Bitter Coast

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Short Story by Indah Darmastuti
Translator Sartika Dian Nuraini
Narator Ilona Joline Surjoraharjo
Music Illustation by Ketto

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If I were Moses who had a stick blessed with power, I would wave those stick to divide the sea till it was dry for four fathoms, from the end of the dock here to the end of the land there. The broken waves, its roll will be lifted when the winds come from my cane thumbs slices trillions of cubic feetsof water, like splitting jelly. The windswarmed like soldiers.
Sea horses and fishes ignorantto what was going on,were floundering in a dry sand of broken sea. Then the sharks stunned. Turtles zigzagged. Squid, stingray, and little Nemo certainly were amazed to see how their world riven by my mighty stick. Coral reefs were snapped and destroyed. Many ships were tumbling, that would make the marine police run helter-skelter with a wheezing,witnessingthat dreadful events.

Then immediately Iwould command the women who had ever driven on the coast, to quickly leave. Running, leaving the spots of decay. The place where blood and pus mixes in a bowl of powerlessness.

Then I’ll straddle, holding the chaser who dare to diminish every hiding of any women. My magic wand will hold the seawater out of the way escape so that the fugitive of free man would end. There, on the mainland side.

But the fact was that it was me and the fugitive who ran helter skelter when the Mong outstreched his stick banishing our way. About the man, his real name Winartoor Witarto, I do not really know. But we, all who live here call him Mong. It does not mean he was Momong (someone who nurture us) although He was actually that man who is assigned to shepherd us. By whom? I do not know.


Perhaps the word sheperd is less precise, because it seemed so graceful and peaceful. Because the sheperd that I knew, used to bring a bunch of herds to go to a place which is  offood and independence.

But the word herd could be appropriate because the word is suited for animals. And here, we have been animalized. It was Mong whohave the task tolook at us. Goad us whenwe are disobedient or too demanding. Rebuking our every action, just as how animals are treated.

Or maybe, the name was first given referring‘Mong’as Tiger. If this title was that of him, I feel it is more appropriate. Because he growled, threatened and scared us with a variety of punishments for various violations.

Mong’s stick hasmade victims, preys to his inhumane actions. When Nia, not a real name—her real name is Ainun, but I felt that the name Ainunwas too beautiful to be persecuted in this place—Well,Nia refused to see a doctor. The reason is obvious, though not any short of absurd: she was determined to maintain her sexual disease.

Mong threatened Nia, that he would throw her into the sea, but she was not afraid. She was not afraid of sharks nor fat jellyfishes which would attempt to eat her body. For her, it was far more enjoyable thanbeing beaten by Mong’s stick which was meant as a filthy insult.She never fears of death. Because for her,life is no longer worth living. But she also knew that suicide is a stupid thing. It is done by coward.While she boasted that she would never give up on anything that happened in her life,she was charged that her refusal to see a doctor was suicidal.She denied. Because what she did was to shield herself so that she was no longer assigned to be grappled by men, which were the main task of women who were embezzled here.

The Mong’s stick was not a bluff. For Niawas battered, her scraps left to be feasted by the filthy animals.

Another was Gita. She was on a hunger strike day after day. So her body weakened, drew Mong in difficulties. Gita knew Niawasleft no mercy by Mong’s stick, but she was not afraid to Mong’s stickwhich could turn her into jelly, crushing her body entirely. What she feared was the night. Although the stars have grown the feel of longing to the relatives in her village, she was only able to slink to see. Not that of objects that she feared, but only the night. When the sun arrowed by eyes then collapsed and fall into therestless sea. Then the moon came up. Gita’s heart shivered. Because she was going to be waved by fate.

Tormented, jostled up and down. Just like that, caused by the moon which arguedwith the earth tillstorming tide. Surge, surging that will bring the sailorsto the situation between life and death. And coward sailors will shiver, cowering ontheir knees.

Gita hates the night. When the sun collapsed and the moontirelessly pursued her. When the tides continued to write the history of women who have been led in this place.

If you look at what had been destroyed by waves in the ancient book about the history of women,  what you will only find is the history of regret and helplessness.

And the story of Gita is the longest which fills the pages in the books written by the waves. Gita is also not her real name. Her actual name is Widuri. When we asked her why she changed her name to Gita, she said, “what in a name is what deliver me here.”

I told this story based on what was written by the waves about her. That she comes from a small village in Java.

When hiring female workers was becoming epidemic in this country, her friend Sagita, a friend who used to live in Jakarta offered her a job. Various kinds of work were offered to her at the shoe factory, by the shop keeper, the salon caster, in the garment industry,  also in the restaurant.

Therefore Gita, I mean Widuri, went to Jakarta with the companions of reliable good friend Sagita, in a train full of people, insisting and determined. Inside her bag, there were only a few pieces of clothing and a loaf of bread. A fleeting kiss left her lips as she looked at her company with a knowing look, introduced to those people who hidden behind their facade was no stranger to manage and distribute human resources, only the illegal kind. To Hong Khong, Emirates, Malaysia or anywhere knowing for sure about the cheap price for workers in here.

 She was accommodated with dozens of women in one place. And this was the start of Widuri’s or rather Gita’s daily cycle of what she thought was her future. Playing cards, playing congklak or even playing hide and seek. To be sure, all is game. The kinds of game which was supposed to be played fairly. But deep down, Gita knew that there were no rules, none which these people would play by.

Women were accumulated, like an overproduction of goods. Forced to be a fighter and not just by herself for her own fate, but also with each other. She knew she was like an animal in the cage waiting to be brought to the slaughterhouse.

She finally figured out that she was one of slave candidates. Never getting the job she dreamed of,  she protested her friend, until finally she was delivered in here, in a ‘dry’ place which was walled by the ocean. In a coastwhose name was called by the locals with a nosy tone.

Here, in this place not too far away from the port, the crew would go down after a lot of night fighting with the waves. Combing the sand and into the ocean where tensions have been expelled.

Skirts, cigarettes, to the rooster crows, they were still petting ulcers. Widuri one of them, since “The Friend” sent her to this place. So I guess it is worth feeling remorse and pain but she could not forget just the stabs of her best friend who had made her chopped every day, so she used the name Gita as an inscription of the ruins of her life story.

You can ask waves in the sea of Sulawesi that has written the empty laughters spilled from the tiny lips of our Mighty Gita. Then she would answer you with a delirium of patch fields and small houses among bamboo leaves. Some money to make up for the brain of the teachers for being the rights of their brothers. Some money to redeem the hungry, who forgot how to taste a handful of rice.

Gita hated the night. When the cups awaiting her nod before passing by. The cup which is filled by the snores of death from a worn lungs. Then crochet the time while waiting for the feeble dawn which would shed any ulcers, for a surrender to let the waves striking the ships filled by crews, which only has a muzzle of a pistol without an offer of hope, let alone love.

Pack the night smells scattered under the bed, then threw it all the way home in the place where she must report how many servings of sweat that comes out. How many appointments will be repeated and repeated again. Boys and man. Silenced sailors deserted the raw facing the days.

Gita hated the night. The waves knew it for sure. She was one of dozens or even hundreds that had that same dream, to find a home, to provide for family. Being a slave in the overseas would probably be equally troubled with the slaves in their own country. Trying to establish herself, standing to honor the already questionable how uneasy it was.

Fear of yearning love that would make her heart fluttered like sands overspread the coast.

“You’re just a backup player. And only a miracle that could turn you into a front player. Forget it! “

“But I already love you, and it is deep.” Said her strictly for the man who has her body a thousand times. Her demanding body.

“Whatever you ask I will give. Of course except the wedding. “

She was like Penelope awaiting for the return of Odysseus. Useless. No one should be stretched, pulled, because all would be in vain. Because every time the sticks of Mong would easily stop her, broke her room and searched for it to find the love she might hide under the bed or under the pillow.

I’ve experienced what Gita felt. But I’ve been conspiring with the waves recording my own history, so it hides about who I am. But let me tell you a little secret, just some sentences, then please insult me if I deserve that .I was never smart to play in the room. All men hiring me will leave me cranky and apparently complain to Monk. No more subscribers so I, just so you know, deserve to become a mere sweeper and clothes washer. It isn’t all that bad though, I could cut the piercing silence by eating up the magazines and abandoned books.

With a length of broomstick I tried to clean every melting grief and tenderness poignant of the women. Many say I am one if the women, and I consider myself lucky as the same stump. With a wastebasket I kept their tears, which may be turned into a gem.

Nia and Gita, whose tears I had just kept. I wiped her face with a purple husk broom fibers. Like the color of Jesus robe seated among the creeping olive seeds traversed once in his life. But I think Nia and Gita were more than just creeping. When she should walk on the sand coast bitterly. Passing through the nights of Gethsemane every day, and the next day was a massacre.

They knew, if I picked up the broom stick which I held now, it would not split the sea ,it would not make it an escape. But this stick would make them become fireflies, though they would be pale and have pairs of broken wings. Awaken. Dreaming about freedom.