Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

Norman Erikson Pasaribu

Translated by Shaffira Gayatri, edited by Pam Allen

Leopold Adi Surya Indrawan

Leopold Adi Surya Indrawan

Six months after being sent to a convent for retired nuns in Pondok Aren, at the outskirts of Jakarta, Sister Tula adopted the habit of sneaking out to a shopping mall wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt and a long skirt. She walked past the shops and aisles, looking at all the things she neither need nor could afford. The glimmering replica watches, the sweet-scented cheap perfumes, the stained glass cups and plates—until this day they had all failed to appeal to her. I only need God in my life, Tula had told her ex-boyfriend Anton, forty-five years ago. God only needs the young nuns, Sister Laura had told Tula on their first night as roommates in the convent. Not us.

In the convent, Tula spent most of her time reading the Bible and praying. The convent has shielded her from the outside world, and in return she had to pray for all the poor souls out there. Tula was still allowed to go out, to visit the diocese or the health clinic, but there had been a lot of robberies around the area, prompting Mother Superior to issue a ban on leaving the premises. Everything you need is here, Sister, Mother Superior had said when she first welcomed Tula into the convent.

They think we can’t take care of ourselves, Laura had said.

Most of the retired sisters who had been there for ages didn’t speak much. Tula had expected this kind of silence, a silence so perfect and holy, so different from all the kinds of silence she had encountered in all her sixty years. Here gather all those who are victorious in faith, Tula had thought when she saw the convent’s sign for the first time. Back then she had been giddy with excitement to be part of them.

They think they’re too good to talk to us, Laura had said.

In the convent, Tula started her day by meditating for an hour, before joining in the morning liturgy, followed by reading the Bible in the main room. In the early evenings, the sacrament of the Eucharist was held for those interested or not having guests. At first Tula would always attend. At nine, after her evening meditation, she would go to bed. Teresa Avila once wrote that the souls of those who meditate would never be lost, and Tula believed it.

Tula also attended a consultation session every Wednesday. This service was provided for the nuns who had just begun their retirement. Tula usually consulted Mbak Nani, one of the psychologists, with only six years of age difference between them. Tula admitted to her that there was an aspect of her life that now felt strange, unfamiliar, but Mbak Nani calmly said that the feeling was normal and that it would disappear with time. Once or twice Tula had even been tempted to talk about semi-worldly things such as their favourite Koes Plus and Chrisye songs, and Mbak Nani had always obliged.

Each week Tula waited eagerly for Wednesday to come, until one Wednesday Mbak Nani fell ill, and Tula, to avoid being accused of favouritism, consulted a young male psychologist who sweated constantly and carried a pack of tissues with him everywhere. After minutes of awkwardness passed, he nervously asked, “How are your children? When was the last time they came to visit?” After answering the question and talking for a little while, Tula excused herself and went back to her room. Seeing Laura was out, Tula cried her heart out in bed.

One day this place will grow on you, Sister, Mbak Nani had once told her.

The young man’s question reminded Tula of her family. Her parents and siblings had all passed away, and not one of her nephews and nieces had visited her—even while she was still teaching at school. It was the other way around—Tula was the one who had spent a night in one of her nephews’ house. He lives in Bekasi, and like most Batak men who did not obtain proper education, he works as a bus driver. He has six children who all go to a Catholic school. When Tula spent the night at his house, she had to sleep on a rug on the floor in the living room. There weren’t enough rooms in his house. Tula awoke in the night, she walked around the kitchen, the living room, and went back to the kitchen, before coincidentally finding a framed photograph of her late mother and her nephew’s family. They seemed to be in an amusement park. There was a brown stain on the T–shirt her youngest nephew was wearing. Tula smiled. They must have smuggled in packages of rice, and that stain must have been the broth of her mother’s curry, she thought.

The happiness of Batak women lies in having many children, her mother had said.

As the youngest child in her family, Tula was the one her siblings made help their mother in the kitchen. It turned out to be beneficial—it made Tula well-liked in every place she had served. But at the convent she no longer touched pans or stoves; all her food was prepared by the young nuns who took care of the convent. Every empty water cooler was changed by someone else. All her dirty laundry was taken care of. One time, she was tidying up the pile of clean laundry that had just been delivered and found a pair of her underwear at the bottom of the basket. A shiver went down her neck. Why didn’t they return it to me and say that it must’ve got there by accident? Hadn’t I told them that I would wash my own underwear? Do they not see that there’s a big difference between the people who wash their underwear themselves and those who don’t? Did they do it on purpose or did they just forget?

They think we’re too old to do anything, Laura had said.

Tula and Laura’s room was located on the ground floor of the convent’s west wing. All the nuns who took care of them slept on the second floor. After two or three months in the convent, Tula started to have dreams of teaching Mathematics to dark-skinned children with curly hair. Tula suspected they used to be the dreams of Sister Vina, who came from Naimata and sleeps right above her room. The dream must have slipped from her slick black hair and fell onto my own grey head, Tula thought.

They think we’re no longer capable of climbing up the stairs, Laura had said.

The first time Tula went out of the convent, Mang Sardi—the only security guard on the afternoon shift—was not at his post. Tula was sitting on a bench under a tree when she noticed his absence. It was a coincidence, if not a miracle, and Tula grabbed that opportunity. She walked around the residential complex around the convent. She found a small park and sat on a swing. She enjoyed the short walk and, for the first time after months of silence, swinging slowly on the swing, Tula felt a holy fire burning inside her. She felt like Lazarus, rising from death to the power of Christ.

Living here is no different from death, Laura had said.

A few days later, after carefully spying on the security post, Tula realised that Mang Sardi regularly left his post to perform his afternoon Asr prayers. He was only gone for less than ten minutes each time, but after years of serving the church Tula was used to doing everything rapidly and precisely. She stole a newspaper from the security post and diligently noted down the Asr schedule, and she also made a show of enjoying the garden from the bench under the tree—which was rumoured to be planted by the first residents of the convent years ago. The next day she brought a Bible as a cover-up; when some nuns passed by and greeted her, she only needed to hold up the thick book a little. The plastic bag with her clothes and money was hidden behind the tree.

Once she found the right moment, she sneaked out and took a public bus, stopping at the first big shopping centre she found—approximately 10 kilometers from Lebak Bulus Terminal. Tula immediately set out to find a public bathroom to change clothes. She then walked out with her heart beating wildly in her chest. Just like the time she had walked up to the altar to take her vows. Tula was immediately stunned to see the busy crowd before her eyes. She sighed and took the first step—to become part of it. Soon, she was strolling around with ease.

One day, Tula was standing next to a shelf of hair products when a boy, around six years old, came up to her. He tugged at her skirt and called out, “Ompung?” Hearing the Batak word for grandmother, Tula froze. “Ompung, where did you go? Why did you disappear?” The boy cried and said that he missed his grandmother. Tula could do nothing but look at him. Maybe this boy is my grandson and I just lost my memory. Maybe I never left Anton and we are actually married. Maybe I’ve actually gone missing because of memory loss, and Anton is waiting for me at home.

Finally, she crouched down and patted the boy’s head, gently, then asked his name.

The boy answered. Sebastian.

From the loudspeaker Tula heard an announcement, a woman saying that a child wearing a Spider-Man top was missing. Tula looked at the boy’s top. So he’s not my grandson, Tula told herself, he must be the grandson of a woman who looks like me, maybe even named Tula Sinaga, but one who never joined the convent. Tula walked the kid back to Customer Service.

We gave Him everything, Laura had said, and this is what we got in return.

They were nearing Customer Service when a man, sobbing, saw Tula carrying the boy and ran to them. In his father’s arms, the boy said, “Papa, Papa! Look, this is Ompung! This is Ompung!” Yohannes, the father, looked at Tula right in the eyes and said, “Thank you.” He wrote his address down on a piece of paper and invited Tula to visit. “Once more, thank you. Thank you.”

His words touched her heart.

How long has it been since Tula last heard someone say thank you? Years ago, she used to hear it every day from her students after she dismissed her class. Although that wasn't entirely true: she heard herself saying thank you every day. Thank you for this tasteless food. Thank you for praying for my fragile bones. Thank you for cleaning our smelly bathroom. Thank you for taking pity on me and the dark patches on my face. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

If this how He treats His friends, it’s no wonder He has so few, Laura had said as she removed the cross from their bedroom wall.

All the way home, Tula couldn’t stop thinking about Sebastian and his father. The next day, she was summoned by Mother Superior. Someone had reported her.

“We have rules here,” said Mother Superior, her jaw looking squarer and tighter than ever.

Tula could only nod.

The rules of this convent are made by man, Laura had said.


The following weekend Tula sneaked out again, to visit Yohannes’ house. Sitting together at the dinner table, Yohannes asked a lot of questions about Tula’s life. She said she was a Protestant, who was born and grew up in Jakarta. “My mother was a Sunday school teacher in a Protestant Batak church, and she inspired me to become a teacher,” Tula said. She didn’t know why she lied.

After lunch, Sebastian took Tula to sit on the couch. They watched Spirited Away, an animation about a girl who was lost in the spirit world. The girl had to save her parents, who were turned into pigs, in order to return to the world she came from.

The retired nuns’ convent is my spirit world, thought Tula as the movie was ending, and I must return to where I come from. I need to go back to teaching. My students need me.

Everything you need is here, Sister, Mother Superior had told her.

Sebastian held out a drawing book and crayons.

 “You want Ompung to draw for you?” asked Tula.

 “Yes! Draw me a school, Ompung.”

Tula drew a two-level building shaped into an L, with rows of Indian fir trees. Sister Tula is the coolest Mathematics teacher ever, her students had said. Here we can always take care of you, Mbak Nani had said.

 “It doesn’t look like my school, Ompung.”

Tula laughed. They drew a beach, a forest, and the sea. Sebastian soon grew bored and slept on her lap. Are you sure you don’t want children? It was the question that her mother, her father, and everyone else she knew had asked. Tula had shaken her head. All she wanted was God.

 “Thank you,” said Yohannes as Tula was leaving. “Sebastian really likes you.”

Once more, Tula’s heart melted. But she had to return to her world.


The next day Tula sought Mother Superior out. Tula told her that she wanted to return to teaching, she was still capable. But Mother Superior said, “There is a time and place for everything, Tula. Now is the time for the young to serve our flock, and it is the time for you to fulfill your spiritual needs.” But my students need me.

Several days later, at dawn Tula sneaked out of the convent wearing the full habit and took the first bus. She had to change buses three times; she threw up once. She arrived at the Catholic school where she used to teach, right at the time the bell rang, signalling school had ended for the first and second graders. Tula saw her former students in the parking lot, they greeted her and kissed her hand. They still remember me. They then told her that their parents or drivers were waiting. They wanted to go home and rest. They had homework they needed to hand in the next day. They had harp lessons. Apparently their lives go on without me. 

The school later called Mother Superior, who was furious to hear about Tula’s visit. Tula returned to the convent feeling desperate, the other nuns eyeing her as she slowly walked back to her bedroom. She was summoned to Mother Superior’s office again the next day. “You have to get on with your life, Sister,” said Mother Superior firmly. “Do all things for the glory of God, not for your own pleasure.” That evening Tula stood in front of the mirror for a long time.

You must have long term goals to keep you from being frustrated by short term failures, Mbak Nani had said. Tula wasn’t convinced that her life would still be long enough to have a long-term goal.

“I think you did the right thing,” said Laura once they were together in their room. “We should be allowed to be productive as long as we feel able to.” Laura had been on duty in the middle of nowhere in Kalimantan, helping with birthing labours whilst keeping an eye on wild animals and forest centipedes. Now I help mice give birth, she had said.

As a punishment, Tula was forbidden to leave her room for a week, except for mass and prayers. Sometimes when Laura wasn’t there, Tula thought of Sebastian and his father. She tried hard not to think of them. It’s time to continue with my life, said Tula to her reflection in the mirror. My students can live without me.

The days passed until one morning Tula found Laura’s bed empty. She checked her closet, empty. There was just a piece of paper in the drawer: Don’t come looking for me. The days turned into a week. A retired sister died in her sleep. Weeks turned into a month. Laura had yet to be found. In front of the mirror, Tula wept for the shadow of who she used to be. Poor her, Tula said, she’s so old and no longer useful. But then something happened: one Sunday morning Tula sneaked out from mass in the chapel, entered Mother Superior’s room, and called Yohannes on the convent’s phone.

That same afternoon Tula sneaked out again from the convent.

The moment she saw Yohannes and Sebastian standing in front of their house, Tula hugged each of them, as if meeting old friends. “I missed you, Ompung,” said Sebastian. After lunch, the three of them watched Toy Story 3, an animation about toys that were accidentally thrown away by a boy on the verge of adulthood. The toys tried to return to the boy. Tula was reminded of Laura, whose story spread like a virus and triggered whispers. “Excuse me,” said Tula, her voice shaking. She cried in the bathroom and groped around for a headache pill in the first aid box.

Not once has He opened His holy mouth for us, Laura had said, not once has He moved His miraculous hands, nor showed His signs. Has He abandoned us?

Sebastian fell asleep before the movie ended. Tula observed the living room. She laid eyes on a photograph of a young man with a middle-aged woman. “That’s me and my late mother,” said Yohannes. “I told Seb his Ompung disappeared.”

“What about your wife?” asked Tula.

“She also passed away. From brain cancer.” Yohannes suddenly looked uneasy. “What about you? What does your husband do?”

“My husband is the Lord,” said Tula. “And he no longer cares about me.”

Yohannes gasped. “What do you mean?”

“I mean—he’s my landlord,” Tula said. “He’s always busy with his business, as if he’s the owner of all the lands in the world.”

“Oh. What about the rest of your family? Maybe, your mother?”

 “She gave birth to my husband. Some people called her the Queen of Heavens.”

Yohannes laughed heartily. “You’re very funny,” he said.

If this is all just a joke, Laura had said on the night before she ran away, then it’s the worst joke of all.

“Are you interested in becoming Seb’s nanny?” Yohannes asked.

“Why don’t you just remarry?”

Yohannes didn’t reply.

“I found your photograph with a man in the first aid box in the bathroom.”

Yohannes looked nervous. “He’s—he’s my friend.”

“It’s a weird place to put a photo, in the first aid box,” said Tula. “Did you think it was a sedative?”

Yohannes looked even more troubled.

“I know you’re gay,” Tula calmly said. “Did your partner leave you?”

Silence reigned in the room for a long time.

“Sebastian will be bullied by his schoolmates if I live with a man,” Yohannes finally said. “And, I swear, I can’t touch a woman.”

That’s no big deal, Tula wanted to say. I’ve never been touched and I’m fine, aren’t I?


On her first day of work as Sebastian’s nanny, Tula took him to the city library. Before leaving for work, Yohannes said that they should do easy activities, such as reading or drawing. "Sebastian suffers from a genetic heart problem," Yohannes whispered to Tula, for the umpteenth time.

This was the first time Sebastian visited the library. “Has your father never brought you here?” asked Tula.

 “Look, the paint on the wall has wrinkles like your skin!” said Sebastian enthusiastically.

Tula approached the basket of recently-read books and had a look at the books, while Sebastian ran around the shelves. They read an encyclopaedia on insects, but Sebastian didn’t seem interested.

“Do you want to read something else?” asked Tula.

 “I want an ice cream, Ompung.”

They took a public bus to the shopping mall where they first met and ate icecream in one of the restaurants there.

 “What’s your favourite flavour, Ompung?”

 “I don’t have any,” said Tula. “I like all the flavours.”

Tula watched Sebastian who was occupied with his bowl. He’s so young and small. Is it true that he won’t live long? Tula was reminded of the book they had read. It said that house flies commonly lived for between fifteen and thirty days, but they could live longer in a conducive laboratory. “Are you tired? Do you want to go home?”

Sebastian shook his head.

They spent the afternoon in a park near the mall. The sun was shining brightly, and they hid under a tree, just as the first two humans did. They watched people passing by, followed by hawkers selling rujak or meatballs.

“Sebastian, do you love me?”

Sebastian looked up at her. His cheeks reddened, and he said, “Of course I love you, Ompung.”

You’re the only girl that can make me happy, Anton had said the last time they saw each other. But Anton had got married only six months after Tula joined the convent.

Tula and Sebastian went home at three in the afternoon to avoid the traffic. As soon as they reached home, Sebastian said he was hungry. Tula cooked rice, fried an egg, and sauteed some tofu with vegetables. When Tula came back to the living room, Sebastian looked pale. “I can’t breathe, Ompung,” he said.

Tula felt a shiver run down her spine. His heart, Tula thought, it must be his heart! She got Sebastian to lie down and breathe deeply. She hurriedly called Yohannes.

Yohannes asked Tula to bring Sebastian to the nearest hospital. She carried Sebastian to the base of motorcycle taxis across from the residential complex. When they reached the hospital, Yohannes was already waiting for them in the lobby.

“Don’t worry, he’s just exhausted,” said the examining doctor. “Just let him rest at home for the next two or three days.”

“We played in the park today,” said Sebastian, smiling weakly. “It was so much fun, Pa!”

“He’s always been this fragile,” said Yohannes as they queued to pay for the medicine. Tula observed Yohannes’ face. The wrinkles there were a testament to everything he’d been through, as was his pallor, his carelessly shaven facial hair.

Tula was relieved Yohannes didn’t blame her. You should always be strong, Mbak Nani had said once, but the most important thing is that you accept yourself for who you are.

That night, Tula decided to sleep over at Yohannes’ place. She knew that her absence would cause an uproar in the convent. Everyone would think that she had run away like Laura. Mother Superior would be confused as to whether or not to call the police. If the journalists found out, the headline “another disappearing sister” would turn into “another retired nun ran away from the convent”. This might lead to questions from the public. What is actually happening in there? Is that normal? Does that happen in all convents throughout the world? There would be investigations from the bishopric. Catholic parents would sit their daughters down for a talk, “Look at that, Child. Do you still want to become a nun?” The novitiate would be empty. There are so many lonely men in this world; how sad if one of them were Christ. But does He not deserve that kind of loneliness?

Still, Tula knew that she had to stay with Yohannes. She needed to know that Sebastian could survive the night. At first, she just wanted to take a sip of the life she could’ve had. She just wanted to taste the sweetness of its wine. But this is my vocation now. This is my long-term goal.

Do everything for the glory of God, Mother Superior had said.

Humans cannot live with God alone, her mother had said.

Tula tucked Sebastian into bed, and he asked her to tell him a bedtime story. “But I don’t have any story to tell you.” Sebastian begged her to make up one, so Tula told him a story from the Bible. “After the father’s long wait, the prodigal son finally came home,” Tula ended the story.

 “Why did he take the child back? He was naughty.”

 “Because the father loved him dearly.”

 “If I went away, would Papa forgive me too?”

Tula stroked Sebastian’s little head. The picture of a couple, Yohannes and his former partner, came to her mind. They were hugging, looking so young and so happy. She used to have a similar photograph, of her and Anton, taken decades ago. Once, she was also part of the busy and mortal world.

 “Of course, of course,” said Tula. “Now go to sleep, Sebastian.”

She left the room to find Yohannes sitting at the dinner table. The table lamp was the only light that was on. Yohannes raised his head and looked at her, gesturing for her to sit next to him. Tula silently counted to ten.

“I think,” Yohannes began, rather nervously, “that today didn’t go so well.”

Tula froze in her seat. She’d had the feeling all along that this would happen. She nodded, weakly. “Forgive me. I’m not so good with children.”

“It’s late and it’s not safe. You may sleep in the guest room tonight,” said Yohannes. “If you’d like to.”

Tula nodded again.

“But, have you called your family?” Yohannes asked. “Someone might get worried and look for you.”

Tula looked deep into Yohannes’ eyes, and she recalled the way he looked at her the first time they met. His eyes reminded her of two flies: Sebastian and himself. They could live longer in a conducive laboratory, but can living in a laboratory be called a life? Who needs a long life anyway? Fly away, said Tula without a sound, because each of you still needs to find some good quality garbage in this world.

 “There’s no one,” said Tula, holding back her tears, “No one will look for me.”



1. The sentence “If this is how He treats His friends, it is no wonder He has so few,” is adapted from one of Saint Teresa Avila’s writings.

2. The sentence “You must have long term goals to keep you from being frustrated by short term failures” is taken from Charles C. Noble’s writing.


© Norman Erikson Pasaribu. Translation © Shaffira Gayatri.


Norman Erikson Pasaribu


Setengah tahun setelah ia dikirim ke sebuah biara pensiunan di Pondok Aren, Tangerang, Suster Tula mulai sering menyelinap keluar dengan kaus lengan pendek dan rok panjang dan pergi ke sebuah pusat perbelanjaan. Ia menyusuri kios-kios dan lorong-lorong, memperhatikan semua barang yang ia tak perlukan ataupun mampu beli. Kilauan jam tangan, wangi parfum murahan, gelas dan piring kaca patri—sampai hari ini mereka semua tak memukaunya. Hanya Tuhan yang kubutuhkan dalam hidupku, kata Tula kepada mantan pacarnya Anton, empat puluh lima tahun lalu. Tetapi Tuhan membutuhkan suster-suster muda, kata Suster Laura pada Tula pada malam pertama mereka sebagai teman sekamar di biara itu, bukan kita.

Di biara itu Tula menghabiskan sebagian besar waktunya dengan membaca Alkitab dan berdoa. Biara telah membentenginya dari dunia, dan sebagai ganti ia harus mendoakan seluruh manusia malang di luar biara. Tula sebetulnya masih diperbolehkan keluar, seperti untuk mengunjungi keuskupan atau klinik, tetapi baru-baru ini banyak terjadi pembegalan di wilayah sekitar, sehingga Suster Kepala mengeluarkan larangan keluar. Semua yang Suster perlukan sudah ada di sini, kata Suster Kepala dulu ketika menerima kedatangan Tula.

Mereka pikir kita tak bisa menjaga diri, kata Laura.

Kebanyakan pensiunan suster yang sudah lama tinggal di sana tak banyak bicara. Tula sudah menduga akan menemukan kesunyian semacam ini, yang begitu sempurna-tetapi-kudus, yang begitu berbeda dari kesunyian apa pun yang pernah ia temui dalam enam puluh tahun hidupnya. Di sini berkumpul mereka yang telah menang dalam iman, pikir Tula ketika melihat papan nama biara untuk kali pertama. Saat itu ia tak sabar untuk menjadi bagian dari mereka.

Mereka pikir mereka terlalu baik untuk mengobrol dengan kita, kata Laura.

Di biara tersebut Tula memulai hari dengan bermeditasi satu jam setiap pagi, dan baru setelah itu ia mengikuti liturgi pagi, dan akhirnya membaca Alkitab di ruang tengah. Menjelang sore diadakan sakramen ekaristi bagi yang tertarik atau tak sedang dikunjungi tamu. Dan Tula selalu datang, sebelum ia sering menyelinap keluar. Pada pukul sembilan, setelah bermeditasi malam, Tula pergi tidur. Teresa Avila dulu menulis bahwa jiwa mereka yang bermeditasi tak akan pernah tersesat—Tula memercayainya.

Tula juga mengikuti sesi konsultasi setiap hari Rabu. Layanan ini diperuntukkan bagi mereka yang baru memasuki masa pensiun. Tula biasa bercerita kepada Mbak Nani, salah satu dari rombongan psikolog, yang usianya hanya terpaut enam tahun darinya. Tula mengakui bahwa ada aspek kehidupannya sekarang yang terasa asing, tapi Mbak Nani dengan santai bilang bahwa perasaan itu lumrah dan akan lenyap seiring berjalannya waktu. Sesekali bahkan Tula tergoda untuk membicarakan hal hampir-duniawi seperti lagu Koes Plus atau Chrisye favorit masing-masing, dan Mbak Nani tak menolak.

Dari minggu ke minggu Tula selalu menunggu datangnya Rabu, hingga suatu Rabu Mbak Nani sakit dan Tula, demi menghindari anggapan favoritisme, terpaksa berkonsultasi dengan seorang psikolog laki-laki muda yang banjir keringat dan selalu membawa tisu. Setelah menit-menit penuh kecanggungan, ia bertanya gugup, “Kabar anak Ibu bagaimana? Kapan terakhir berkunjung?” Setelah menjawab laki-laki itu dan mengobrol lagi sebentar, Tula permisi untuk kembali ke kamar dan, setelah melihat Laura sedang tak ada di sana, menangis di ranjangnya.

Kelak, Suster akan menyukai tempat ini, kata Mbak Nani dulu.

Pertanyaan lelaki muda itu mengingatkan Tula kepada keluarganya. Orangtua dan semua kakaknya telah mati, sementara tak ada satu pun keponakannya yang pernah mengunjunginya—bahkan ketika ia masih mengajar di sekolah. Tulalah yang justru pernah satu kali menginap di rumah salah satu keponakannya. Lelaki itu tinggal di Bekasi dan, seperti kebanyakan laki-laki Batak ketika tak mendapatkan pendidikan yang layak, dia bekerja sebagai supir angkutan umum. Dia punya enam anak yang semuanya belajar di sekolah Katolik—meskipun keluarga mereka kini Protestan. Di rumahnya tak ada cukup kamar; Tula tidur di ruang tamu, di atas karpet yang digelar. Malam itu Tula terbangun; ia berjalan-jalan mengelilingi dapur, ruang tamu, dan dapur lagi, sebelum tanpa sengaja menemukan sebuah pigura berisi foto mendiang ibunya dan keluarga keponakannya. Mereka tampaknya sedang berada di Dunia Fantasi, sebuah taman bermain di utara Jakarta. Pada foto itu ada bercak cokelat muda di kaus anak bungsu keponakannya. Tula tersenyum. Mereka pasti menyembunyikan nasi-nasi bungkus di tas mereka dan bercak itu pastilah kuah gulai ibunya.

Kebahagiaan perempuan Batak adalah memiliki banyak anak, ibunya pernah berkata.

Sebagai anak bungsu, Tula selalu dikorbankan kakak-kakaknya untuk membantu ibunya di dapur. Sebuah kebetulan yang berguna—hal itu membuat Tula disenangi di semua tempat yang ia pernah layani. Kini ia tak lagi menyentuh wajan ataupun tungku; seluruh makanannya disiapkan oleh suster-suster muda yang mengurus biara. Setiap galon air kosong juga digantikan. Semua pakaian kotor dicucikan. Suatu kali, ia merapikan tumpukan baju bersih yang baru diantarkan dan menemukan celana dalamnya di dasar keranjang. Rasa dingin merambati lehernya. Mengapa mereka tak mengembalikan celana dalam ini kepadaku dan bilang bahwa benda ini terselip? Bukankah aku sudah bilang akan mencuci sendiri dalamanku? Apakah mereka tak melihat ada perbedaan besar antara orang yang mencuci sendiri dalamannya dengan yang tidak? Apakah mereka sengaja, atau hanya lupa?

Bagi mereka kita terlalu tua untuk apa pun, komentar Laura.

Kamar Tula dan Laura ada di lantai dasar sayap barat biara. Seluruh suster yang mengurus mereka tinggal di lantai dua. Dua atau tiga bulan setelah tinggal di sana, Tula mulai sering bermimpi jadi guru Matematika bagi anak-anak berkulit hitam dengan rambut keriting. Tula curiga itu adalah mimpi suster Vina yang datang dari Naimata, yang tinggal tepat di atas kamarnya. Mimpi itu pastilah terpeleset karena licin rambut hitamnya itu lalu jatuh menimpa kepalaku yang penuh uban ini, pikir Tula suatu kali. Mereka pikir kita sudah tak sanggup naik tangga, Laura pernah berkata.

Kali pertama Tula pergi ke luar biara, Mang Sardi—satu-satunya satuan keamanan biara pada shift siang—sedang tak ada di pos jaganya. Saat itu Tula sedang duduk-duduk di bangku di bawah pohon. Sebuah kebetulan, kalau bukan keajaiban, dan Tula menyambar kesempatan itu. Awalnya ia berjalan-jalan saja mengelilingi perumahan di sekitar biara. Ia menemukan sebuah taman kecil dan duduk di sebuah ayunan. Ia menikmati perjalanan singkatnya dan, untuk pertama kalinya setelah bulan-bulan kesunyian, di sebuah ayunan yang pelan bergoyang, Tula merasa ada api kudus yang membara di dalam dirinya. Ia merasa seperti Lazarus, sempat mati dan hidup kembali karena kuasa Kristus.

Hidup di sini tak ada bedanya dengan mati, kata Laura dulu.

Beberapa hari kemudian, setelah mengawasi pos jaga dengan tekun, ia menyadari bahwa Mang Sardi tak ada di pos karena menunaikan salat Asar. Waktunya sempit, tak sampai sepuluh menit, tetapi berkat hidupnya di gereja Tula terbiasa melakukan segala sesuatu dengan tangkas dan akurat. Ia mencuri koran dari pos jaga satpam dan dengan telaten menyalin ulang jadwal azan Asar, lalu dengan telaten pula ia bersandiwara menikmati suasana taman di bangku di bawah pohon, yang kabarnya ditanam bersama-sama oleh penghuni pertama biara itu belasan tahun lalu. Hari berikutnya ia membawa Alkitab sebagai samaran; ketika beberapa suster pengurus biara yang lewat menyapanya, ia hanya perlu mengangkat buku tebal itu sedikit. Kantung plastik berisi pakaian dan uang tersembunyi di belakang pohon.

Pada menit yang tepat, ia menyelinap. Tula kemudian naik angkutan umum dan turun di pusat perbelanjaan besar pertama yang ia temui—kira-kira sepuluh kilometer dari Terminal Lebak Bulus. Tula langsung mencari toilet umum dan berganti pakaian. Kali pertama ia keluar dari toilet, ia menyusuri lorong dengan jantung berdegup kencang dan cepat, seperti ketika ia menuju altar untuk mengambil kaul. Keluar dari lorong, Tula terpana karena keramaian di hadapannya. Ia menghela napas dan mengambil langkah pertama—menjadi bagian dari keramaian itu. Tula pun berkeliaran.

Suatu hari, di sebelah rak produk cat rambut, seorang bocah yang kira-kira berusia enam tahun menghampiri Tula. Bocah itu meremas lipatan rok Tula dan berkata, “Ompung, Ompung ke mana? Ompung kok hilang?” Bocah itu kemudian menangis dan bilang dia merindukan neneknya. Tula membeku. Ia mengamati bocah itu. Bisa saja anak ini adalah cucuku dan aku hanya lupa. Bisa saja aku tak pernah meninggalkan Anton, dan kami sebenarnya telah menikah. Bisa saja aku memang sedang hilang karena lupa ingatan, dan sekarang Anton sedang menungguku di rumah kami.

Tula berjongkok menghadap bocah itu dan mengusap-usap kepalanya.

Tula menanyakan nama bocah itu.

Bocah itu menyebutkan sebuah nama: Sebastian.

Dari pengeras suara terdengar seorang perempuan mengatakan seorang anak berbaju motif Spider-Man telah hilang. Tula melihat kaus anak itu. Ia rupanya bukan cucuku, kata Tula tanpa suara, ia pastilah cucu seorang perempuan yang tampak seperti aku, bahkan barangkali juga bernama Tula Sinaga, namun tak pernah masuk biara. Tula mengantarkan bocah itu ke Layanan Pelanggan. Kita berikan Dia segalanya, Laura pernah berkata, dan inilah yang kita terima.

Seorang lelaki yang menangis langsung menghampiri mereka ketika melihat bocah itu datang dalam gendongan Tula. Dalam pelukan si lelaki, bocah itu berkata, “Ayah, Ayah! Ini Ompung! Ini Ompung!” Sang ayah memandang Tula tepat di mata.

“Terima kasih, Bu,” ujar ayah bocah itu, yang bernama Yohannes. Ia menuliskan alamatnya di secarik kertas dan meminta Tula untuk mampir. “Sekali lagi, terima kasih, Bu. Terima kasih.”

Kata-kata itu menyentuh hati Tula.

Telah lama Tula merasa tidak mendengar kata-kata itu, setelah bertahun-tahun menerimanya setiap hari setelah kelas usai. Meskipun itu tidak sepenuhnya benar: Tula mendengar suaranya sendiri—ialah yang selalu berterima kasih. Terima kasih untuk makanan hambar ini. Terima kasih telah mendoakan tulang-tulang rapuhku. Terima kasih telah membersihkan kamar mandi kami yang bau. Terima kasih telah iba kepadaku dan bercak-bercak hitam di wajahku. Terima kasih. Terima kasih. Terima kasih. Kalau begini cara Ia memperlakukan teman-teman-Nya, kata Laura dulu ketika mencopot salib di dinding kamar mereka, pantas saja Ia tak punya banyak teman.

Sepanjang perjalanan pulang, Tula memikirkan Sebastian dan ayahnya. Keesokan harinya ia dipanggil oleh Suster Kepala. Seseorang telah melaporkan Tula.

“Di sini kita punya aturan,” kata Suster Kepala dengan rahang tampak begitu kotak dan kaku.

Tula hanya mengangguk.

Aturan biara ini buatan manusia, Laura pernah berkata.

Akhir pekan itu Tula menyelinap lagi untuk datang ke rumah Yohannes. Di meja makan Yohannes bertanya banyak hal mengenai Tula. Tula mengaku ia adalah seorang Protestan, lahir dan besar di Jakarta. “Ibuku dulu guru sekolah minggu di HKBP sehingga aku memutuskan untuk jadi guru,” katanya. Tula tak tahu mengapa ia berbohong.

Seusai makan siang, Sebastian menarik Tula untuk duduk di sofa. Mereka menonton Spirited Away, film animasi tentang seorang gadis yang tersesat di dunia roh. Gadis itu harus menyelamatkan kedua orangtuanya yang disihir jadi babi agar kemudian ia dapat kembali ke dunia asalnya.

Biara pensiunan itu adalah dunia roh bagiku, pikir Tula seraya film berakhir, dan aku harus kembali ke dunia asalku. Aku harus kembali ke sekolah. Murid-muridku membutuhkanku. Semua yang Suster perlukan sudah ada di sini, kata Suster Kepala dulu.

Sebastian menyodorkan buku gambar dan krayon.

“Kamu ingin Ompung menggambar?”

“Aku ingin sekolah, Pung.”

Maka Tula menggambar sebuah bangunan dua tingkat dengan tampak-atas huruf L, dengan pohon-pohon glodokan berjejeran. Suster adalah guru Matematika paling keren yang pernah ada, kata murid-muridnya dulu. Di sini kami bisa selalu menjaga Suster, kata Mbak Nani dulu.

“Ini enggk mirip sekolahku, Pung.”

Tula tertawa. Mereka kemudian menggambar pantai, lautan, dan hutan. Sebastian kemudian bosan dan tertidur di pangkuan Tula. Apa kamu yakin tak ingin punya keturunan? tanya ibunya, dan ayahnya, dan semua orang yang Tula kenal. Tula menggeleng. Yang ia inginkan hanyalah Tuhan.

“Terima kasih,” kata Yohannes sebelum Tula pulang. “Sebastian sangat senang dengan Ibu.”

Dan sekali lagi, hati Tula tersentuh. Tetapi ia harus kembali ke dunia asalnya.

Keesokan harinya Tula menemui Suster Kepala. Ia bilang ia ingin kembali mengajar di sekolah. Tula bilang ia masih mampu. Suster Kepala menjawab, “Semua ada waktunya, Tula. Sekarang waktunya bagi yang muda untuk melayani jemaat, dan waktumu untuk memenuhi kebutuhan spiritualmu.” Tetapi murid-muridku membutuhkanku.

Beberapa hari kemudian pagi-pagi buta Tula menyelinap keluar dari biara dengan seragam habit lengkap dan naik bus pertama. Ia harus berpindah bus tiga kali; ia muntah satu kali. Ia tiba di sekolah Katolik tempatnya dulu mengajar tepat ketika bel pulang anak kelas satu dan dua berbunyi. Tula menghampiri murid-muridnya di parkiran. Mereka menyapa dan mencium tangannya. Mereka masih mengingatku. Tetapi, mereka bilang orangtua atau supir jemputan sudah menunggu mereka. Mereka ingin pulang ke rumah dan beristirahat. Mereka punya tugas sekolah yang harus dikumpulkan besok. Mereka harus les harpa. Ternyata murid-muridku dapat hidup tanpaku.

Pihak sekolah menelepon Suster Kepala dan dia marah besar karena kelakuan Tula. Tula pulang dengan putus asa, dan ketika tiba di biara pensiunan suster lain mengamatinya ketika ia berjalan dengan gontai menuju kamarnya. Ia dipanggil keesokan harinya. “Kau harus melanjutkan hidupmu, Suster,” kata Suster Kepala dengan tegas, “lakukan segalanya untuk kemuliaan Tuhan. Bukan untuk kesenanganmu sendiri.” Sorenya Tula berdiri di depan cermin lama sekali. Kau harus punya tujuan jangka panjang agar kegagalan jangka pendek tak membuatmu frustrasi, kata Mbak Nani dulu.

Tula tak yakin apakah hidupnya masih cukup panjang untuk memiliki tujuan jangka panjang.

“Kupikir kamu melakukan hal yang benar,” kata Laura di kamar mereka. “Kita semestinya boleh berkarya selama kita merasa mampu untuk berkarya.” Laura lama ditugaskan di pedalaman Kalimantan, membantu persalinan sambil mengawasi hewan liar dan kelabang hutan. Kini aku membidani tikus-tikus, Laura pernah berkata.

Tula dihukum tak boleh keluar dari kamarnya selama seminggu, kecuali untuk misa dan doa. Ketika Laura tak ada di kamar, kadang-kadang Tula teringat pada Sebastian dan ayahnya, dan berusaha tak memikirkan mereka. Saatnya melanjutkan hidup, kata Tula pada bayangannya di cermin. Murid-muridku dapat hidup tanpaku.

Hari berganti hari. Hari pengganti itu juga berganti, dan suatu pagi Tula menemukan tempat tidur Laura kosong. Begitu juga lemarinya. Hanya ada secarik kertas di laci: Jangan cari aku. Hari-hari genap jadi minggu. Seorang pensiunan suster meninggal dalam tidur. Minggu-minggu genap jadi bulan. Laura belum juga ditemukan. Tula menangisi bayangan seseorang di depan cermin. Betapa malang ia, kata Tula, ia begitu tua, katanya, dan ia tak lagi berguna, katanya. Tetapi, kemudian sesuatu terjadi: suatu Minggu pagi Tula menyelinap keluar dari misa di kapel, masuk ke ruangan Suster Kepala, dan—dengan telepon biara—menghubungi Yohannes.

Siang di hari yang sama Tula menyelinap keluar lagi dari biara.

Ketika melihat Yohannes dan Sebastian di pintu rumah mereka, Tula langsung memeluk mereka satu per satu, seolah tengah bertemu teman lama. “Aku kangen Ompung,” kata Sebastian. Setelah makan siang, mereka bertiga menonton Toy Story 3, sebuah film tentang boneka-boneka yang tak sengaja dibuang oleh seorang bocah yang sedang menuju dewasa. Boneka-boneka itu berusaha kembali kepada si bocah. Tula langsung teringat pada Laura, yang kisahnya menyebar seperti virus dan menimbulkan bisikan-bisikan. “Saya permisi dulu ke belakang,” kata Tula dengan suara bergetar. Ia menangis di kamar mandi dan mencari-cari obat sakit kepala di rak P3K.

Ia tak pernah membuka mulut-Nya yang kudus untuk kita, Laura pernah berkata, tak pernah menggerakkan tangan-Nya yang ajaib, tak pernah menunjukkan tanda-Nya, apa Ia telah menelantarkan kita?

Sebastian tertidur sebelum film itu usai. Tula memperhatikan seisi ruangan. Ada foto seorang lelaki muda dengan seorang perempuan paruh baya. “Itu aku dan almarhum ibuku,” kata Yohannes. “Aku bilang pada Seb, ompungnya hilang.”

“Di mana istrimu?” kata Tula.

Yohannes mendadak tampak canggung. “Ia meninggal. Kanker otak.” Lalu: “Bagaimana dengan Ibu? Apa pekerjaan suami Ibu?”

“Ia Tuhan,” kata Tula. “Dan ia tak peduli lagi padaku.”

Yohannes mendengus heran. “Apa maksud Ibu?”

“Ia tuan tanah—maksudku,” kata Tula, “ia selalu sibuk dengan bisnisnya, seolah ialah pemilik seluruh tanah di dunia ini.”

“Oh. Bagaimana dengan keluarga Ibu? Mungkin, ibunya Ibu?”

“Ia melahirkan suamiku. Beberapa orang memanggilnya Ratu Sorgawi.”

Yohannes tertawa terbahak-bahak. “Ibu lucu sekali,” katanya.

Kalau ini semua lelucon, kata Laura pada malam sebelum ia kabur, inilah yang terburuk.

“Apakah Ibu tertarik untuk jadi pengasuh Seb?” tanya Yohannes.

“Kenapa kamu tak menikah lagi saja?”

Yohannes diam.

“Aku menemukan fotomu dengan seorang lelaki di rak P3K di kamar mandi.”

Yohannes mendadak gugup. “Ia—ia temanku.”

“Sangat aneh menaruh foto di kotak P3K,” kata Tula. “Apa kau pikir foto lelaki itu obat penenang?”

Yohannes tampak salah tingkah.

“Aku tahu kau gay,” kata Tula santai. “Dia meninggalkanmu?”

Yohannes tak tahu harus mengatakan apa. Mereka berdua diam untuk waktu yang lama.

“Sebastian akan dicemooh teman-teman sekolahnya jika aku menikah lagi dengan laki-laki,” kata Yohannes, akhirnya. “Dan sungguh… aku tak bisa menyentuh perempuan.”

Itu bukan masalah besar, Tula ingin berkata, aku tak pernah disentuh dan aku baik-baik saja, kan?


HARI PERTAMA TULA bekerja sebagai pengasuh Sebastian, ia mengajak anak itu ke perpustakaan kota. Sebelum Yohannes berangkat ke kantor, ia berpesan agar mereka melakukan aktivitas yang tak menghabiskan tenaga, seperti membaca buku atau menggambar. Sebastian menderita penyakit jantung bawaan, bisik Yohannes kepada Tula untuk kesekian kali.

Ini kali pertama Sebastian datang ke perpustakan. “Ayahmu tak pernah mengajakmu ke sini?” tanya Tula takjub.

“Lihat, cat dindingnya keriput seperti kulit Ompung,” kata Sebastian bergairah.

Tula menghampiri keranjang buku-buku yang baru saja dikembalikan dan melihat-lihat isinya, sementara Sebastian berlarian mengelilingi rak-rak. Mereka kemudian membaca buku kumpulan fakta tentang serangga, tetapi Sebastian tampak tak tertarik.

“Kamu ingin baca yang lain?” tanya Tula.

“Aku ingin es krim, Pung.”

Maka mereka pergi dengan angkutan umum ke pusat perbelanjaan tempat mereka pertama kali bertemu dan makan es krim di salah satu restoran.

“Apa rasa kesukaan Ompung?”

“Ompung enggak punya rasa favorit,” kata Tula, “Ompung suka semua rasa.”

Tula memperhatikan Sebastian yang kini kembali sibuk dengan mangkuknya. Ia begitu muda dan mungil. Apa benar umur anak ini tak akan panjang? Tula teringat buku yang tadi mereka baca. Buku itu bilang lalat rumah biasanya hidup lima belas hari hingga satu bulan, tetapi dapat lebih panjang dalam suasana laboratorium yang kondusif. “Sebastian sudah capek? Sudah ingin pulang ke rumah?”

Sebastian menggeleng.

Mereka kemudian menghabiskan siang pada sebuah taman di dekat pusat perbelanjaan. Matahari bersinar terik sebagaimana matahari tropis semestinya, dan mereka bersembunyi di bawah pohon sebagaimana dua manusia pertama melakukannya. Mereka menontoni orang-orang lewat dan pedagang rujak dan bakso beserta gerobak mereka.

“Sebastian sayang sama Ompung?”

Sebastian menengadah. Pipinya merona merah, dan ia berkata, “Ya dong, aku sayang Ompung.”

Kamu satu-satunya gadis yang bisa membuatku bahagia, kata Anton kali terakhir mereka bertemu. Tetapi Anton menikah setengah tahun setelah Tula masuk biara.

Tula dan Sebastian pulang pukul tiga sore untuk menghindari kemacetan. Sesampainya di rumah, Sebastian bilang ia lapar. Tula menanak nasi, menggoreng telur mata sapi, dan menumis sayur tahu. Ketika Tula kembali ke ruang tamu, Sebastian tampak pucat. “Aku sesak napas, Pung,” katanya.

Tula merasakan dingin menjalari punggungnya. Jantungnya, pikir Tula, pastilah jantungnya! Ia meminta Sebastian berbaring dan mencoba bernapas dalam-dalam. Ia lekas-lekas menelepon Yohannes.

Yohanes meminta Tula membawa Sebastian ke rumah sakit terdekat. Tula menggendong Sebastian dan membawanya ke pangkalan ojek di seberang gerbang perumahan. Ketika mereka tiba di rumah sakit, Yohannes sudah menunggu mereka di lobi.

“Tenang saja, ia hanya kecapekan,” kata dokter yang memeriksa Sebastian, “istirahat saja di rumah selama dua-tiga hari ke depan.”

“Kami tadi main di taman,” kata Sebastian sambil tersenyum lemah. “Asyik banget, Pa.”

“Ia selalu selemah ini,” kata Yohannes di antrean pembayaran obat. Tula memperhatikan wajah Yohannes. Kerutan-kerutan di sana menceritakan apa yang telah ia alami selama ini: kulitnya yang kusam, kumis dan janggutnya yang dicukur tak rapi.

Tula merasa lega Yohannes tak menyalahkannya. Kamu memang harus selalu kuat, kata si Mbak Nani dulu, tetapi yang terpenting adalah kamu menerima dirimu apa adanya.

Tula memutuskan untuk menginap di rumah Yohannes malam itu. Ia tahu tindakannya ini akan membuat kehebohan di biara. Semua orang akan mengiranya kabur seperti Laura. Suster Kepala akan bingung, apakah ia harus melibatkan kepolisian atau tidak. Jika para wartawan tahu, “pensiunan suster hilang lagi" bisa saja berubah menjadi “satu lagi pensiunan suster kabur karena depresi", atau “tak betah, satu lagi pensiunan suster kabur dari biara”. Ini akan menimbulkan pertanyaan dari orang-orang awam. Apa yang sebetulnya terjadi di dalam sana? Apakah itu wajar? Apakah di seluruh biara di seluruh belahan dunia terjadi hal yang sama? Akan ada investigasi dari keuskupan. Para orangtua Katolik akan mengajak putrinya duduk dan bicara. “Lihat ini, Dik. Kamu masih mau jadi suster?” Novisiat akan semakin sepi. Ada begitu banyak lelaki tak berpasangan di dunia ini, menyedihkan sekali jika salah satu dari laki-laki itu adalah Kristus. Tetapi, apakah Ia memang tak pantas menerima kesendirian semacam itu?

Tetapi, Tula tahu ia harus bertahan bersama Yohannes, ia harus memastikan Sebastian bisa melewati malam itu. Awalnya, ia memang hanya ingin mengintip kehidupan pada jalan yang ia tak ambil. Ia hanya ingin merasakan seseruput anggurnya. Tetapi, ini adalah karyaku sekarang. Ini adalah tujuan jangka panjangku.

Lakukan segalanya untuk kemuliaan Tuhan, kata Suster Kepala dulu.

Manusia tak bisa hidup dengan Tuhan saja, kata ibunya dulu.

Tula mengantarkan Sebastian ke tempat tidur. Sebastian meminta Tula untuk bercerita. “Tetapi Ompung tak punya cerita.” Sebastian meminta ia mengarang satu. Tula pun menceritakan satu kisah Alkitab. “Setelah penantian panjang sang ayah, anak yang hilang itu pulang,” kata Tula menutup ceritanya.

“Mengapa ia menerima anaknya pulang? Anak itu jahat.”

“Sang ayah sangat mencintai anak itu.”

“Kalau aku pergi, apakah Papa akan memaafkan aku?”

Tula membelai-belai kepala mungil Sebastian. Di kepala Tula terbit gambar sepasang lelaki, Yohanes dan mantan pasangannya, saling rangkul, begitu muda, begitu bahagia. Ia juga punya foto semacam itu, ia dan Anton ada di dalamnya. Gambar itu diambil puluhan tahun lalu. Ia pernah jadi penduduk dari sebuah dunia yang ramai dan tak abadi.

“Tentu, tentu,” kata Tula. “Sekarang Sebastian tidur ya.”

Ketika ia keluar, Tula menemukan Yohannes di meja makan. Lampu ruang makan satu-satunya lampu yang masih menyala. Yohannes menengadah. Ia menyilakan Tula duduk di sebelahnya. Dalam hatinya, Tula menghitung sampai sepuluh.

“Kupikir,” kata Yohannes dengan agak gugup, “hari ini tidak berjalan dengan baik.”

Tula membeku di bangkunya. Ia seolah tahu sejak mula hal ini akan terjadi. Tula mengangguk lemah. “Maafkan saya. Saya memang tak mahir dengan anak-anak.”

“Sudah terlalu malam. Sekarang sedang tak aman. Ibu boleh menginap di kamar tamu malam ini,” kata Yohannes. “Kalau mau.”

Tula mengangguk lagi.

“Tapi, sudah telepon keluarga?” kata Yohannes. “Nanti ada yang khawatir dan mencari-cari Ibu.”

Tula menatap mata Yohannes, dan teringat cara Yohannes memandangi Tula kali pertama mereka bertemu. Pupil mata Yohannes kini mengingatkan Tula pada dua ekor lalat. Mereka adalah Sebastian dan ia sendiri. Hidup mereka akan lebih panjang dalam laboratorium yang kondusif, tetapi apakah tinggal di dalam laboratorium dapat dikatakan sebagai sebuah kehidupan? Lagipula, siapakah yang membutuhkan hidup yang panjang? Terbanglah, kata Tula tanpa suara. Sebab tiap-tiap dari kalian masih harus mencari sampah terbaik di dunia.

“Tak ada,” kata Tula sambil menahan tangis, “tak ada yang akan mencari-cari saya.”


© Norman Erikson Pasaribu.

NORMAN ERIKSON PASARIBU was born in Jakarta, 1990. His collection of stories, Hanya Kamu yang Tahu Berapa Lama Lagi Aku Harus Menunggu, came out in 2014 and was shortlisted for Khatulistiwa Literary Award. One story was included in Best Kompas Stories 2012. His collection of poems Sergius Mencari Bacchus won first prize at the Jakarta Arts Council poetry manuscript competition 2015.

SHAFFIRA D. GAYATRI recently completed her postgraduate degree in World Literature at University of Warwick, UK and is currently a researcher at Women Research Institute, an Indonesian NGO based in Jakarta. She is a part-time translator and teacher, and enjoys traveling, reading, and hiking in her free time.