A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty 
Is worth a whole eternity in bondage.

Joseph Addison (1672 - 1719)


Heard in a overly-condense bus in Jakarta, exchanged between two women of different generations.

The younger one looked around her, securing her her footing against the vehicle's jerky stops and runs, balancing herself while at the same time protecting her companion from falling. She wiped the gleam of heat and suffocation off her lips and forehead, then smiled to her companion, “If only I could just like living in Saudi, things would have been so much simpler. I could just get married to a Saudi guy who would adore me as long that I obeyed, who could provide me with all the neat conveniences that all Saudis enjoy in Saudi Arabia, and even my mother might start to like me again.”

The older one reflected, “It really depends on you. What is it that you really want? Do you want to spend the rest of your life here, like this? Can you enjoy a life without the typical Saudi conveniences, dangling like this on stuffed buses, living on minimum wages in tiny houses and barely making it for the rest of your life?”

The younger one said, “Those things never really bothered me. This lifestyle outshines everything else financial. Relationships seem to fall back on the priority list; it doesn’t seem to matter what my social status is, because I can still reach all ends of town on my own. I can still walk and run with my dog on the street, just the two of us. If I ever got hungry, I can just put on my shoes and find something to eat. By myself."

She sighed and continued, “I couldn't do that when I was in Saudi. I had to wait for someone to allow me to get out of the house, to eat, to walk, to window shop, to go to my favorite café to write. I had to remain the half of someone for as long as I lived there.” She saw a passenger leave, and shouldered her way for the older one to be more comfortable. It's a long way home.

The older one sat down and sympathized, “It’s what the culture expects you to be; that your entire identity is the shadow of someone else’s light. And your problem is that you can’t live without liberty.”

“Why should I make a big deal of this liberty? Why can’t I just live without it?” said the younger one, preparing to leave the crowded bus, barely hearing what the older was saying.

“Because liberty", revealed the older woman in her mind, "can build and crush nations. It’s not a menial matter if for the sake of it thousands of men would die. Liberty can give your life its meaning.”

Bus stop. The younger one hops off and starts walking home. Alone.

Her liberty allowed it.


I avoided the internet for a month after seeing Jai’s latest MSN screen name: “I’m over you.” I sunk into that familiar heartbreak. It’s not bad enough that he removed me his contact list when he thought, “If you could have the heart to leave me, then you don’t deserve to be remembered”. He just had to add insult to injury by telling everyone in his contact list how over he is of me.

Like, how could Jai get over me? How dare he get over me? All I could think of, night and day, was Jai. I’d be having friends in my face and would still have Jai closer to me than any of them. If I hadn’t gotten over him when I was the one who bailed out on our marriage, how could he get over me?

I could have just removed him from my contact list. I could have just dismissed him the way he acted out his dismissal. But I kept writing and thinking about him. Verses and prose poured generously out of desperate longing for him. I was still waiting for him. Waiting for him to miss me enough to initiate contact, may it be a risen hell or methodical damnations. A part of me still clenched with fear of his disapproval. All of which meant how undone I was with him.

What made it harder was that I was getting involved with a new guy who, at first, reminded me so much of Jai. Every time a sweet moment passes between him and me, I’d automatically recall Jai, thinking “now why couldn’t I have this with Jai?”

Then one day, just like the day he removed me from his contact list, I said “this is the last time that you’re going to hurt me.”

That’s when I removed him from my list. That’s when I stopped waiting for him. That’s when his solitary email couldn’t stir or twist a single emotion in me. The relief of having a light heart again after so long was similar to the relief I feel when releasing a block of frozen shit off my ever constipated butt.

Of course, daylight can be deceitful. It makes my heart hopeful and strong. Whereas when dusk falls, and darkness shrouds all secrets with restlessness, and thoughts of Jai came back.

These thoughts came back in a form that made me understand, and certainly believe, that he never really loved me. At least not the way that I wanted to be loved. He didn’t love me; he couldn’t love me, because there was always someone else better. It could have been someone I should’ve become, or someone he expected me to become, or someone who was beyond his reach. Either ways, he couldn’t love me for me. That’s why marriage to Jai was the most frustrating love I ever experienced, because we both loved each other, but for the people that we weren’t.

What amazed me was that all of these insights emerged with mock anger and playfulness I never thought existed in my feelings for him. I felt so ridiculous that I practically giggled when I called him a “big, fat liar”.

And that’s when it really happened. When I got over him too.

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