is not moving at all. It’s just us—or we felt like it’s just us. There’s always going to be solace under the sun; he’s my shoulder to cry on, I’m his shoulder to cry on. He knows that I’m bruised blue, and he’s okay with it.

“Stand clear of the closing doors, please,” the recorded voice from the intercom said. But I just stood on the edge, reluctant to step into safety.

I felt like I don’t want to go home, at all.

Sempatkan pulang ke beranda / ‘Tuk mencatat hidup dan harganya
Take the time to go back home to your porch, taking note of life and its value

“Social impact” yet again, hitting me while reading op-eds of my friends who studied abroad and decided to go back home. From a business perspective, my homeland is a vast land full of opportunities; after reaping all the knowledge you have abroad, you give to the nation that birthed you. It’s hard to give back to the nation that birthed you, knowing that this land has condemned me for being what I am—bruised blue on Maundy Thursday. But for some reason, it kept calling me back, it kept saying screw the people trying to keep you off this land, please see me for my beauty, I’m dying and you’re the only one who can save me, exactly like the plea of a brokenhearted lover.

I want my people to share the little water I have, my nation called to me. And, for the love of God, I cannot resist to the sound.

I felt like I just want to go home.

Mengering sumurku / Terisi kembali / Kutemukan makna hidupku di sini
My dry well is filled again / I found my purpose in life right here

“Don’t you feel like they need you?” he said, as twilight looms in Central Park. He lives with his family for his entire 21 years of living, I thought, he won’t know what I’m going through. I didn’t think much of what he said. I just don’t want to be bruised blue on Maundy Tuesday anymore, and moving away can help me do that. We hugged in the subway station and went our separate ways.

As the night comes, I thought of my friends who are bruised blue, struggling to get out of the country. I thought of “social impact.” But most importantly, I thought about water. My well is still dry: I’m still bruised blue, knowledgeless, with a quarter-life crisis. But finding people with wells as dry as mine could give us solace for a while. It won’t give us answers, but at least it will alleviate the drought.

As I thought of these things, I drifted into a deep sleep, as I imagine myself drifting through an endless body of water.

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