Why We Race to The Moon and Beyond

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For the team behind Falcon Heavy
Thank you for giving humanity a great step forward

This is hell. If this is not hell, I don’t know what is.

We should have arrived at Aislinn’s cousin’s rehearsal dinner on time if I hadn’t begged Aislinn to accompany me watch the sun set at the hill nearby before heading there. The rehearsal is going to be held by the beach at 8 pm and now is 7 pm and we are nowhere near the beach at all.

Luck is not around us, I know that. We ran out of gas, right now, in the middle of the road surrounded by never ending rice fields. There is no one driving on this long road other than us. There is no street light at all. Phone signal? Oh you wish! We’re literally in the middle of nowhere! We have nobody to run to! We are surrounded by complete darkness with a faint hint of the moonlight!

“I’m so so so soooo sorry, Aislinn. Had I listened to you, we wouldn’t be stuck here. Had I listened to you, we could’ve had proper dinner for tonight,” I kneel in front of her who sits on the car hood. I bury my face on her lap, too ashamed to look at her face. “I know you love Sara so much and I’m sorry to make you miss her wedding rehearsal. I should be less selfish, I know that now.”

Aislinn doesn’t answer me right away. Instead, she runs her fingers through my hair and hugs me on my head. “I’m a little pissed, but I’m alright. Thank you for apologizing, I respect that,” she says as she caresses me, “Come here.”

She moves like an inch to make space for me. I come up and sit next to her. She reclines and I follow. She’s not hitting me at all, so I think it is safe to say that she’s not mad at me right now.

From below, I can see above us lie a thousand stars, tiny dim dots on the night sky. The moon stands alone, but being that way doesn’t stop it from being the biggest and the brightest among all. Yet Aislinn and I are still surrounded by darkness; the moon and its troops don’t help.

“Do you know that I am actually glad we can’t make it to the rehearsal dinner?” she says abruptly.

“Huh? I don’t know that you’re glad. Instead, I thought you’ll be mad if we don’t make it on time.”

“Mmm not really. I just want to be there for her, but I’m currently not in the mood to meet my whole relatives,” she sighs. “Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but I’m just not ready.”

“Not ready for what?”

“Not ready for their interrogative questions. As soon as we arrive there, distant relative will ask us where’s our child, why haven’t we had one, what are we up to right now, what have we achieved all these years, and else,” she rants, “I’m just so done with those kind of questions. They compare their happiness level to our lives and see at what stage are we in right now. If we’re below what they call as ‘the happy stage’, they’ll tell us what to do even if we’re not eager to reach it!”

“So, you’re fed up with what people think as life standards or basic life goals?”

“Yes, thank you very much for the conclusion!” she shouts. Nobody is around anyway, so that’s okay. “I hate it when they ask questions like that.. I hate it even more if what they ask is what I want and what I haven’t been able to achieve.”

I lie still next to her. She’s right. This world is full of people who compare one and another continuously, endlessly. They judge people’s life not based on what the person have achieved, they judge people by what they haven’t achieved.

“I haven’t done it to you, have I?” I asked. “I don’t wanna be hated by you. You’re the last person I want to hate me.”

She turns at me, her hazel eyes gleamed at me, “No, you haven’t. So far, you’re the person who encouraged me the most.”

Thank God.

“Peter, I think now I know why people are eager to start a new life outside Earth. Remember Aurora from the film Passengers? I think now I feel what she feels. Life on Earth is exhausting, and sometimes we just want to leave it all behind to live on the great unknown.”

“So, say you have a ticket to board on Aurora’s spaceship Avalon, will you still board and leave me here all alone?” I asks.

“No, NO, of course not! I’ll bring you with me, and if I can’t, I won’t go!” she pouted.

…so she chooses me above all possibility, above all chance for her own happiness? Does that mean I’m the one who give her the utmost joy? If she thinks so… I must offer her what she trusts me with.

“Say, Aislinn, after we attend Sara’s wedding tomorrow, after we land back home, will you go on an adventure with me? We can take a break from our jobs for six months and go travel to some places. I can’t promise you five-star hotels on our journey and I can’t promise you that we’ll travel the world right away, but I can promise you that we’ll be happy. We can taste the life we never have ’till now, and if we enjoy it, after some considerations in the future, maybe we’ll shift our life,” I say. “We can redefine happy. How? Do you want to give it a shot with me?”

She looks down, “Do I give you another problem to think of? I feel so selfish just by wanting that to happen.”

“No, you don’t! I think what you say is right! What’s the point of living in the city, chasing a decent life, and by decent is what I mean as what people think decent is, if we get stressed eventually? We need to spice our life up. What do you say?”

“If that doesn’t give us problem, then I think it’s a yes from me,” she says. “Thank you for bearing with me.”

“I have promised to live by you for the rest of my life, haven’t I?”

Above the car hood she then snugs to me. “You know what? Being here, stuck in the middle of nowhere with you is fun. I like this.”

“Tonight is not too hellish then?” I asks.

“Yeah. I think I need an escape from everyday routines every once in a while. And to think about it again, I think all the escape I need is you.”

“So, we’re each others’ spaceship?”

“Yeah, definitely.”

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What We Have But They Don’t

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“Aislinn, what makes us work?”

I felt some weight shifted from the side of my body. Aislinn pulled herself, making us seemed like two individuals sitting properly on a couch after how-many-hours-only-God-could-count spending the rest of the Sunday being two individuals clasped in one wrapped by a thick white duvet, looking like a potato made of snow. “Huh?”

“What makes us work?” I repeated.

“I cannot see where this conversation is going,” she said blatantly. I don’t blame her. My random question might have distracted her focus from solving Tommy and Tuppence’s case narrated by Agatha Christie inside the thin N or M novel she had on hand.

“We were once complete strangers, but now look at us! We’re the dynamic duo, two relationship virtuoso.” I saw her smile broadened a little. “So, I was wondering, what is the thing between us that makes us work?”

Aislinn put her book down and she then gazed at the ceilings. Her eyesight might be limited by white-painted walls around us, but I exactly know that her mind was wandering freely to the edge of the universe, seeking for answers. That’s just the way she is, a deep thinker, a great companion slash lover.

“Is it our similarities?” I asked again. “I know that we’re not so much alike, but is it those small similarities that makes us work?”

She then turned at me. Her eyes were locked at mine.. and I was lost. I was lost at her warm almond eyes. I know that ‘similarity’ was not the answer we were looking because she was diving to the deepest part of me by looking into my eye. She often did that, as if my eyes held all the answer she needed.

“I know what makes us work.” Funnily, we both said those exact words at the same time.

“What do you think it is?” she asked quickly.

“I think we have big enough hearts to understand each other. We digest information from each other thoroughly before we reply.. and I guess that’s why we’re able to understand each other well enough.”

“Hmm, similar,” she said. “I think we work because we listen. Honestly, I really appreciate it whenever you stop looking at your phone every time I called your name. It might be something very simple, but it means a lot to me. It’s a proof that you’re a good listener, and that’s all I need.”

“Oh, I just don’t want you to take my phone away just because you’re mad at me for gaming all the time,” I said. Oh, teasing her was always fun!

“If that’s so, you’re such an arse!” she sneered, sticking her tongue out at me. “But really, I think people nowadays should stop taking public speaking classes and start taking public listening classes instead, if there is one. We always want to be heard ’till we forget to listen. We humans are too selfish, aren’t we?!”

She started ranting for like a whole five minutes, condemning humanity. That’s one of the thing I like about her: she’s fully aware of anyone’s flaws (including hers) and she’s eager to mend it. She is like a program which automatically knows when to hit the refresh button.

“You know what, Aislinn?”

“Hmm?”

“I really appreciate it when you answer my silly questions seriously,” I finally said. Really, I’m truly grateful for it. Finding someone who would listen to your dorky dreams or silly stories is like seeking for a needle on a haystack. It’s hard, nearly impossible. Dear Good Gracious God, what have I done that makes me deserve her? “Thank you, love.”

She didn’t reply, but what she did next was enough to light my heart the whole evening. Our random Sunday discussion ended with her bright smile addressed to me.

Yes, to me.

Parts of Me Were Made by You

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“Hey, what are you thinking?” said the girl who wore long white dress with laces.

“Oh. Um… hey?” answered the girl who wore long black velvet dress. “Right before you came, I was thinking about how gorgeous this dress fits me.”

“You look so beautiful in that dress. I’ve always known that you would be beautiful if you made time to take care of yourself, but I’ve never thought that you will be this beautiful.”

The girl who wore long black velvet dress shrugged. Her palms were sweaty. “Thank you, I guess. Well, I won’t be this beautiful if you hadn’t give me this dress of yours. So, thank you.”

“You’re welcome, sister,” she said with her sweet signature smile. Not too broad, but enough to comfort the disturbed hearts of those who get the chance to witness it.

“I was also thinking about you, you know? I wasn’t expecting to receive this dress this soon. I wasn’t expecting at all.”

“Well, life is full of surprises, I think you already know.”

“Yeah, I do.” But this bitter surprise? I hate it.

“Besides about this dress-and my other fashion items that no longer suits me-I gave you, what thing about me are you thinking of?”

“I was also thinking about your profession. I believe that you’re going to be one hell of a human’s-mind-and-heart healer. You’re so kind and sincere, I believe lots of people will be delighted to have someone like you to talk to.”

“That’s very nice of you to say,” she blushed. “I’ve never known that you’re such a romantic person.”

“We don’t really know each other well, do we? I didn’t really recognize your age until today, I don’t know your future plans, I don’t know whether you have someone on your mind or not. I didn’t even know that you left home for that final test for months!”

“Fair, then,” she said with a nod of agreement. “But you know why I chose to devote my self in the field I studied, right?”

“Sure! I know your reason. I also know the reason why your blog’s background is black, and the origin of your blog’s name. Believe it or not, I still remember that you once want to live in Paris, Marseille, and Lyon.”

Her eyes brightened. “You do know me, after all!”

“Although we barely speak heart-to-heart, I’m your little sister, after all,” she let a downcast smile slipped through her lips.

“You are, and you will always be.”

They stared at each other for a moment. Both drowned in their own waves of emotion; joy, excitement, sorrow… all mixed in one and couldn’t be distinguished. Those emotions blended together and one couldn’t show up alone without bringing the others. They became a new kind of emotion nobody ever named.

The girl who wore long black velvet dress broke the silence. “I love you, you know. I adore you. I admire you. I’m grateful for having a great sister like you.” She started sobbing. “And I’m sorry that we rarely speak to each other, mostly because we rarely make time to meet each other. Sorry for being so distant. Sorry for taking you for granted all these years.”

“Why do you tell me all these now?”

“It’s better late than never. I know that this is very late, but I just wanted you to know.”

“Without you being this blue today, I already know. Thank you for giving me things I need instead of giving me things I want,” she said as she was about to leave. “Just promise me one thing, will you? Take care of yourself. Be bold. Say ‘I love you’ although it makes things awkward. I don’t want you to have this kind of conversation with other people. Let me be the last person you have this kind of conversation with.”

A pause. The girl who wore long black velvet dress couldn’t think of a proper goodbye since they had never had say a proper hello to each other. She hadn’t finished saying hello. And, so, she closed her eyes. She imagined reaching her sister in her arms, hugging her for the first and last time. I will, I promise. Thank you, I love you, and see you later, she whispered in her sister’s ear. She still hold her for another minute and when she was ready, she opened her eyes. Her sister had gone from her sight.

But never from her heart.

in memoriam, seven months later
so that it won’t happen again

and for those who I often talks to
I hope you all realize that I adore you
without me having to tell you

Separate Ways

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“Hey! Long time no see!” he shouted. From afar, I saw him waving and quick-walking toward me.

“Hey! Oh my God, how long have it been?” I said, still surprised. He seemed different. His hair had grown longer, his smile was broader than the last time I saw him. However, he was still the same person as the one I met three years ago. The same quirky funny tall guy.

“Umm.. was it… wait… umm… oh God, I can’t remember! It must’ve been such a long time ago, wasn’t it?” He sounded a little apologetic, probably for not remembering that tiny detail. However, I wasn’t even mad; I did forget too.

“Yeah, it was.” I know, I’m terrible at small talks.

Both of us still stood in the middle of the crowd, watching the star of the show as it entertained those party-goers.

Suddenly, with a cup of whatever he had in his hand, he turned toward me and said, “Anyway, from now on, it will be longer, isn’t it?”

“What?”

“Us. All of us. We won’t meet in a very long time, are we? We’ll be going on our separate ways.”

And that’s all it takes to break my inner layer of walls down. He’s right. That day might be the last day I saw him for a very long time. That day might be the last day I saw anyone, forever. Who knows.

“I’m going to quote Charles Dickens: is it better to have had a good thing and lost it, or never to have had it?” Kinda rhetorical, I just wanted to know how he react to it.

“Sometimes it is better to be lonely since the beginning than to be lonely twice. But… I don’t know. Hadn’t I have the chance to be a part of this, whatever this is-life maybe?-, I wouldn’t have met her, the love of my life, my wive,” he pointed her, the gorgeous and perky soon-to-be-ex roommate of mine. “So, maybe this is not too bad?”

I shrugged, “I think it is better to be lonely since the beginning. Being left alone sucks, you know? I love leaving waaay better than being left.”

“Hey, I know you’re upset to have her moving out to move in with me and I know you hate this kind of goodbye-apartment shindig, but let me tell you this: people will always come and go, you can’t have control on it. However, people with great distance between them can still keep in touch as long as they care for each other. The deal is not to go on an extra mile in keeping touch with everybody; the deal is to get some people who will also reach to you,” he said, lecturing me in the middle of this crowd, “And… we will always reach to you, you know that. The awful feeling of being left sometimes worth the experience.”

His answer still couldn’t comfort me as I know that people will also change as time goes by. Soon they will forget me and I will forget them too. Human relationship is nothing more than about having people to talk to for a while and then loosing them for the rest of our lives.

But maybe he had a point. Maybe all of this is worth the experience.

“Thank you, Tyler. Love Tanya for me, will you?”

“Sure, Aislinn, I will. See you later?”

“See you later, someday.”

Kalau Hujan

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kalau hujan tak lagi ragu-ragu
jatuh sajalah di jalan setapak itu
basahi bebatuan yang kering
timpa ia dengan nada berdenting

kalau hujan telah bijaksana
hampiri pohon yang berbunga
barangkali ia masih tersenyum
menunggu hujan yang membuatnya ranum

kalau hujan tak perlu lagi menanti
segeralah ia bertamu pada bumi
sampaikan rindu yang telah tersimpan lama
bagi bunga yang berbahagia karenanya

**
Yogyakarta, 21 September 2016
sebuah puisi balasan terhadap “Hujan Bulan Juni” karya Sapardi Djoko Damono

Arranging A Bouquet

Processed with VSCO with e5 preset

“What is love to you?”

I once asked that question to Aislinn out of the blue several weeks before I proposed her. Her sudden facial expression was priceless: amazed yet somehow confused. I didn’t blame her as my question was kinda cheesy that day.

Aislinn put her favorite ice cream sundae down next to her and she gazed at the horizon. The thick and humid November wind blew her hair towards the land as we were sitting facing the sea. She went silent for a while, probably arranging words inside her head. And I was there, enjoying my vanilla ice cream sundae.

Several spoons of ice cream later, Aislinn answered my question. “Instead of giving you a detailed and structured definition of what love means to me, I’ll tell you a story. Well, not really a story, but you’ll get the point!”

“Okay.”

“So, I got this story from my first visit to a flower shop in the suburbs. You must notice that I had never bought a flower before because I didn’t really get the point of buying one. I mean, buying flowers are a waste of money although I’d love to get one,” she said. “Well, however, that evening was different. I had to visit my grandma at the hospital and it was raining cats and dogs that time. My family had already reached the hospital and I’m the one who was still outside. They forgot to bring something for grandma, and so they told me to buy a flower on the way there.”

“I found a small tidy flower shop on my way to the hospital. The place was so nice. Its wooden walls were painted sky blue and it smelled so good. I entered that shop to find an old man sitting on a tall wooden chair with his back hunched. By the time I entered that shop, he was arranging a bouquet-which I thought was for a wedding as it was so gigantic. He was so focused that I was pretty sure he didn’t notice me coming.”

“I approached him and asked him whether he could help me or not. I told him that I knew nothing about flowers and I really need his help to arrange one for grandma. He was really nice and gallant. Within a minute, he picked some pink roses. He asked me whether I’m okay with his choice or not. After I told him I’m totally fine with his choice, he headed back to his work desk.”

I’m not really sure where her story was going, but okay, for her, I’d love to stay longer even if it just for listening her silliest dorkiest stories.

“Before I saw him arranging a bouquet, I always thought that arranging a bouquet was a piece of cake. I thought that everyone can do it. I mean, what’s hard about picking a flower and sticking it together with a ribbon?” she said rhetorically. I could see her eyes was full of excitement like what a professional storyteller has. “But then, the magic happened. I saw him gently cutting thorns from those pink roses. He cut those thorns with full concentration. When he was done, he arranged those roses and cut the stems to adjust the height. He made the stem on the center of the bouquet a little longer so it appeared a little higher. He made sure the leaves that were left on the stem were still fresh and perfectly arranged. After he was done with the roses, he took a strap of pink ribbon and tied the roses with it. He looked at it for a while before giving the bouquet to me. That stare he gave to the flower was like the stare of a mother to her newborn baby, you know, so full of love.”

Aislinn’s tone was telling me that her story was over, yet I hadn’t understand the moral value of the story. “And so?” I asked.

“So, I finally realize that to love is like being a florist. You arrange things so beautifully. You take care of it with your heart. You put all your effort on that beautiful thing to maintain it. However, you must be ready to let it go. You cannot hold it forever. At a particular time you never know when, you must let it go,” she said.

“Does that mean that you’ll let go everyone you love?”

She frowned at me. “Of course not. I’m a selfish florist, I’ll keep those bouquets I have arranged by heart. I’ll be ready to let my bouquets go only when they died or are better off without me,” she answered. “Don’t get me wrong, I really love keeping bouquets. However, if I’m bad for it, I’ll let it go so it has a better caregiver.”

The Break

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In every long-lasting relationships, there must be a break between the people in it. Long time lover sometimes needs time to figure things he or she can’t figure when his or her lover is around. Insecurity are being built by the distance between them. Trust to each other is being tested by vicious prejudices our own mind creates. The break is an unavoidable phase which every relation must go through just to face two choices in the end of the journey: stop or continue.

I and Aislinn had one, and it was because of me.

See, I’m not really good at maintaining a relationship with anyone because simply I’m an introvert who had little experiences in dating. I tend to keep things in mind rather to boast it around. I’m quite shy too. Even though I had known Aislinn for 9 months, sometimes I was still running out of words to say to her. Not only because she’s too breathtaking, but also because I was more likely to enjoy the moment without saying anything.

What I thought as my regular habit went like a boomerang to me one day.

In the midst of June 2007, Aislinn asked me to be her company when attending Tanya and Tyler’s wedding. Indeed, it was a magnificent wedding held on a rooftop in one of New York City’s skyscraper. The food was delicious, the decoration was elegant; it was quite perfect. I thought that day was perfect too because my appearance at Tanya and Tyler’s wedding was a sign that Aislinn trusted me and I was accepted in Aislinn’s inner circle. For a moment, I felt relieved.

However, that peaceful feeling in my heart didn’t last long. Well, as an optimistic perky girl, Aislinn was surely standing among the crowd behind Tanya when she threw her bouquet. Luckily for her, she got it. I could see from afar her lips turned into a bright smile. Her eyes were fulfilled with hopes a myth had given. She’s expecting a serious relationship; a marriage.

I, as someone who had just lost my job six months ago, wasn’t sure to continue what I and Aislinn had. I’m not ready to start a serious relationship. I barely can afford living for my self, how was I supposed to afford a living for another human being? I mean, love is not enough to start a serious relationship! I won’t be a hypocrite, although money is not everything, money is important to keep us (and a relationship) alive.

Since that day, I started avoiding Aislinn. I let her calls fell into my voicemail, I told her I was busy pursuing a decent living (which was true). I focus on my career and let my love life crumbled. Aislinn was asking tons of questions, of course. She texted, called, and mailed me; she even sent Tanya to my apartment to set things straight. However, I remained silent. I love her, but I didn’t want to spoil her. Plus, I didn’t know what to say.

On one fine day on September 2007, I walked home from my second workplace (yes, I had to have two small jobs to keep my self alive) through Central Park. I’m not sure why, well, maybe because of the universe or simply because of a nostalgic feeling that I suddenly felt, I went through the place where I first met Aislinn.

The sun was on the verge of setting, but I could still see things. My eyesight was still normal, but I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: Aislinn, sitting alone on a bench where an old couple sat when we met. She was leaning backwards while staring into the void.

I was still avoiding her, but I couldn’t help saying, “Aislinn?”

In a second, Aislinn turned her sight to me. I’m not sure how should I describe Aislinn that moment, but all I could get from her was a surprised look. “Wow, the universe is really on my side,” she said.

“I’m sorry, did I interrupted you?” I asked, hoping she would say yes so I could leave immediately and regret this decision my whole life. “If yes, I’ll go.”

I thought she would be angry at me for abandoning her for almost three months. Well, she deserved to slap me in the face and yelled at me; I even expected that (that’s why I hoped she say yes to my question). Surprisingly, Aislinn stood and hugged me. “Are you okay? I’m so worried.”

And I was standing there like a stupid pole being hugged my the world’s warmest hug giver. Her red hair below me smelled like honey and cinnamon; the scent that had been too familiar to me.

“Wait, why aren’t you mad at me?” I asked.

Aislinn released her hug and said, “What for?”

“For abandoning you! For not picking up your calls and replying your messages!”

She shrugged, “I’m pretty sure you know what you were doing.”

What?! I didn’t even know what I was doing!

“Well, yes, I’m quite mad at you for not letting me know what happened,” she said. “However, since the beginning, I know that there must be something in your mind that you didn’t want to share. I thought that I could help, but your rejection of me was clearly a sign that you didn’t trust me. So, I get it.”

“But, why don’t you slap me or yelled at me? I made you mad.” Honestly, I was so surprised by her reaction. She never failed to surprise me.

Aislinn shook her head, “Peter, we are adults. Real adults don’t do that.”

She left me speechless. Neither I nor her talked. All I can hear was just the wind of Central Park in September and my own heartbeat.

“So, I understand if you still need time to be alone. I’ll wait for you.” she finally said.

The next thing she said gave me two opposite things: chills and reassurance. The next thing she said made me feel like a dumb trash who had just realized that communication is the key to every relation. The next thing she said made me realize that her patience was what made her worth everything.

The next thing she said was “However, next time you do this to me, if there’s even a next time, at least tell me what you’re up to. I don’t need details, I just need to know what you are doing so I can step out of your way. I need a reason to hold on. Because, Peter, having something to hold on is always better than guessing what’s in other people’s mind.”

She gave me a firm squeeze on my arm and then left.