The Apple and the Tree

Cicilia Oday

Translated by Dwiputri Pertiwi, edited by Pam Allen

The rain clears and Mother tells me to put on some clean clothes. “Let’s go,” she says. She doesn’t say where to. And she forbids me from telling anyone about our trip, especially Grandfather and Grandmother. Our destination turns out to be the police station in Dumoga, a district located in the Bolaang Mondow regency of North Sulawesi, which is where we live. Mother speaks to the officer guarding the gate, and we are escorted to the farthest end of the room where the holding cells are. The cells are dark and stuffy, even during the day. The odour of old buildings and mould fill the air.

My mother and I stop at a cell occupied by a thin, dark-skinned man. Seeing us, he rises from his corner and approaches the bars hesitantly and timidly. Moments later, the man and I are standing face to face. I am only as tall as his shoulders so I have to look up. He keeps his head down, but I have already seen his beaten face, one of his eyes is so swollen that it is sealed shut. We are only one foot away from each other, but the presence of the bars makes me feel as if he is far away.

I know who he is. A few days earlier he tried to attack my grandfather. Everyone in the village knows him and calls him Rambo. He is notorious—a village thug. That is why I cannot believe my ears when Mother says that he is my real father.

Rambo introduces himself as if I didn’t know who he was. He tells me his real name, where his house is, who he lives with. He then tells me the story of his family and his past:


Rambo's grandfather was over one hundred years old when he passed away. Before he died, he had been ill for years. He was practically a living corpse that contained a dying soul. His black magic confined his decrepit body to his bed. A priest was later summoned to pray for the old man. As soon as the prayers were over and after his body had been smeared with ointment, the old man pointed at his eldest son and whispered the location of his amulet to him. The child, Rambo’s father, then took the amulet that was hidden behind a counter, and burned it in the back yard. Not long after that, the old man breathed his last breath peacefully.

In his lifetime, the old man was known as a powerful shaman who knew black magic. His abilities included various forms of sorcery. At first he only did it for his and his family’s personal interest, but eventually more and more people started to come and ask for help. The old man gained a reputation as the Shaman of Death, but those who benefited from his services considered him a hero. They paid him with rice, cassava, chicken and even a pack of cigarettes. Shamans were not paid with money, at least Rambo’s grandfather wasn’t. Rambo said that his family had never had too much or too little. It was all thanks to the old man.

One day the village chief died due to unknown causes. It did not take long before the villagers came to wreck the old man’s house. They accused him of using his black magic on the village chief. Several days earlier, the chief came to fine the family because the old man’s oldest son, who was none other than Rambo’s father, had impregnated a teenage girl. The old man claimed to have no money and asked the chief to give him a week. The village chief pounded the table and slammed the door behind him as he left the house—the girl was his niece. Less than a week later, the village chief died in his sleep.

The villagers threw rocks at the old man’s house. Many people demanded that he and his entire family leave the village. The villagers were no longer willing to compromise. They had been wanting to banish the old man from the village for a long time, but they had to wait for the right moment. The villagers threatened to burn the old man’s house down if its inhabitants didn’t leave within twenty-four hours. That night, Rambo’s father—who was only eighteen at the time—took the pregnant girl to the old man’s house. Rambo’s father and the girl had already agreed to scrape her womb to end the pregnancy, and they left the task to the old man’s wife. She had done it before, successfully. This would be her second attempt, but this time the girl was not as lucky as the first 'patient' had been. The girl began to bleed heavily. Her face was pale, her lips were blue and her body drooped weakly until she finally died. At midnight, Rambo’s father and one of his younger siblings dumped the girl’s body into the river, which happened to be in flood. The following morning, before the rooster crowed at the first light of day, the old man and his family left the village.

They stayed with the old woman’s relative in a village called Inobonto. There, the old man managed to establish good relations with the villagers. He was known as a witch doctor who was able to cure many diseases. He used his powers to heal illnesses that were 'sent' to villagers by other shamans, proving the superiority of his powers. The villagers, however, had no idea that the old man was also capable of black magic and was not afraid to use it from time to time. Whenever the family was in some kind of financial trouble, the old man 'had to' send ailments to the same people who had just come to be cured by him. Several days later, they would come back and complain about their illness. The old man then got rid of their pain. They thought that the old man had cured them, when in reality he had merely reversed his own spells. As a reward, those people would pay with their homegrown vegetables and fruit or anything they had caught at sea. That was how the old man supported his family for a long time. Once, a patient paid for the old man’s services with a single corncob. Offended by the gesture, the old man cast a spell on the patient.


"One should not toy with the feelings of a shaman, especially one who knows black magic," Rambo says and continues his story:


At night, the old man’s wife would turn into a palasik kudung, which was a supernatural being that only had a head and organs. Palasik wandered around at night to hunt for the putrid smell of the blood of childbirth. She would perch on the rooftops of houses of women who were in labour, and then she would look for the spot where the placenta was buried. Palasik like to eat placenta. If they got lucky, palasik would even devour a fetus that was still in the womb.

Before turning into a palasik, the old man's wife would hide her body among the banana trees or the bamboo grove. Back at their own house, the old woman left her body under the bed in a locked room. But because she was staying with a relative, the old woman did not want to take any risks. If anyone touched that body, she would not be able to return to her human form and she would die as a supernatural being.

At night, people often saw palasik kudung hovering over rooftops or treetops, but none of the villagers had been able to catch them. Nobody was brave or agile enough to do it.

At first nobody suspected that the old woman was the palasik, but as time went by they became suspicious. When she was not being a palasik, the old woman's eyes were always bloodshot, and she walked on the balls of her feet. The old man's eyes were just as red, but he walked in the same way as most people. Young Rambo and his cousins had never been suspicious of their grandparents’ appearance and treated them as normal people. Until he heard the villagers talking and accusing the old man of being a witch doctor and the old woman of being able to turn into a palasik. Rambo asked his parents regarding the matter, but it had only earned him their indifference or reprimand.

Rambo eventually found out that his father had also inherited his grandfather’s powers. As the tradition went, black magic was to be passed down to the eldest son and then continued up to seven generations.

The ability to transform into palasik kudung also had to be passed down to the eldest daughter. The problem was that the old couple only had sons. The old woman decided to pass down her powers to the eldest daughter of her second child. As time went by, the family found out about her plan. One day, Rambo teased his cousin Tika—the eldest daughter of the old woman's second child—telling her that she would inherit the powers of palasik kudung from their grandmother. Tika, who dreamed of becoming a schoolteacher, rejected the idea and rebelled against her parents and her grandmother.

As a result, Rambo was punished by his grandfather. The old man even went so far as to forbid his grandchildren from going to school, and there was nothing any of the children could do to change his mind. “School has turned all of them into rebels!” the old man exclaimed. In the end, Rambo and his cousins did drop out of school, but due to financial constraints and their own decision to do so. By the time they had reached adulthood, most of the grandchildren moved away. Two of Rambo’s cousins became miners in Ambon, others worked as porters at harbours, canned fish factories and terminals. Rambo’s eldest brother moved to Jakarta and became a thug in Tanah Abang. His name was Ayub, but after he joined the most powerful and feared gang, he changed his name to Goliath. He was also often hired as an assassin, and made a fortune out of that profession. It seemed to Rambo that he was also using the powers of black magic passed down to him from their father. Goliath regularly sent money home and this led the old man to call Ayub his most accomplished grandchild.

Meanwhile, Rambo moved to Dumoga, but he couldn't find a job. Rambo blamed it on his family's bad reputation, which had reached our village. He was still unemployed even though he was already in his thirties. He fell for a beautiful and well-educated young woman—my mother. In our village, if you made it to college you were deemed to be well educated. People shook their heads in disbelief at my mother’s love for Rambo. As expected, Mother’s family was against the relationship. Upon realizing this, Rambo decided to take the easy way out—not by proposing to my mother, but by making her pregnant. Any woman who got pregnant out of wedlock, especially before completing her studies, brought shame to the family. In Dumoga, a young woman in that situation would have to get married right away in order to save face and put an end to the rumours. Rambo even asked his father to sell their garden so they could pay for the wedding.

My mother did get married, but not to Rambo—rather, to a man of her parents’ choice, the man who I would later know as my father, the kind of man who was 'good' in the eyes of society. On their wedding day, Rambo went on a rampage right in front of the church. As soon as the ceremony was over, the bride and groom had to be taken to safety because Rambo had been waiting across the street with a machete in his hand. He did not manage to harm anyone, and that worsened his wounded heart. He went home, put down the machete, and sobbed in his mother’s lap. He swore that he would have his revenge.


I have never imagined that a person like Rambo was capable of shedding tears. I stand there mutely, looking back on my life and trying to make sense of the truth that I just discovered. And then Mother tells me this story: After I was born, I was handed over to an orphanage, as instructed by Mother’s parents. Not long after that, Mother was pregnant again, but she had a miscarriage. Two more miscarriages followed and her health was in decline. After three years of marriage, the couple was still not blessed with a child. At one point, she plunged into depression and often cried for no apparent reason whenever she was alone in her room. She felt useless as a woman, and that she was afraid Father would leave her. After many discussions, Mother and Father agreed to take me back from the orphanage. Because they still lived at Mother’s parents’ house, Mother and Father told her parents of their plan, seeking their blessing. The only way they could get Grandmother and Grandfather's agreement was to suggest that my presence might somehow ‘encourage’ another child to arrive.

As far as I could remember Grandmother and Grandfather never doted on me. They looked after me, but in exchange I had to work. From a young age I was told that life was tough. I never received any presents from my grandparents, uncles or aunts from either side of the family. None of my cousins were close to me. They were explicitly told to be careful around me. That warning made no sense to me, until today.

Growing up I was only close to Father, who was always warm and nice. He played football with me, helped me do my homework, carried me to my room whenever I fell asleep on the sofa, cared for me when I got sick.

When I was eight years old, Father got me a puppy. I named him Bimbo. Bimbo had thick, bluish grey fur. The fur on his hind legs was white, making it look as if he was wearing socks. His forehead and the tip of his tail were also covered with white fur. One day, a friend of Mother’s told us that dogs who had white fur on the tip of their tail usually had a bad character; in addition to being difficult to train, such dogs often preyed on fowls. A week later, our neighbour came to our house and said Bimbo had eaten five of his family’s chicks. From then on, Father had to chain Bimbo in the backyard. But it only made Bimbo extremely aggressive. He would bark at anyone and became nervous each time a chicken or a duck passed by. The chain that kept him in place would stiffen as he chased after the fowls. Bimbo could never relax.

One day Bimbo snapped his chains and disappeared. Soon after, news broke out that a girl had been bitten by a dog. People went to look for the dog so that they could kill him. From their description, there was no doubt that it was Bimbo. Bimbo went to hide in our house when people were chasing him. Father hid him when the girl’s father came raging into our house. Father apologized to the man and offered to pay for the girl's medical expenses at the local clinic if it turned out that Bimbo had rabies.

Bimbo appeared to have felt the tension he had caused, and behaved himself for the rest of the day. He just stayed in the kitchen and waited for us to finish our dinner. Afterwards, Father went to Bimbo and rubbed the back of his neck. Father had a habit of talking to Bimbo as if he could understand what was being said. However, he clearly was not directing his words to Bimbo when he said, “I think he comes from a bad lineage. No wonder he was abandoned with all the other puppies.”

“Do you regret taking him in?” I asked.

“No,” Father replied.


Two years ago, when I was ten years old, my mother finally got pregnant. She gave birth to a baby boy and named him Satria. On the day of his birth, the whole family gathered at the hospital. My uncles and aunts brought gifts and my cousins could not wait to see the baby, but none of them were as eager as my mother’s parents—almost like it was their big day. They loved my little brother to the point of idolizing him. I used to think that they hated children because they did not like me.

After Satria was born, I got into a lot of fights with my parents and grandparents. I didn't know why, but I was always annoyed and felt a deep anger towards everyone. I refused to talk to people. I would smash things just to irritate them. I would respond rudely whenever Father or Mother scolded me, and I even swore in front of them. I did not intend to cross the line, but one day I accidentally broke Grandmother's crystal vase. She did not say a single word, she merely gave me a stern look. She had a cold, wrinkled face, and her voice was as calm as a ghost’s whisper when she told me to pick up the shards that were scattered on the floor. As I was doing what she had told me to do, Grandmother turned to face my mother and said, in a low tone, “I told you so…”

Every time I acted up, Grandmother would say those words to any adult who happened to be around. I told you so! I told you so! Today I finally understand what she meant: I should not have been brought back from the orphanage.

Grandmother was the one who first exposed me to the proverb “The apple does not fall far from the tree”. I grew up hearing that proverb being said over and over again. I heard it so often that it became fixed in my memory long before I heard it during Indonesian class and long before I knew what it meant.

The day Satria was baptized, the entire family gathered for a party at our house. Mother and my little brother were the center of attention. That was the day I broke the window in the living room. In front of everyone, Grandfather grabbed me by the collar and dragged me to the kitchen, shouting, “This is what happens when you come from a bad tree!” At that moment, I thought he meant I was being a bad child.

I did not know why Grandfather and Grandmother liked to use the apple and tree metaphor whenever they wanted to say something bad about me. Back then I thought it was just something that adults normally did. At school, I asked all my friends what proverb was said to them when they had broken a flower vase or a window.

I rarely received a satisfying answer, most of my friends just laughed at me. But at least I knew that every child had broken his mother’s vase, dropped her father’s ashtray, felt angry, and argued with people at home. Children will do anything to make themselves seen and heard. Children from any tree.


Finally Rambo tells me why he is locked-up. But I already knew, just like everyone else in the village. A few days earlier he tried to attack my grandfather. It seems Rambo still wants to take revenge on Mother's family.

After that incident, Grandfather told us that he had sensed someone following him and he sought refuge at a nearby house. From our neighbours I learned that the people there ganged up on Rambo and beat him to a pulp before bringing him to the police.

Rambo leans in and awkwardly lays his hand on the top of my head. I see the emotion on his face. I wonder if he has been waiting for this moment for a long time, and if it is that important to him. I am sure he will never become a father to me and I will never be a son to him, but I must now accept the fact that he is indeed my biological father.

Mother pulls me away and tells me to go out first. I walk away, but I stop in the corridor that separate the cells and the office. From there, I hear Mother saying, “I hope you’re satisfied, and that after this meeting you won’t try to hurt my family again.” Rambo keeps silent.

On our way back home, I keep my head down the whole time and do not speak at all. I stare at the shimmering pavement and the wet, dead leaves, and I wonder about all the things that I did not know about myself, about my background, and about humans in general. I feel ten years older.


© Cicilia Oday. Translation © Dwiputri Pertiwi.


Cicilia Oday


Hujan baru saja reda ketika ibu memintaku berpakaian rapi dan berkata, “Ayo ikut Ibu.” Dia tidak bilang ke mana. Pun dia melarangku memberitahu siapapun, terutama Kakek dan Nenek, tentang kepergian kami. Tempat yang kami datangi ternyata kantor kepolisian sektor Dumoga, sebuah kecamatan di kabupaten Bolaang Mongondow, Sulawesi Utara, tempat kami tinggal. Ibu berbicara pada seorang petugas yang berjaga di depan, lalu kami diantar ke bagian paling ujung ruangan di mana sel tahanan terletak. Sel-sel itu gelap dan pengap, bahkan pada siang hari. Ada aroma bangunan tua dan lumut di udara.

Di salah satu sel, aku dan Ibu menemui seorang pria berperawakan ceking dan berkulit gelap. Melihat kami, pria itu bangkit dari sudutnya dan mendekat ke jeruji dengan ragu dan agak malu-malu. Sesaat kemudian, aku dan pria itu berdiri berhadap-hadapan. Aku hanya setinggi bahunya jadi aku harus mendongak. Dia terus menunduk, tapi aku sudah melihat wajah itu babak belur dan salah satu matanya masih terkatup karena bengkak. Kami berjarak hanya sejangkauan tangan, tetapi kehadiran jeruji membuat pria itu terasa begitu jauh.

Aku tahu siapa dia. Beberapa hari lalu dia mencoba menyerang kakekku di jalan. Semua orang di kampung mengenalnya dan menjulukinya Rambo. Dia punya reputasi yang buruk, seorang preman kampung. Karena itu aku tidak percaya saat ibu berkata dia adalah ayah kandungku.

Rambo memperkenalkan dirinya padaku seolah aku tak tahu siapa dia. Dia memberitahuku nama aslinya, di mana rumahnya, dengan siapa dia tinggal. Lalu dia bercerita tentang keluarganya dan masa lalunya:


Kakek Rambo berusia lebih dari seratus tahun ketika meninggal dunia. Sebelum meninggal sang kakek sudah sakit-sakitan selama bertahun-tahun. Dia tak ubahnya mayat hidup yang memeram jiwa sekarat. Ilmu hitam yang dia miliki telah menahannya bertahun-tahun di tempat tidur dengan raga yang sudah hampir mati fungsi. Kelak seorang pendeta didatangkan untuk mendoakan sang kakek. Setelah didoakan dan dibaluri minyak urapan, sang kakek menunjuk anak laki-lakinya tertua dan berbisik memberitahunya di mana dia menyimpan azimatnya. Anak itu, ayah Rambo, mengambil azimat itu dari belakang sebuah bufet lalu membakarnya di halaman belakang. Tak lama kemudian sang kakek mengembuskan nafas terakhir dengan tenang.

Semasa hidup sang kakek dikenal sebagai dukun ilmu hitam yang sangat sakti. Kemampuannya meliputi santet, guna-guna, sampai mengirim teluh dan tenung. Semula dia melakukan itu hanya untuk kepentingan diri sendiri dan keluarga, tetapi lambat laun tak sedikit yang datang untuk meminta bantuan kepadanya. Kakek membangun reputasi sebagai dukun pencabut nyawa, tetapi ia dianggap pahlawan oleh orang-orang yang menggunakan jasanya. Mereka membayar dengan beras, singkong, ayam kampung, atau sebungkus rokok. Berkat sang kakek, keluarganya tak pernah berkelebihan tapi juga tak pernah berkekurangan.

Suatu hari kepala desa meninggal dunia tanpa sebab. Tak lama kemudian orang-orang sekampung berbondong-bondong melempari rumah sang kakek dengan batu. Mereka menuduhnya telah menyantet kepala desa. Beberapa hari sebelumnya, kepala desa menagih denda pada keluarga sang kakek karena anak sulung sang kakek, tak lain ayah Rambo, menghamili seorang gadis remaja di kampung itu. Kakek mengaku belum punya uang dan minta diberi waktu seminggu. Sebelum meninggalkan rumah, kepala desa menggebrak meja lalu membanting pintu—si gadis adalah keponakan beliau. Kurang dari seminggu kemudian, kepala desa meninggal dunia dalam tidurnya.

Selain melempari rumah sang kakek, warga mendesaknya sekeluarga angkat kaki dari desa. Warga tak mau lagi berkompromi, sudah lama mereka ingin mengusir sang kakek dari kampung mereka. Warga mengancam akan membakar rumah sang kakek bila ia sekeluarga a tidak pergi dalam waktu dua puluh empat jam. Malam harinya, ayah Rambo—yang waktu itu baru berusia delapan belas—membawa gadis yang hamil itu ke rumah sang kakek. Ayah Rambo dan si gadis telah setuju untuk menguret rahimnya dan menyerahkan tindakan itu pada istri sang kakek, yang sekali pernah menguret kandungan seorang keponakan dan berhasil. Gadis remaja itu adalah percobaan kedua, tapi nasibnya tak seberuntung ‘pasien’ yang pertama. Si gadis mengalami pendarahan hebat. Wajahnya pucat, bibirnya kelabu, dan tubuhnya terkulai lemas sebelum akhirnya ia meninggal dunia. Tengah malam, ayah Rambo dan salah seorang adiknya membuang mayat gadis itu ke sungai yang kebetulan sedang meluap. Keesokan harinya, sebelum ayam berkokok dan sebelum cahaya pertama matahari merekah, sang kakek dan keluarganya meninggalkan desa.

Mereka menumpang di rumah saudara istri sang kakek, di sebuah desa bernama Inobonto. Di sana sang kakek berhasil membangun hubungan yang baik dengan warga. Ia dikenal sebagai orang pintar yang dapat menyembuhkan berbagai penyakit. Beliau menggunakan kesaktiannya untuk menyembuhkan penyakit yang ‘dikirim’ dukun-dukun lain pada warga yang datang berobat. Namun, warga tak tahu sang kakek juga memiliki ilmu hitam yang dapat sewaktu-waktu digunakannya untuk maksud jahat. Ketika kondisi keuangan keluarga memburuk, sang kakek mengirimkan penyakit pada orang-orang yang pernah datang berobat kepadanya. Beberapa hari kemudian, orang-orang itu kembali dan mengeluhkan penyakit yang mereka alami. Tentu saja sang kakek selalu berhasil memulihkan kondisi mereka. Orang-orang itu mengira sang kakek menyembuhkan mereka, padahal dia hanya membatalkan pengaruh ilmu hitam yang dia kirim sendiri. Sebagai imbalan, orang-orang itu membayar jasa kakek dengan hasil kebun atau hasil melaut. ‘Pasien’ sang kakek terus bertambah hingga lambat laun kondisi ekonomi keluarga membaik. Selama bertahun-tahun, dengan cara itulah kakek menafkahi keluarganya. Pernah sekali seorang pasien membayar sang kakek hanya dengan satu tongkol jagung. Kakek tersinggung, lalu mengirim teluh ke orang itu.


"Jangan main-main dengan perasaan seorang dukun ilmu hitam," kata Rambo, lalu meneruskan ceritanya:


Pada malam hari istri sang kakek menjelma palasik kudung, makhluk gaib yang hanya terdiri dari kepala dan susunan organ tubuh. Palasik berkeliaran pada malam hari untuk mencari amis darah persalinan. Dia akan berhenti di atap rumah tempat persalinan sedang berlangsung, mengawasi ke mana seseorang hendak menguburkan ari-ari. Palasik senang memakan ari-ari. Jika beruntung, ia bahkan dapat menyantap janin yang masih berada di dalam rahim.

Sebelum menjadi palasik, sang nenek menyembunyikan tubuhnya di antara pohon pisang atau rumpun bambu. Dulu ketika masih di rumah sendiri, sang nenek meninggalkan tubuhnya di kolong tempat tidur di dalam kamar yang terkunci. Namun, waktu ia menumpang tinggal di rumah saudara, nenek tak ingin ambil risiko. Bila ada yang mengusik tubuh itu saat ia dalam wujud palasik, ia takkan dapat kembali ke wujudnya sebagai manusia. Ia akan meninggal sebagai makhluk jadi-jadian.

Pada malam hari orang-orang kerap melihat palasik kudung terbang melintas di atas bubungan atap atau pucuk-pucuk pohon, tapi mereka tak pernah bisa menangkapnya. Tak ada yang berani ataupun cukup gesit.

Awalnya tak ada yang tahu atau curiga palasik itu adalah jelmaan sang nenek. Namun, kalau tidak sedang berubah jadi palasik, mata neneknya selalu tampak merah keruh dan ketika berjalan tumitnya akan terangkat beberapa inci dari tanah. Mata sang kakek juga serupa, tapi caranya berjalan tidak berbeda dengan orang-orang pada umumnya. Sampai berusia remaja, Rambo dan para sepupunya tak mencurigai ciri-ciri yang tampak dari kakek dan nenek mereka itu sebagai keanehan. Namun, lama-kelamaan warga desa menjadi curiga. Rambo banyak mendengar gunjingan orang yang menuduh sang nenek sebagai palasik, tetapi setiap kali Rambo menanyakan hal itu pada orangtuanya, dia tidak ditanggapi atau bahkan ditegur oleh ayahnya.

Kelak Rambo mengetahui ayahnya mewarisi ilmu dari kakeknya. Sesuai tradisi, ilmu hitam diwariskan pada anak sulung laki-laki, begitu terus sampai tujuh generasi. Kemampuan menjelma palasik kudung harus diturunkan pada anak perempuan pertama. Masalahnya, keempat anak sang kakek dan sang nenek semuanya laki-laki. Jadi sang nenek berencana mewariskan ilmunya pada cucu perempuan pertama yang terlahir dari anak nomor dua. Seiring waktu, sang nenek memberitahu Rambo soal rencananya itu. Lalu Rambo memberitahu Tika—sepupunya, anak perempuan pertama dari anak kedua sang kakek dan sang nenek. Tika, yang bercita-cita menjadi guru sekolah, menolak dan memberontak pada kedua orangtuanya dan sang nenek.

Rambo lantas dihukum oleh sang kakek. Kakek bahkan melarang cucu-cucunya disekolahkan. "Gara-gara sekolah, mereka semua jadi suka berontak," kata sang kakek. Kelak Rambo dan saudara-saudara sepupunya memang putus sekolah, tapi karena keterbatasan uang dan kemauan sendiri. Setelah dewasa, kebanyakan cucu merantau. Dua orang sepupu Rambo menjadi buruh tambang di Ambon; ada yang bekerja sebagai buruh angkut di pelabuhan, pabrik pengalengan ikan, dan terminal; kakak laki-laki Rambo yang tertua merantau ke Jakarta dan menjadi preman di Tanah Abang. Ia bernama Ayub, tapi berganti nama menjadi Goliath sejak bergabung dengan kelompok preman paling berkuasa dan ditakuti. Konon Goliath juga sering dimintai jasa sebagai pembunuh bayaran, membuat penghasilannya bisa sampai puluhan bahkan ratusan juta. Rambo yakin ia juga menggunakan ilmu hitam yang diwariskan kepadanya oleh ayah mereka. Goliath mengirim uang secara teratur pada keluarga. Sang kakek sering bekata bahwa Ayub adalah cucu paling berhasil di antara semua cucunya.

Rambo sendiri pindah ke Dumoga, tak jauh dari Inobonto. Tapi ia tak kunjung mendapatkan pekerjaan. Kata Rambo, karena reputasi buruk keluarganya ternyata sampai juga ke Dumoga. Pada usia kepala tiga ia masih menganggur. Dia jatuh hati pada seorang gadis cantik berpendidikan tinggi—ibuku. Di kampung kami, menjadi mahasiswa sudah dianggap berpendidikan tinggi. Orang-orang geleng kepala tak paham mengapa gadis macam ibuku bisa kecantol preman kampung macam Rambo. Seperti yang dapat ditebak semua orang, keluarga Ibu menolak hubungan mereka. Menyadari hal ini, Rambo pun mengambil jalan pintas, bukan dengan mengajak kawin lari ibuku, melainkan dengan menghamilinya. Perempuan yang hamil di luar nikah, apalagi yang belum menyelesaikan studinya, menjadi momok keluarga. Di Dumoga, gadis itu harus segera dinikahkan untuk menutup malu dan meredam pergunjingan. Rambo sempat meminta ayahnya menjual kebun untuk persiapan perkawinan.

Ibuku kemudian memang dinikahkan, tetapi bukan dengan Rambo, melainkan dengan lelaki yang dipilihkan oleh kedua orangtuanya, lelaki yang lantas kukenal sebagai ayahku, lelaki yang disebut ‘lelaki baik-baik’ dalam pandangan masyarakat. Pada hari pernikahan mereka, Rambo mengamuk di depan gereja. Seusai upacara pemberkatan, orang-orang mengawal kedua pengantin dan keluarga kedua belah pihak karena Rambo mondar-mandir beringasan di jalan sambil mengacung-acungkan sebilah parang. Rambo tak berhasil menyakiti siapapun. Hasilnya, luka di hatinya malah semakin terasa sakit. Dia pulang ke rumah, meletakkan parang, dan menangis tersedu-sedu di pangkuan ibunya. Dia berjanji, dendamnya belum berakhir.


Aku tak bisa membayangkan seorang Rambo bisa menangis. Aku berdiri diam, menerawang kembali hidupku selama ini dan berusaha memahami kenyataan yang baru saja kuketahui. Lalu Ibu bercerita: setelah aku lahir, sesuai keinginan orangtua Ibu, aku diserahkan ke panti asuhan. Tak lama kemudian Ibu kembali hamil, tapi mengalami keguguran. Sejak itu Ibu mengalami keguguran dua kali lagi dan kondisi kesehatannya memburuk. Tiga tahun setelah menikah, rumah tangganya belum juga dikaruniai anak. Dia sempat depresi dan sering menangis tanpa alasan bila sendirian di kamar. Ibu merasa tidak berarti sebagai perempuan dan takut suaminya meninggalkannya. Setelah berdiskusi matang-matang, Ibu dan Ayah sepakat untuk mengambil diriku kembali dari panti asuhan. Karena mereka berdua masih tinggal di rumah orangtua Ibu—ibuku adalah anak bungsu dan yang terakhir menikah—Ibu dan Ayah memberitahukan rencana mereka pada orangtua Ibu untuk meminta restu. Hanya dengan pertimbangan kehadiranku mungkin dapat ‘memancing’ kehadiran anak berikut, dengan terpaksa orangtua Ibu setuju.

Sepanjang ingatanku, Kakek dan Nenek tidak pernah memanjakan aku. Sejak kecil aku telah diberitahu bahwa kehidupan itu keras, dan tiap hari aku harus bekerja sebelum boleh makan. Aku tidak pernah menerima hadiah dari kakek dan nenek, baik dari pihak Ibu maupun pihak Ayah, tidak pernah juga dari para paman dan bibi. Tak satu orang pun sepupu dekat denganku. Aku sering mendengar mereka diingatkan untuk tidak mencari gara-gara denganku. Baru hari ini peringatan ini masuk akal bagiku.

Aku hanya dekat dengan Ayah, dia suka mengajak aku bermain bola, membantuku membuat PR, menggendong aku ke kamar bila aku ketiduran di kursi, menjagaku bila aku sakit.

Ketika aku berumur delapan tahun, Ayah membawa pulang seekor anak anjing yang sangat lucu. Kunamai dia Bimbo. Bimbo memiliki bulu yang lebat berwarna kelabu-biru. Bulu di kedua kaki belakangnya berwarna putih, membuat dia tampak seperti mengenakan kaus kaki. Bulu di dahi dan ujung ekornya juga berwarna putih. Suatu hari seorang teman Ibu memberitahu kami bahwa anjing dengan bulu putih di ujung ekor adalah anjing yang bertabiat buruk. Selain sulit diatur, anjing seperti itu biasanya pemangsa unggas. Beberapa hari kemudian tetangga sebelah rumah kami marah-marah, katanya Bimbo memakan lima anak ayam miliknya. Sejak saat itu Ayah mengikat Bimbo di belakang rumah. Namun, Bimbo justru menjadi galak. Dia menggonggongi siapa saja dan menjadi senewen bila melihat ayam atau bebek melintas di depannya. Rantai pengikatnya selalu kejat meregang tiap kali dia berusaha mengejar unggas-unggas itu. Bimbo tidak pernah tenang.

Suatu hari Bimbo berhasil lepas dari rantainya dan menghilang. Tak lama waktu berselang, seorang gadis menjerit karena digigit anjing. Orang-orang berusaha mengejar anjing itu untuk dibantai. Dari ciri-ciri yang mereka sebut, kami tidak ragu anjing itu adalah Bimbo. Insting Bimbo membawanya bersembunyi ke rumah kami saat orang-orang mengejarnya. Ayah menyembunyikannya sebelum ayah gadis yang digigit datang mengamuk ke rumah kami. Ayah meminta maaf pada ayah si gadis dan bersedia membiayai pengobatannya ke puskesmas, kalau-kalau gigitan Bimbo mengandung virus rabies.

Seolah merasakan ketegangan yang dia sebabkan, hari itu Bimbo tak banyak bertingkah. Dia berdiam diri saja di dapur menunggui kami makan. Tak ada yang menghiraukannya. Setelah makan, Ayah menghampiri Bimbo di lantai dan mengusap punggung dan tengkuknya. Ayah punya kebiasaan mengajak anjing itu bicara seolah Bimbo dapat memahami kata-katanya. Namun, Ayah tidak menujukan kata-katanya pada Bimbo saat dia berkata, “Sepertinya dia ini dari keturunan yang buruk. Pantas saja waktu itu dia dijajakan di pinggir jalan bersama anak-anak anjing lain.”

“Ayah menyesal membelinya?” tanyaku.

“Tidak,” katanya.


Dua tahun lalu, waktu aku berusia sepuluh tahun, Ibu akhirnya mengandung. Kandungannya bertahan dan Ibu melahirkan bayi laki-laki yang diberi nama Satria. Pada hari kelahirannya, keluarga besar berkumpul di rumah sakit. Para paman dan bibi membawakan hadiah, para sepupu tak sabar melihat rupa si bayi, tetapi tak ada yang begitu bersemangat dan bangga seperti orangtua Ibu, seolah hari itu adalah hari besar mereka. Mereka sangat menyayangi adikku, bahkan hampir-hampir mengidolakannya. Padahal tadinya kukira mereka membenci anak-anak karena mereka tidak menyukaiku.

Sejak Satria lahir, aku mulai sering bertengkar dengan orangtua. Aku tak tahu kenapa, aku selalu jengkel dan marah pada semua orang. Aku tidak sudi bicara dengan siapapun. Aku membanting barang-barang. Aku berbicara kasar bila Ayah atau Ibu menegurku, bahkan tidak segan mengumpat di depan wajah mereka. Aku tidak bermaksud melewati batas, tapi suatu hari aku tak sengaja menjatuhkan vas kristal kesayangan Nenek. Nenek tidak mengatakan apa-apa selama beberapa saat, hanya menatapku bergantian dengan serpihan kristal di lantai. Wajah keriputnya dingin dan datar, dan suaranya sangat tenang seperti bisikan arwah saat dia menyuruhku membersihkan pecahan jambangan itu. Sementara aku melakukan pekerjaanku, Nenek berbalik menghadap Ibu dan berkata dengan nada rendah, “Apa kubilang…”

Saban kali aku berbuat nakal, Nenek selalu mengucapkan dua kata itu pada orang-orang dewasa yang ada di dekatnya. Apa kubilang! Apa kubilang! Hari ini aku tahu maksudnya: seharusnya aku tidak diambil lagi dari panti asuhan.

Dari mulut Nenek aku pertama kali mendengar ungkapan “Buah jatuh tidak jauh dari pohonnya.” Aku tumbuh mendengar ungkapan itu berkali-kali, jauh sebelum mendengarnya dalam pelajaran Bahasa Indonesia dan sebelum mengetahui apa artinya.

Pada hari Satria dibaptis, keluarga besar berkumpul di rumah untuk berpesta. Semua perhatian tertuju pada Ibu dan adikku. Hari itu aku memecahkan kaca jendela di ruang tamu. Di depan semua orang, Kakek menarik kerah bajuku dan menyeretku ke dapur sambil berteriak, “Begini jadinya kalau berasal dari pohon yang buruk!” Ketika itu kupikir maksudnya, aku anak nakal.

Sebelum hari ini, aku tidak tahu kenapa Kakek dan Nenek suka menggunakan kiasan buah dan pohon setiap kali mengatakan sesuatu yang buruk tentang diriku. Dulu aku berpikir hal itu lumrah dilakukan oleh orang dewasa. Di sekolah, aku bertanya pada teman-teman kiasan apa yang mereka terima kalau mereka menjatuhkan vas bunga atau memecahkan kaca jendela.

Biasanya aku tidak mendapat jawaban yang memuaskan, malahan lebih banyak ditertawakan. Namun, setidaknya aku jadi tahu bahwa semua anak pernah memecahkan vas bunga ibunya, menjatuhkan asbak ayahnya, merasa marah, membenci, dan bertengkar dengan orang-orang di rumahnya. Anak-anak melakukan cara apapun untuk membuat diri mereka terlihat dan terdengar. Anak-anak dari pohon manapun.


Akhirnya Rambo bercerita mengapa ia mendekam di tahanan saat itu. Tapi aku sudah tahu, seperti juga orang-orang kampung yang lain. Beberapa hari lalu dia mencoba menyerang Kakek. Tampaknya, Rambo masih ingin menuntaskan dendam pada keluarga Ibu.

Setelah peristiwa itu, Kakek memberitahu kami bahwa ia merasa dibuntuti sejak keluar dari rumah, dan ia berlindung ke rumah sebuah warga. Dari para tetangga aku mendengar bahwa orang-orang balik menyerang Rambo. Dia dikeroyok sampai babak belur lalu dibawa ke kantor Polsek, tempat kini aku dan Ibu menemuinya.

Rambo mendekat dan menyentuh kepalaku dengan canggung. Bisa kurasakan luapan emosi di wajahnya. Aku bertanya-tanya apakah dia telah menanti-nantikan saat ini sejak lama, apakah hari ini begitu penting baginya. Aku tak yakin dia akan pernah bisa menjadi seorang ayah bagiku dan aku akan pernah bisa menjadi seorang anak baginya, tapi aku mesti menerima kenyataan dia adalah ayah kandungku.

Ibu menarikku menjauh darinya, dan memintaku mendahuluinya keluar. Aku menurut, tapi lalu berhenti di lorong yang menghubungkan tempat sel berada dan kantor. Aku mendengar ibu berkata: “Saya harap kamu puas, dan setelah pertemuan ini kamu tidak akan lagi mencoba menyakiti keluarga saya.” Rambo tidak menyahut.

Dalam perjalanan kembali ke rumah, aku terus menunduk dan tidak bicara. Sambil menatap aspal yang berkilau dan daun-daun mati yang basah, aku berpikir tentang betapa banyak hal yang tidak kuketahui tentang diriku, latar belakangku, dan manusia pada umumnya. Aku merasa sepuluh tahun lebih tua.


© Cicilia Oday.

CICILIA ODAY was born in North Sulawesi, 1989. Her short story Solilokui Bunga Kemboja was included in Best Kompas Stories 2010. In 2014 she was admitted to Jakarta Arts Council’s Novel-Writing Academy.

DWIPUTRI PERTIWI is an essayist and poet currently based in Jakarta, Indonesia. In 2014, she self-published her first poetry collection entitled Hiatus. Her writings have also been published by the Whiteboard Journal and the Murmur Journal. Readers can also find her works at