Tiga Belas

(cerita sebelumnya bisa dibaca di sini)

Wait a minute!

Saya yang baru mulai bercerita, mendadak terdiam. Teman saya hanya tersenyum kecil sambil memincingkan matanya.

I have a feeling we’ll be in for a long night. So why don’t we move somewhere else?

Kali ini saya yang tertawa.

Well, I don’t mind, but where to? And why are you so sure that I have a long story to talk to?

As I said, I have a feeling. And most of the time, my feeling is right. I don’t know, walk the talk?

It’s almost midnight, and you don’t walk the talk at night in this town. It’s not safe.

In case you miss my shameless Instagram posts, I’ve been learning karate.

And when was the last time you practiced? Seven years ago?

Oh shut up!

Kami berdua tertawa, sebelum akhirnya sepakat untuk membayar tagihan makanan kami sendiri-sendiri. Kami pun sepakat untuk menghabiskan waktu di kolam renang di bawah kamar hotelnya, sambil menyusuri taman kecil yang ada di sana.

Sepanjang perjalanan di taksi, kami masih tertawa mengingat-ingat cerita yang baru saja kami celotehkan satu sama lain selama 3 jam terakhir. Termasuk ceritanya dengan Adam. Kami pun sempat melakukan video call dengan Adam, yang memang sudah berubah sama sekali dari terakhir kali saya melihatnya di ruangan kelas kuliah kami, belasan tahun yang lalu.

Sampai di hotel tempat teman saya menginap, kami langsung menuju taman dekat kolam renang. Beberapa petugas keamanan melihat kami dengan aneh, tertawa sambil berjalan seolah-olah kami mabuk. Padahal kami cuma minum teh dan air putih di restoran tadi. Setelah meyakinkan mereka bahwa kami hanya mau duduk di kolam renang sambil memesan minuman dari restoran hotel, petugas keamanan tersenyum lega, sambil mempersilakan kami.

Kami masih tertawa kecil sampai akhirnya teman saya memulai percakapan.

So. No love story to tell?

No love story to tell. Nothing major like your 25-year plan and already marking half the milestone.

And yet no love story to tell is also a love story to tell. So, what’s yours? How come there is none?

Saya terdiam, mengambil nafas sejenak, lalu tersenyum ke arahnya.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whining or being self-pity, but I guess I’m not as lucky as others in this department.

What do you mean?

This is purely my point of view, but I guess others find it easy to find the one they want to date, hook up with, or be in a relationship with, and I’m not so lucky in that. Not helping is having friends who make fun of your singlehood all the time.

Oh, trust me. Keep those friends. They’re all you’ve got!

Kami tertawa cukup keras. Untung tidak ada orang lain.

But seriously, don’t be so hard on yourself. Besides, everyone is fighting their own battle that we don’t know. So don’t compare yourself to others.

Saya mengangguk kecil sambil menyisip minuman dan bergumam, “Yeap.”

Teman saya mendekat ke saya, lalu memeluk saya.

Dude, you’re fine.”

Thank you.

It’s always good to hear that from other people, right?

Saya tertawa.

Since when have you become this … person, who knows what to say and console?

Life experiences, I guess?

Ah. That makes sense.

So when was the last time you were in relationship?

The serious kind? It’s been some time.



I bet you miss it.


What do you miss about being in a relationship?

Saya menegakkan posisi duduk, dan kembali terdiam beberapa saat. Lalu setelah menghela nafas cukup panjang, saya berkata:

It’s impossible to miss everything, of course, but if I have to choose, I miss having someone to come home to. I miss being someone to come home to. I miss cooking for two. I miss planning the next getaway together. I miss going to bed at night and waking up in the morning with the same person. I miss the silence shared between the two on the couch. I miss the connection. I miss the assurance, that at the end of a long day, there will be someone for you to talk to.

Do you miss the fights, the messy laundry, the piling dishes, the “where-are-you-last-night” suspicion and all?

It comes with the package, right?

Right. Occupational hazard.

Saya tercenung.

More than anything, I miss the connection. How one makes attempts to figure out what the other party is interested in, then find the common thread, or build the bridge to gap the difference. How we learn new things, at first to impress the other party, and eventually liking what we learn. I miss that.

Teman saya tersenyum.

And when was the last time you fell for someone?

Kali ini giliran saya yang bersemu-semu.

Only recently, actually.

What? Come on!

Yeah, surprise, surprise.

I knew my hunch was right. It is indeed going to be a long night. Tell me!

It’s not like what you think.

I don’t care. Tell me!

Well, how do I start? You know the work that I do, right?

Teman saya mengangguk.

All years, decades even, of my professional life, I’ve never mixed or even made an attempt to get to know my work partners beyond the working hours. Always keep it professional, at whatever cost, and actually delivered some solid work. But after decades, fate decided to play its trick. I just could not help being attracted to someone at work, despite the person ticks off all the boxes of “the-type-of-person-you-will-never-date” list.

Hey, there’s always the first time for everything.

Exactly. So I met this person during my last project. We hit it off immediately. We spent time talking about things we like in common. Mostly we talked. And I guess I get carried away by the attention.

“What do you mean you get carried away?

Being alone is never easy. Worse if you add that with being lonely. Deadly combination. You often spend your time wishing there’s always someone out there you can connect with. And that’s what happened to me, I guess. When the opportunity presents itself, no matter how small it is, I grab it immediately. Little did I know that I might grab it too strong that it started getting loose.

How come?

Well, have you been acting or doing things that it feels like an out-of-body experience? Like you do things you don’t normally do?

Teman saya kembali mengangguk pelan.

That’s what happened to me. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I did things I don’t normally do. I took a crowded train to suburb on a Sunday afternoon, overlooking sunset, to give company. I paid extra attention. I kept myself awake at night just to talk. I excused myself out of meetings so that I can meet outside project office even just for a quick lunch. I wrote lengthy letters to express how I felt, mailed them at the last minute on my way to airport, almost missed out my check-in time. For the first time, during a work trip, I constantly thought of someone else back home, whereas all this time, whenever I travel, I just completely detached myself from whatever it is back home. During the trip, I kept on writing, like a diary, just to keep me sane. I wrote everyday, at the end of my work, just to express how I feel, in words, to make sure that I don’t lose the moment. I’m back to being a kid all over again.

Wow. But I heard this saying before, that every time you fall, it’s always new.

It is. No people are alike, thus no experience in falling should be the same. I agree with you. It’s just there’s this surreal thing that you suddenly have, and you have no idea where this comes from.

It’s from the heart. You have no idea what heart could drive you to do, when it is fuelled.

Saya menghela nafas.

I guess. Yeah.

And how’s the response?

Saya tersenyum.

Would I be here with you right now if it works?

Ouch. I’m sorry to hear that.

Thanks, but please, don’t be. In fact, I’m glad it happened. Do you want to know why?

I think I know why, but I’m trying to be a good listener here.

Saya tertawa cukup kencang. Teman saya pun ikut terkekeh.

The night is yours, honey.

So it is ours. I’m glad that I got to experience that all over again. Especially at our age. People, or society, expect us to already be, God knows I hate these terms, to be “stable in life”, “comfortable and content”, “secured and safe”. But do they have any idea what they prevent us from? The joy of life. So yes, I am grateful, and thankful for what just happened in my life.
Falling for someone at the most unexpected time, feeling the surreal out-of-body experience of doing silly things that I kept telling myself at times, “This is not me!” Having something to look forward to, that for once, life has somewhat a purpose to meet on daily basis, even if those plans of purposes fail. But you don’t care. You keep on trying. You keep on daydreaming. You keep on fantasizing. You keep reminding yourselves to stay on the ground, so if you really fall down, you won’t get hurt.

Are you? Hurt?

Of course. Big time. What do you call someone who cried at night after the 13 days of infatuation is over, after the crush was crashed?

I call that karma, because that reminds me of a scene from the film you loathe the most called “Eat, Pray, Love.

Spontan saya tertawa sambil mengambil percikan air di kolam ke arah teman saya.

Okay. The karma is on me, I take that. But when it’s over, I’m glad that I still get to experience all of those. You know, at our age, aren’t we lucky if we experience falling all over again?

Teman saya tersenyum.

You have no idea how jealous I am of you. Just by listening to your rambling tonight, my mind was transported back to those old days of falling in love.

Emphasize on the word ‘old’, thank you very much.

Hahaha! You know what I mean. We are not getting younger. And as you grow older, you succumb more to comfort, safety, and security. At least that’s what Adam and I have. We don’t exchange romantic notes anymore. We have gone through a lot, so the most important thing for us right now, is to be sure the other party is there when we ask the whereabouts. Sounds like we start taking each other for granted, which maybe we do if you come to think of it.

And you have no idea how much I miss to have that again in my life. The steady companionship that we often take for granted in life.

I’m sure you do. We can’t have it all, can we?

Didn’t We Almost Have It All, as Whitney Houston said.

Ah, you and your Whitney fandom!

Kami tertawa.

So, all these hours we talk about the object of your affection …

… was my object of your affection, mind you.

Who cares? Once you open up your heart to people, they never really leave. Who is this lucky one?

Saya tersenyum sambil mengedipkan mata ke teman saya.

I am. I’m the lucky one. When it comes to falling all over again, I am the lucky one.

Teman saya mengangguk, dan tersenyum.

There’s no greater feeling than being in love.


Shall we continue this upstairs?

Well …


Dua Belas Setengah

Apakah merayakan sesuatu harus terpaku pada ulangan tahun?

Pertanyaan ini muncul di benak saya waktu saya melihat status Facebook teman lama. Isinya singkat saja: “Finally, it’s 12.5th anniversary! Woo hoo!
Tentu saja status tersebut diikuti ucapan selamat, hampir semua ucapan tersebut diiringi pertanyaan, “What does it mean?” Lebih banyak lagi yang hanya mengklik tanda hati, senyum, “wow”, seperti saya.

Kebetulan saya ‘harus’ melihat status tersebut, karena kami hendak bertemu. Pertemuan yang istimewa, karena dia adalah teman dekat saya sewaktu kuliah dulu.
Kami sama-sama duduk di satu jurusan, mengambil mata kuliah yang sama pula dari tingkat pertama sampai tingkat akhir. Nasib kuliah jauh dari rumah, ditambah tidak ada teman sebangsa di jurusan saya, sehingga jarang sekali saya bertemu mereka usai kuliah. Kadang saya yang pergi ke sana, karena hampir tidak pernah, mereka punya keperluan datang ke sini.

Sampai teman saya ini datang.

Saking lamanya tidak bertemu, saya membuka lagi akun-akun media sosialnya. Untuk catch up, sekedar tahu perkembangannya selama ini.
Walaupun tujuan itu runtuh, begitu kami bertemu di hari Jumat malam, di sebuah restoran yang buka sampai larut malam. Kami berpelukan cukup lama, sampai beberapa pengunjung lain melihat.

Begitu duduk, kami saling berebut memulai pembicaraan. Kami dulu sama-sama rebel with clueless causes, alias sering mangkir dari urusan perkuliahan. Lalu menjadi dekat saat ‘terpaksa’ mengerjakan final year project bersama-sama sampai hasilnya memuaskan supaya bisa lulus.

Kami tertawa mengenang kebandelan kami, sambil sesekali bertanya kabar teman-teman lain, yang sudah belasan tahun tidak saya jumpai. Dia pun mengaku sangat jarang bertemu teman-teman kami, apalagi dia sempat pindah negara selama beberapa tahun.

Akhirnya saya bertanya:

So, what brought you here?

Dia tersenyum sambil menyeka bibirnya dari bekas minuman. “I’m doing some business here. Visiting our branch office, see how they do. I know what you’re thinking, me doing business? What are the odds?

Saya tertawa.

Dia melanjutkan, “So I figure, since I don’t know anyone here, in person, then I suddenly remember you. I don’t have any other Indonesian friend in college, so I took a shot at looking you up, and there you were, listed as one of my Facebook friends I didn’t realize I’ve had all these time!

Saya masih tertawa. “Oh the benefit of being a random Facebook friend!

Dia pun ikut tertawa. “So yeah, I messaged you, didn’t expect you reply, and here we are. Cheers?



Kami bersulang dengan cangkir teh. Lalu saya bertanya kembali, “I was really surprised to see your message on my Facebook. Then, well, I’m sorry for saying this now, but I took liberty in going through your Facebook posts …

… hey, that’s okay. I did the same. Facebook, Instagram. I need to know if my friend turned a serial killer or not after around 15 years.

Saya melempar sebatang kentang goreng sambil tertawa. “Nah, I’m too chicken to hold a gun. Aaanyway, I couldn’t help asking you this. I saw this update on your page, “Happy 12.5th anniversary”, or something like that. If I’m not mistaken. What was that?

Dia tersenyum. “You and million other people. Oh, boy. Do you mind if we order more tea? Feel like I need some time to tell you more about this.

Kami meminta agar teh kami yang sudah dingin diisi kembali. Lalu dia mulai berbicara.


First thing first. Do you remember Adam?

Adam? I know quite a number of Adams in my life, you have to be more specific.

Adam … Adam! He took Art Management course with us in our last year. The one we, oh God, hahaha, the one we ganged up on because he botched our project presentation?

Oh, oooh! That Adam! I remember! That annoying prick! Hahaha. What about him?

Well, don’t laugh, although I’ve a feeling you will, but we … are … together. Have been. For, well, some time now.

What? You and Adam? Wait. What? No, come on! Weren’t you two sworn enemies then? I mean, at some point we were already okay with him, but you and him … Whew!

Dia tertawa cukup keras, membuat beberapa mata lain menatap meja kami. “Yeah. Oh man, those years! But, in a very strange twist of fate, we met again. It was when I moved overseas. I met him again there. And you know how it is when you are in foreign land, then you meet someone from your home land, you feel like … home. And it was like that with him. He’s changed. I have.

So you were with him ever since?

Dia menggeleng. “I went home. Not metaphorically, but the real, physical form of home. Ha! I felt like it was the time to start something new. So I decided to open my own business, with a few friends, at home. He was still overseas. And you know how it is to start a new business. All your time was occupied. For a few years, all I had in my mind was my business. Dated a few times, but none really mattered.

Saya tertawa sampai nyaris tersedak. “Ha! None really mattered! Oh man, you are something!

Dia terkekeh. “We were young once, come on! Nah, but I’ve never had it clicked with anyone since I came home. Then came the crash.


Well, in short, I had to sell my business. Some family problem.

Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.

It’s okay. It’s over now. Then I was back to climbing corporate ladder, again. Thankfully the ladder is quite short this time.

And that’s when Adam came in the picture again?


Dia meminum teh kembali, dan mengangguk. “Not immediately. A few years later, I attended a wedding ceremony. It was my colleague’s. And it turned out, Adam is the cousin.

Oh, come on! This is so out of cheesy novel!

You haven’t heard the cheesiest part yet. So we reconnected. He just came back, actually. He ran his own company. Still. And before we realized, we started going out together. At first I thought, why not? I mean, I’m getting older, the pool of dateable materials is getting smaller …

… because you’ve used them all up!

Hahahaha. I guess. But you know what it feels like to reconnect? Like you ride a bike again after years not doing that. You do some adjustments, but before you know, you’re already at ease.

Yeah, I guess that’s what it feels like. And then?

And then, we already go out for, I don’t know, 2 years? Something like that. Then one evening, after we finished watching some movies in cinema … Please don’t ask me what title, I don’t remember. I’m not like you, okay? So, we walked out of the cinema, then instead of going to carpark, he wanted to take a long walk. Then we walked. We talked. Then he said that he wanted us to live together.

“Just like that?”

Just like that. He sounded serious, so I responded seriously.


Well, he asked me a yes/no question whether I agree if we should live in together. So we sat down. I looked at him for some time. I just looked into his eyes, holding his hands. I told him, “25 years”.

Huh? What?

He actually gave exactly the same response. “Huh? What?” Then I repeated the words “25 years”. Then I told him, “I want us to live together for at least 25 years. I want to be in this relationship seriously. Maybe you don’t notice, but I’m not getting any younger. And I hate to break this information to you, but so are you. So I figure, that, if two soon to be broken and brittle bodies can be together to support each other for a long time, then the answer is yes.


Saya terdiam, tercenung cukup lama. Setelah menghela nafas panjang, saya cuma bisa mengucap “Wow. That was … wow. Where did that come from? You copied my essays back in college!

Dia tertawa. “I know, right? I don’t know where those words come from. Things that your heart tells you to say or do, sometimes they just burst out all of a sudden.

Yeah, I guess you’re right. But coming back to my question, so what’s the 12.5th anniversary is about? Do you mean you’re halfway to the year limit?

Yes. It’s easy to figure out, right? But there’s more than that, actually.

Tell me.

When I finished saying all those things just now, he just smiled. He smiled so wide I thought he would make fun of me. Then he hugged me, and told me, “You know what? A quarter of a century does not happen immediately. Twenty five years begin with 25 seconds, 25 minutes, 25 hours, 25 days, 25 weeks, and so on. So why don’t we take it one step at a time. Start by living together, next to each other, for 25 minutes. If we could survive, then we move on to 25 days. How?”

Oh, my.

Oh, my, indeed. And a week after that, I started moving in.

So you’ve been living together for 12.5 years now?

Some 13 years by now. You’re looking at Facebook posts from last year.

Ah, okay. And did you really survive those years?

Are you kidding? Of course not. There were moments when we screamed at each other, threw things at one another, and said things like “Screw this 25-year plan! I didn’t ask for this!”, or “Why bother sticking to our plan? We only have each other, so go, just go!” But in the end, we didn’t leave.

What made you stay?

Him. Us. And I kept thinking, if at least I won’t make it to 25 years, then halfway there would make me happy. And, of course, I usually close my eyes for 25 seconds.

What for?

If I could think about the good things we had for 25 seconds immediately, I knew we still had good things going between us.

I can’t believe this. It feels like straight out of those pages in book of relationship guide.

Oh, eeww! You shall not read them. No so-called relationship rules ever work the same between different people.

Do you think you’ll still have what it takes to reach that crucial 25?


Kali ini dia yang terdiam cukup lama. Sambil menghela nafas panjang, dia berkata, “Remember the part when I said we’re not getting any younger?


There were times we fell sick. I developed some allergies that, at their severest moments, I had to be hospitalized. Adam fell sick repeatedly, too, over the years. So, we just have the two of us, and nobody else. Whenever I or Adam fall sick, I just keep wishing, “one more year, one more year”. But we manage beyond the halfway point, so it’s all good. If we won’t reach the milestone, I don’t care. At least I have spent those wonderful first half with him. And that’s all that matters.

Sekarang kami berdua terdiam. Tenggelam dalam pikiran masing-masing. Riuh rendah pengunjung restoran lain mulai mereda. Kami melihat satu sama lain, dan entah apa yang memulai, kami mulai tertawa. Dia mengambil tissue untuk menyeka air mata yang menetes bersama gelak tawa kami.

Dia berkata, “I’m so sorry, I brought the whole evening to such a mess with my story.

Are you kidding? That’s a wonderful story. Someday I may write about it on my blog.

Go ahead, make me famous, I don’t care. Hahaha!

Yeah. Well, the legendary 25 and half of it.

So, what about you, Mr. Nauval? I haven’t heard anything about your love life.

Because there is nothing to talk about, almost non-existent, in fact.

For what I understand, everyone has their own love story to tell. No love story is also a love story to tell. To each is their own love story to have. So?

Saya tersenyum. Sambil memberi kode ke pelayan untuk menuang isi minuman ke dalam cangkir, saya mulai bercerita.

Well. So, here goes.