“No flower for me?” She looked disappointed but I stand still.
“Every woman received a flower from their man. My father gave my Mom a flower. My best friend also got a flower from his man. Pity me. Having you but still no flower in this important day.”
She opened the food boxes. We both are so busy that day. So, no time for cooking. I asked her to stop by and buy foods from the restaurant nearby our place. A pork meat with extra chili for me and she can decided by her own what kind of food she wanted for her lunch.
“You know why people handing flowers today?”
“So, why you did not buy for me a flower?”
OK. That’s enough, I thought. Could stand no more with this kind of repetitive question on why I deliberately did not bought a flower. That day, was a Women International Day. It supposed to be a day remembering women struggle for liberation against inequality and injustice under capitalism.
But in Vietnam, Women International Day turns to be a massive national joke. It lost the meanings and basic philosophy. For me, respecting women does not related with buying flower for the one that I love in March 8 each single year. I firmly do not believe that women all over Vietnam are liberated and having equal position with men. Despite the claim that Vietnam is socialist country, does not literally means that all women here are socialists.
“But it just a flower. I wanted you to get for me a flower.”
“I am sorry. I will buy a flower for you next time when the time comes.” I lied. I never bought for her a flower during our time together. For almost half decade, no flower in Women International Day or any day.
* * *
“Will you changed your mind if I say no? Will you listen to me If I disagree with your decision? No. You wont changed anything. All my concerns will never be put into your consideration.”
She was angry. It’s normal. I decided to go back to Indonesia and work over there. There is an NGO based in Jakarta who actively working with indigenous people in West Papua. They said, I can join and helping them with research. Going back and working with West Papuan will bring me dual benefits. I can exercise my skill and participate with the political struggle at the same time.
“You told me for many times that you wont risk yourself and stay away from politics. You said that you will have a normal life, like other people. Staying here and getting old with me. Raise our children and teach them all of our values. You gave me your words.”
I did not say anything. Another word from me will only hurt her more.
“How about our plan to open a small tourism business? How about your promises to take me to visit different places that you went before? How about your plan to put me and our relationship above your political choices?”
She exploded that evening. She was so angry and decided to sleep in silence. No hugs, no words, nothing. She upset with the fact that I took an important decision without consulting it first. As a couple, I knew I’ve made a mistake. But making that choice was never easy for me.
They fired me and I became jobless in foreign country, far away from home.They kicked me out simply because I ignored and abandoned their rule to stay away from a conflict facing by the community. For them, working as researcher should be independent and without political consciousness. Something that I cant follow. Earning money by studying the community and pretending that I shared no common stance with them? Bullshit!
So, I went to take risk.
But, one thing that missed from my previous calculation was her. I did not expect that she will react in very different way than I thought. I was thinking that I will get her full support and she will understand that it’s not easy, but I need to set things right.
I can hear she was crying quietly. But I cant see her face and I did nothing. I knew she need time to adjust herself. I made a decision and I wont step back. I was hoping that the next morning she will be OK and tell me that everything gonna be alright.
I was wrong. She never made it.
* * *
“I read something about what happening now in West Papua. It seems very dangerous. Military are arresting people all over the region. Are you OK there?”
I smiled. She worried about me. Her message was the first one that I read when we arrived in the city. We just finished a month work of participatory mapping for the indigenous people without knowing that a week ago, more than a thousand West Papuan were arrested by the Indonesia Police Force. Staging peace rally all over Papua, demanding for rights to self determination.
Rallies were met with mass arrest is not something new in West Papua. Particularly in Joko Widodo presidential term. Arresting more than a thousand people within a single day is record breaking. His supporters need to lauds it.
“I am fine. Nothing to be worry here. I am Indonesian, so it lot way better for me. Daily killings, torture and repression are being imposed against West Papuan, and not Malays like us.”
“Good to know about it. Do not forget to ask for a week holiday from your office. Remember, we will go to Da Lat. I booked a place for us. I am waiting for you here.”
“I will.” That was another broken promise. I did not showed up. Few days after, I found myself drowned with another work in West Papua.
* * *
“You said that it will be only for two years. After that, you will move here and restarted everything with me. But it seems that you will not ever leave Indonesia ever again.” Her eyes looked angry, again.
“Ah, I know. It’s not Indonesia. It’s West Papua. You are not going to leave West Papua. You will keep risking your life and everything around you just to be part of your obsession about freedom movement and bla… bla… bla…”
“Fine. Thank you for fooled me around for two years waiting for you to come here. Next time, be brave with yourself. Do not let someone waiting for you in the dark. It’s unfair, Andre.”
I was trying to type a reply before realized that she just blocked me.