OVERNIGHT #10: Cigarette (1)

“You lied to me.”

I was surprised that morning. It was Sunday. It supposed to be a lazy day for two of us. We had plan to go to Da Lat. That’s why we prepared our stuff a night before. So when you woke up, we just need to find breakfast before heading to the bus station and catch a bus. We planned a four days break from each of our works and get some time together.

But now, she started our morning with high tones filled with anger and disappointment. I did not know what happened to her. Was hoping that she did not got a bad dream.

“Lied to you? Come on. I did not lied to you.” That was a stupid line to be honest. But, that was the best one I thought will able to cool her down. Fight with your partner should be on the last of your to-do list.

“I found a box of cigarette in your jeans pocket. You told me that you quit smoking this damn thing. You totally a very good liar. You’ve been lying to me all these years. It’s been years and you still keep smoking behind my back.”

“No, it wasn’t mine.”

“Good to know that you still able to lied before me. Congratulation. You just made me questioning why I fell into a liar like you.” She walked away and left me behind.

We canceled our trip and never made another one in the future.

* * *

“Why you smoke?”

She looked me with curious face. It’s funny to know that someone were waiting for your answer over a small thing that never been in your thoughts for many years. She did not know that I forgot my reason started smoking years ago.

It was my early year at the college when I started to lit a cigarette.

I was having a hard time adjusting myself with new life as student. I left home and decided to stay far away from my family. Disconnected myself simply because I shared disagreement with my old man. We both were picturing different future of what I should become.

He wanted me to be a political scientist while I was having dream of being a travel-journo. Someone who could travel and visited different places, then shared the experiences with unknown people through my writings. Being a political scientist for sure was boring for a young me. I was confidence enough that I had enough ability to be a writer. I just need to find an environment that suited and will help me to grow. Learning the techniques through formal educational was the only option for me.

He made me to be who I was and am now, regardless that he never realized it.

When I was a kid, he took me to visits printing places. It was early morning and I need to wake up early as five to be with him. He rode the only motorbike he had, then after those visits we will ended having breakfast together. Just two of us. He will explain to me about how important magazine and how writings can be very powerful.

His thoughts grew quietly within me.

I started my writing during my early year in junior high. I wrote a short story and submitted it to the “wall magazine” run by seniors. I trained my own self silently by reading all the magazines or newspapers that he brought back home. I did it behind his back because it was clear that he did not wanted any of his children to follow his footsteps.

During her time as senior high student, my big sister also wrote some fictional story in her book and received no support from him. With my younger sister, we both were her silent readers. To this day, I still remember clearly the story. It was fantastic.

He made it clear that writing wont bring a good life in the future. He was having a hard time and sees that similar fate will fell upon those who willing to take the same path. Feeding your family as low government officer was never easy. He wanted us to have a brighter and better life than his. So he thought it should be something that will not related with writings activity.

I submitted my first article to a local newspaper and was published with no payment. But it was more than enough for me. To see your name written in the newspaper while you haven’t turned 17 years old was more than enough.

At least, I got credit from my mates, and they were the one who introduced me to wage-labor of writing.

Few months after got published, I started my life as a ghost writer for rich students who couldn’t write their own papers. Money started to fill my pocket and I was sure that I will have a good life with my own. So, I decided to walked away from home and rent a boarding room. A space where I can do my work and have a private life as an adult.

He disagreed with it. But I kept moving forward.

I bought a Chairil Anwar and Che Gueveara posters and put those up in my wall. Both are picturing a guy who looks so mature, stylish and heroic. I am not really sure if these posters triggered me to be a smoker. But it did playing a role within it.

Smoking lifted my confidence.

Of course I was having problem with self-confidence. I came from a minority group in the province with dark brown skin. We occupied the northernmost islands in the country where our men are well known as fisherfolks or unskilled labor with low education who normally working at the harbors as porters. Our women commonly working as maid for rich families. Our people living in the north part of the city, considered as slum and poor area compared to the south.

My family is not rich but my father worked his best to send three of us to college.

It was a risky decisions for many others from our community. Sending your children to university is wasting money and vulnerable investment tied with failures. We’ve seen many cases before. Numbers of youth failed to finished their studies for many reasons.

That time, one can count with fingers how many youth from our ethnic group who were able to study at the university level. In my college, it was only me from my ethnic group out of more than a thousand students. I had another four fellows who came from the same regency but only two of us who were renting boarding room. The others had to stay with their relatives.

I was staying with my family during my first semester before I voted away months later.