THE DEPRESSED PERSON

By David Foster Wallace

HARPER’S MAGAZINE/JANUARY 1998

 

The depressed person was in terrible and unceasing emotional pain, and the impossibility of sharing or articulating this pain was itself a component of the pain and a contributing factor in its essential horror.

Despairing, then, of describing the emotional pain itself, the depressed person hoped at least to be able to express something of its context—its shape and texture, as it were—by recounting circumstances related to its etiology. The depressed person’s parents, for example, who had divorced when she was a child, had used her as a pawn in the sick games they played, as in when the depressed person had required orthodonture and each parent had claimed—not without some cause, the depressed person always inserted, given the Medicean legal ambiguities of the divorce settlement—that the other should pay for it. Both parents were well-off, and each had privately expressed to the depressed person a willingness, if push came to shove, to bite the bullet and pay, explaining that it was a matter not of money or dentition but of “principle”. And the depressed person always took care, when as an adult she attempted to describe to a supportive friend the venomous struggle over the cost of her orthodonture and that struggle’s legacy of emotional pain for her, to concede that it may well truly have appeared to each parent to have been, in fact, a matter of “principle”, though unfortunately not a “principle” that took into account their daughter’s feelings at receiving the emotional message that scoring petty points off each other was more important to her parents than her own maxillofacial health and thus constituted, if considered from a certain perspective, a form of neglect or abandonment or even outright abuse, an abuse clearly connected—here she nearly always inserted that her therapist concurred with this assessment—to the bottomless, chronic adult despair she suffered every day and felt hopelessly trapped in.

The approximately half-dozen friends whom her therapist—who had earned both a terminal graduate degree and a medical degree—referred to as the depressed person’s Support System tended to be either female acquaintances from childhood or else girls she had roomed with at various stages of her school career, nurturing and comparatively undamaged women who now lived in all manner of different cities and whom the depressed person often had not laid eyes on in years and years, and whom she called late in the evening, long-distance, for badly needed sharing and support and just a few well-chosen words to help her get some realistic perspective on the day’s despair and get centered and gather together the strength to fight through the emotional agony of the next day, and to whom, when she telephoned, the depressed person always apologized for dragging them down or coming off as boring or self-pitying or repellent or taking them away from their active, vibrant, largely pain-free long-distance lives. She was, in addition, also always extremenly careful to share with the friends in her Support System her belief that it whould be whiny and pathetic to play what she derisively called the “Blame Game” and blame her constant and indescribable adult pain on her parents’ traumatic divorce or their cynical use of her. Her parents had, after all—as her therapist had helped the depressed person to see—done the very best they could do with the emotional resources they’s had at the time. And she had, the depressed person always inserted, laughing weakly, eventually gotten the orthodonture she’d needed. The former acquaintances and classmates who composed her Support System often told the depressed person that they just wished she could be a little less hard on herself, to which the depressed person responded by bursting involuntarily into tears and telling them that she knew all too well that she was one of those dreaded types of everyone’s grim acquaintance who call at inconvenient times and just go on and on about themselves. The depressed person said that she wass all too excruciatingly aware of what a joyless burden she was, and during the calls she always made it a point to express the enormous gratitude she felt at having a friend she could call and get nurtuing and support from, however briefly, before the demands of that friend’s full, joyful, active life took understandable precedence and required her (i.e., the friend) to get off the telephone.

The feelings of shame and inadequacy the depressed person experienced about calling members of her Support System long-distance late at night and burdening them with her clumsy attempts to describe at least the contextual texture of her emotional agony were an issue on which she and her therapist were currently doing a great deal of work in their time together. The depressed person confessed that when whatever supportive friend she was sharing with finally confessed that she (i.e., the friend) was dreadfully sorry but there was no helping it she absolutely had to get off the telephone, and had verbally detached the depressed person’s needy fingers from her pantcuff and returned to the demands of her full, vibrant long-distance life, the depressed person always sat there listening to the empty apian drone of the dial tone feeling even more isolated and inadequate and unempathized-with than she had before she’d called. The depressed person confessed to her therapist that when she reached out long-distance to a member of her Support System she almost always imagined that she could detect, in the friend’s increasingly long silences and/or repetitions of encouraging clichés, the boredom and abstract guilt people always feel when someone is clinging to them and being a joyless burden. The depressed person confessed that she could well imagine each “friend” wincing now when the telephone rang late at night, or during the conversation looking impatiently at the clock or directing silent gestures and facial expressions communicating her boredom and frustration and helpless entrapment to all the other people in the room with her, the expressive gestures becoming more desperate and extreme as the depressed person went on and on and on. The depressed person’s therapist’s most noticeable unconscious personal habit or tic consisted of placing the tips of all her fingers together in her lap and manipulating them idly as she listened supportively, so that her mated hands formed various enclosing shapes—e.g., cube, sphere, cone, right cylinder—and then seeming to study or contemplate them. The depressed person disliked the habit, though she was quick to admit that this was chiefly because it drew her attention to the therapist’s fingers and fingernails and caused her to compare them with her own.

The depressed person shared that she could remember, all too clearly, how at her third boarding school she had once watched her roommate talk to some boy on their room’s telephone as she (i.e., the roommate made faces and gestures of entrapped repulsion and boredom with the call, this popular, attractive, and self-assured roommate finally directing at the depressed person an exaggerated pantomine of someone knocking on a door until the depressed person understood that she was to open their room’s door and step outside and knock loudly on it so as to give the roommate an excuse to end the call. The depressed person had shared this traumatic memory with members of her Support System and had tried to articulate how bottomlessly horrible she had felt it would have been to have been that nameless pathetic boy on the phone and how now, as a legacy of that experience, she dreaded, more than almost anything, the thought of ever being someone you had to appeal silently to someone nearby to help you contrive an excuse to get off the phone with. The depressed person would implore each supportive friend to tell her the very moment she (i.e., the friend) was getting bored or frustrated or repelled or felt she (i.e., the friend) had other more urgent or interesting things to attend to, to please for God’s sake be utterly candid and frank and not spend one moment longer on the phone than she was absolutely glad to spend. The depressed person knew perfectly well, of course, she assured the therapist[1], how such a request could all too possibly be heard not as an invitation to get off the telephone at will but actually as a needy, manipulative plea not to get off—never to get off—the telephone.

 

The depressed person’s parents had eventually split the cost of her orthodonture; a professional arbitrator had been required in order to structure this compromise and, subsequently, to negotiate shared payment schedules for the depressed person’s boarding schools and Healthy Eating Lifestyle summer camps and oboe lessons and car and collision insurance, as well as for the cosmetic surgery needed to correct a malformation of the anterior spine and alar cartilage of the depressed person’s nose which had given her what felt like an excruciatingly pronounced and snoutish pug nose and had, coupled with the external orthodontic retainer she had to wear twenty-two hours a day, made looking at herself in the mirrors of her rooms at her boarding schools feel like more than any person could possibly stand. Also, in the year that her father remarried, he, in either a gesture of rare uncompromised caring or a coup de grâce that the depressed person’s mother had said was designed to make her own feelings of humiliation and superfluousness complete, had paid in toto for the riding lessons, jodhpurs, and outrageously expensive boots the depressed person had needed in order to gain admission to her second-to-last boarding school’s Riding Club, a few of whose members were the only girls at this school who the depressed person felt, she had confessed to her father on the telephone in tears late one truly horrible night, even remotely accepted her at all and around whom the depressed person hadn’t felt so totally pig-nosed and brace-faced and inferior that it had been a daily act of enormous personal courage and will just to leave her room and go eat dinner in the dining hall.

The professional arbitrator her parents’ lawyers had agreed on for help in structuring their compromises had been a highly respected conflict-resolution specialist named Walter D. (“Walt”) Ghent Jr., though she had been shown his business card—complete with its parenthesized invitation to informality—and his name had been invoked bitterly in her hearing on countless occasions, along with the fact that he billed at a staggering $130 an hour plus expenses. Despite overwhelming feelings of reluctance on the part of the depressed person, the therapist had strongly supported her in taking the risk of sharing with members of her Support System an important emotional realization she (i.e., the depressed person) had achieved during an Inner-Child-Focused Experiental Therapy Retreat Weekend which the therapist had supported her in taking the risk of enrolling in and giving herself open-mindedly over to the experience of. In the I.-C.-F.E.T. Retreat Weekend’s Small-Group-Frama-Therapy Room, other members of her small group had role-played the depressed person’s parents and the parents’ significant others and attorneys and myriad other emotionally painful figures from her childhood, and had slowly encircled the depressed person, moving in steadily together so that she could not escape, and had (i.e., the small group had) dramatically recited specially prepared lines designed to evoke and reawaken trauma, which had almost immediately evoked in the depressed person a surge of agonizing emotional memories and had resulted in the emergence of the depressed person’s Inner Child and a cathartic tantrum in which she had struck repeatedly at a stack of velour cushions with a bat of polystyrene foam and had shrieked obscenities and had reexperienced long-pent-up wounds and repressed feelings, the most important of which being a deep vertigial rage over the fact that Walter D. (“Walt”) Ghent Jr., had been able to bill her parents $130 an hour plus expenses for playing the role of mediator and absorber of shit while she had had to perform essentially the same coprophagous services on a more or less daily basis for free, for nothing, services which were not only grossly unfair and inappropriate for a child to feel required to perform but which her parents had then turned around and tried to make her, the depressed person herself, as a child, feel guilty about the staggering cost of Walter D. Ghent Jr., as if the cost and hassle were her fault and undertaken only on her spoiled little fat-thighed pig-nosed shiteating behalf instead of simply because of her fucking parents’ utterly fucking sick inability to communicate directly and share honestly and work through their own sick issues with each other. This exercise had allowed the depressed person to get in touch with some really core resentment-issues, the small-group facilitator at the Inner-Child-Focused Experiental Therapy Retreat Weekend had said, and could have represented a real turning point in the depressed person’s journey toward healing, had the public shrieking and velour-cushion-pummeling not left the depressed person so emotionally shattered and drained and traumatized and embarrassed that she’d felt she had no choice but to fly back home that night and miss the rest of the Weekend.

The eventual compromise which she and her therapist worked out together afterward was that the depressed person would share the shattering emotional realizations of the I.-C.-F.E.T.R. Weekend with only the two or three very most trusted and unjudgingly supportive members of her Support System, and that she would be permitted to reveal to them her reluctance about sharing these realizations and to inform them that she knew all too well how pathetic and blaming they (i.e., the realizations) might sound. In validating this compromise, the therapist, who by this time had less than a year to live, said that she felt she could support the depressed person’s use of the word “vulnerable” more wholeheartedly than she could support the use of the word “pathetic”, which word (i.e., “pathetic”) struck the therapist as toxically self-hating and also somewhat manipulative, an attempt to protect oneself against the possibility of a negative judgment by making it clear that one was already judging oneself far more negatively than any listener could have the heart to. The therapist—who during the year’s cold months, when the abundant fenestration of her home office kept the room chilly, wore a pelisse of hand-tanned Native American buckskin that formed a somewhat ghastlily moist-looking flesh-colored background for the enclosing shapes her hands formed in her lap—said that she felt comfortable enough in the validity of their therapeutic connection together to point out that a chronic mood disorder could itself be seen as constituting an emotionally manipulative defense mechanism: i.e., as long as the depressed person had the depression’s affective discomfort to preoccupy her, she could avoid feeling the deep vertigial childhood wounds which she was apparently determined to keep repressed at all costs.[2]

 

Several months later, when the depressed person’s therapist suddenly died—as the result of what was determined to be an “accidentally toxic combination of caffeine and homeopathic appetite suppressant but which, given the therapist’s extensive medical background, only a person in very deep denial indeed could fail to see must have been, on some level, intentional—without leaving any sort of note or cassette or encouraging last words for any of the patients who had come to connect emotionally with the therapist and establish some degree of intimacy even though it meant making themselves vulnerable to the possibility of adult loss-and-abandonment-traumas, the depressed person found this fresh loss so shattering, its resultant hopelessness and despair so unbearable, that she was forced now to reach frantically and repeatedly out to her Support System, calling three or even four different supportive friends in an evening, sometimes calling the same friends twice in one night, sometimes at a very late hour, and sometimes, even, the depressed person felt sickeningly sure, either waking them up or maybe interrupting them in the midst of healthy and joyful sexual initimacy with their partner. In other words, sheer emotional survival now compelled the depressed person to put aside her innate feelings of shame at being a pathetic burden and to lean with all her might on the empathy and nurture of her Support System, despite the fact that this, ironically, had been one of the two issues about which she had most vigorously resisted the therapist’s counsel.

The therapist’s death could not have occurred at a worse time, coming as it did just as the depressed person was beginning to process and work through some of her core shame-and-resentment-issues concerning the therapeutic process itself, the depressed person shared with her Support System. For example, the depressed person had shared with the therapist the fact that it felt ironic and demeaning, given her parents’ dysfunctional preoccupation with money and all that that preoccupation had cost her, that she was now in a position where she had to pay a professional therapist $90 an hour to listen patiently and respond empathetically. It felt demeaning to have to purchase patience and empathy, the depressed person had confessed to her therapist, and was an agonizing echo of the childhood pain she was so anxious to put behind her. The therapist, after attending very closely and patiently to what the depressed person later acknowledged to her Support System could all too easily have been interpreted as just a lot of ungrateful whining, and after a long pause during which both of them had gazed at the digiform ovoid cage which the therapist’s mated hands at that moment composed[3], had responded that, while she might sometimes disagree with the substance of what the depressed person said, she nevertheless wholeheartedly supported the depressed person in sharing whatever feelings the therapeutic relationship itself brought up so that they could work together on exploring safe, appropriate environtments and contexts for their expression[4].

The depressed person’s recollection and sharing of the therapist’s supportive responses brought on further, even more unberable feelings of loss and abandonment, as well as waves of resentment and self-pity which she knew all too well were repellent in the extreme, the depressed person assured her Support System, whose members she was by this time calling almost constantly, sometimes even during the day, from her workplace, swallowing her pride and dialing their work numbers and asking them to take time away from their own vibrant, stimulating careers to listen supportively and share and help the depressed person find some way to survive. Her apologies for burdening these friends during daylight hours at their workplaces were elaborate, vociferous, and very nearly constant, as were her expressions of gratitude to the Support System for just Being There for her, because she was discovering again, with shattering new clarity in the wake of the therapist’s wordless abandonment, just how agonizingly few and far between were the people with whom she could ever hope to really communicate and forge intimate, mutually nurturing relationships to lean on. The depressed person’s work environment, for example, was totally toxic and dysfunctional, making the idea of trying to bond in any mutually supportive way with coworkers ludicrous. And her attempts to reach out in her isolation and develop caring relationships through church groups or nutrition or holistic stretching classes or community woodwind ensembles had proved so excruciating, she shared, that she had been reduced to begging the therapist to withdraw her gentle suggestion that the depressed person try her best to do so. And as for the idea of girding herself and venturing out once again into the emotionally Hobbesian meat market of the dating scene … at this juncture the depressed person usually laughed hollowly into the speaker of the headset telephone she wore at the terminal inside her cubicle and asked whether it was even necessary to go into why her intractable depression and highly charged trust-issues rendered this idea a sheer pie-in-the-sky flight of pathetic and denial-ridden fancy, at best.

By this stage in the grieving process, the depressed person’s emotional agony had so completely overwhelmed her vesitigial defense mechanisms that whenever a member of her Support System finally said that she was dreadfully sorry but she absolutely had to get off the telephone, the primal instinct for sheer emotional survival now drove the depressed person to swallow every last tattered remnant of pride and to beg shamelessly for two or even just one more minute of the friend’s time and attention, and—if the “supportive friend” held firm and terminated the conversation—to spend now hardly any time listening dully to the dial tone or gnawing the ragged cuticle of her index finger or grinding the heel of her hand savagely into her forehead or feeling anything other than sheer primal desperation as she hurriedly dialed the next ten-digit number on her Support System Telephone List, which by this time had been photocopied several times and placed in the depressed person’s address book, workstation terminal’s PHONE.VIP file, billfold, minilocker at the Holistic Stretching and Nutrition Center, and in a special pocket inside the back cover of the leatherbound Feelings Journal which the depressed person—at her late therapist’s suggestion[5]—carried with her at all times.

It was at this same point, driven by desperation to abandon all defenses and to share her deepest feelings with what was possibly the single most trusted and indispensable member of her Support System, that the depressed person shared that she felt she had found, somehow, finally, the willingnes to risk trying to follow the second of the late overdosed therapist’s two suggestions which she (i.e., the depressed person) had most vehemently resisted over the course of their work together. The depressed person proposed now to take an unprecedented emotional risk and to begin asking certain important persons in her life to tell her straight out whether they had ever secretly felt contempt, derision, judgment, or repulsion for her, and was choosing to begin this vulnerable interrogative process with the one particularly nurturing and dependable and trustworthy Support System member with whom she was sharing via her workstation’s telephone right this moment.[6] She had resolved, the depressed person shared, to ask these potentially deeply traumatizing questions without preamble or apology or interpolated self-criticism. She wished to hear, with no holds barred, her very most valuable friend’s honest opinion of her, the potentially negative and judging and traumatic and hurtful parts as well as the positive and affirming and supportive and nurturing parts. The depressed person stressed that she was serious about this: the honest assessment of her by an objective but deeply caring confidante felt, at this point in time, like a litteral matter of life and death.

For she was frightened, the depressed person confessed to the trusted and convalescing friend, profoundly frightened by what she felt she was learning about herself following the sudden death of a therapist who for nearly four years had been her single most valuable resource and trusted support and—with no offense intended to any of the members of her Support System—her very best friend in the world. For she had discovered, the depressed person confessed, that when she took her daily Quiet Time now, during the grieving process, and got quiet and centered and looked deep within, she could neither feel nor identify any feelings for the therapist as a person, as a person who had diead, a person who only somebody in truly stupefying denial could fail to see had probably taken her own life, and thus a person who, the depressed person posited, had possibly suffered levels of emotional pain and isolation and despair which were comparable to or maybe even exceeded the depressed person’s own. And thus that although the depressed person had had agonizing feelings aplenty since the therapist’s suicide, these feelings appeared to be all and only for herself, i.e., for her loss, her abandonment, her grief, her trauma and pain and primal affective survival. And that this terrifying set of realizations, instead of awakening in her any feelings of compassion, empathy, or Other-directed grief for the therapist—and here the depressed person waited patiently for an episode of retching in the especially available trusted friend to pass so that she could take the emotional risk of sharing this with her—these realizations seemed merely to have brought up in the depressed person still more feelings about herself. At this point, sharing, the depressed person paused to swear up and down to her long-distance, gravely ill, frequently retching, but still caring and intimate friend that there was not toxic or manipulative self-hatred in this confession, only profound fear: the depressed person was frightened for herself, for as it were “[her] self”—i.e., her “spirit” or “soul”, her capacity for basic human empathy and compassion—she told the supportive friend with the neuroblastoma. She was asking sincerely, the depressed person said, honestly, desperately: what kind of person could seem to feel nothing—“nothing”, she emphasized—for anyone but herself? She wept into the headset telephone and said she was shamelessly begging her now single most valuable friend and confidante in the world to share her (i.e., the friend with the virulent malignancy in her adrenal medulla’s) brutally candid assessment, to pull no punches, to say nothing reassuring or supportive or exculpatory which she did not honestly believe to be true. She trusted her, she assured her. She had decided, she shared, that her very life itself, however fraught with agony and despair and indescribable loneliness, depended, at this point in her journey toward healing, on inviting—even, if necessary, begging shamelessly for—honest feedback, even if that feedback was traumatic or hurtful. The depressed person therefore urged her terminally ill friend to go on, to not hold back, to let her have it: What terms might be used to describe and assess such a solipsistic, self-consumed, bottomless emotional vacuum and sponge as she now appeared to herself to be? How was she to decide and describe—even to herself, facing herself—what all she had learned said about her?[]

 

[1] The multiform shapes the therapist’s mated fingers assumed nearly always resembled various geometrically diverse cages, an association which the depressed person had not shared with the therapist because its symbolism seemed too overt and simplistic to waste their valuable time together on. The therapist’s fingernails were long and well-maintained, whereas the depressed person’s nails were compulsively bitten so short and ragged that the quick sometimes protruded and began spontaneously to bleed.

[2] The depressed person’s therapist was always extremely careful to avoid appearing to suggest that she (i.e., the depressed person) had in any conscious way chosen or chosen to cling to her endogenous depression. Defenses against intimacy, the therapist held, were almost always arrested or vestigial survival mechanisms; they had, at one time, been environmentally appropriate and had served to shield an otherwise defenseless childhood psyche against unbearable trauma, but in nearly all cases these mechanisms became inappropriately imprinted and outlived their purpose, and now :in adulthood”, ironically, caused a great deal more trauma and pain than they prevented.

[3] The therapist—who was substantially older than the depressed person but still younger than the depressed person’s mother, and who resembled that mother in almost no respects—sometimes annoyed the depressed person with her habit of from time to time glancing very quickly at the large bronze sunburst-design clock on the wall behind the recliner in which the depressed person customarily sat, glancing so quickly and almost furtively at the clock that what bothered the depressed person more and more over time was not the act itself but the therapist’s apparent effort to hide or disguise it. One of the therapeutic relationship’s most significant breakthroughs, the depressed person told members of her Support System, had come when she had finally been able to share that she would prefer it if the therapist would simply look openly up at the bronze helioform clock instead of apparently believing—or at least behaving, from the depressed person’s admittedly hypersensitive perspective, as if she believed—that the hypersensitive depressed person could be fooled by the therapist’s dishonestly sneaking an observation of the time into something designed to look like a routine motion of the head or eyes. And that while they were on the whole subject, the depressed person had to confess that she sometimes felt demeaned and enraged when the therapist’s face assumed its customary expression of boundless patience, and expression which the depressed person said she knew very well was intended to communicate attention and unconditional support but which sometimes felt to the depressed person like emotional detachment, like professional courtesy she was paying for instead of the intensely personal compassion and empathy she sometimes felt she had spent her whole life starved for. She was sometimes resentful, she shared, at being nothing but the object of the therapist’s professional courtesy or of the so-called “friends” in her pathetic “Support System”’s charity and abstract guilt.

[4] Or even that, for example, to be totally honest, it felt demeaning and somehow insulting to know that today (i.e., the day of the seminal session during which the depressed person had opened up and risked sharing all these issues and feelings about the therapeutic relationship), at the moment their appointed time together was up and they had risen from their respective recliners and hugged awkwardly and said their goodbyes until their next appointment, that at that moment all of the therapist’s seemingly intensely personally focused attention and interest in the depressed person would then be withdrawn and effortlessly transferred onto the next whiny spoiled self-involved snaggletoothed pig-nosed fat-thighed pathetic shiteater who was waiting to come in and cling pathetically to the hem of the therapist’s pelisse, so desperate for a personally interested friend that they would pay almost as much per month for the temporary illusion of one (i.e., of an actual friend) as they paid in fucking rent. This even though the depressed person knew quite well, she had said, holding up a pica-gnawed hand to prevent interruption, that the therapist’s professional detachment was in fact not at all incompatible with true relationship, the depressed person then laughing hollowly to indicate that she heard and acknowledged the unwitting echo of her cold, niggardly, emtionally unavailable parents in the stipulation that what was objectionable was the idea or “principle” of an expense. What it really felt like sometimes was as if the hourly therapeutic fee were a kind of ransom or “protection money”, purchasing the depressed person an exemption from the scalding internal self-contempt and mortification of telephoning distant former friends she hadn’t even laid fucking eyes on in years and had no legitimate claim on the friendship of anymore and telephoning them uninvited at night and intruding on their functional and blissfully ignorantly joyful if somewhat shallow and unconscious lives and appealing shamelessly to their compassion and leaning shamelessly on them and trying to articulate the essence of her unceasing emotional pain when that very pain and despair and loneliness rendered her, the depressed person knew, far too self-involved to be able ever truly to Be There in return for the supportive friends to reach out and lean on in return, i.r., that the depressed person’s was a pathetically starved and greedy omnineediness that only a complete idiot would not expect the members of her so-called “Support System” to detect all too easily, and to be repelled by, and to stay on the telephone only out of the barest and most abstract human charity, all the while rolling their eyes and making faces and looking at the clock and wishing desperately that the phone call were over or that the depressed person would call someone else or that the depressed person had never been born and didn’t even exist “if the truth be told”, if the therapist really wanted the “totally honest sharing” she kept “alleging [she] want[ed],” the depressed person later tearfully confessed to her Support System she had hissed derisively at the therapist, her face (i.e., the depressed person’s face) contorted in what she imagined must have been a repulsive admixture of rage and self-pity. If the therapist really wanted the truth, the depressed person had finally shared from a hunched and near-fetal position beneath the sunburst clock, sobbing uncontrollably, the depressed person really felt that what was really unfair was that she was unable, even with the trusted and admittedly compassionate therapist, to communicate her depression’s terrible and unceasing agony itself, agony which was the overriding and a priori reality of her every waking minute—i.e., not being able to share the way it felt, what it actually felt like for the depressed person to be literally unable to share it, as for example if her very life depended on describing the sun but she were alllowed to describe only shadows on the grounds …. The depressed person had then laughed hollowly and apologized to the therapist for employing such a floridly melodramatic analogy. She shared all this later, with her Support System, following the therapist’s death from homeopathic caffeinism, including her (i.e., the depressed person’s) reminiscence that the therapist’s display of attention during this seminal but ugly and humiliating breakthrough session had been so intense and professionally uncompromising that she had blinked far less often than any listener the depressed person had ever opened up to face-to-face had ever blinked. The two most special and trusted current members of her Support System had responded, almost verbatim, that it sounded as though the therapist had been very special and the depressed person obviously missed her very much; and the one particularly trusted and valuable, physically ill long-distance friend whom the depressed person leaned on more heavily than on any other friend during the grieving process suggested that the most loving and appropriate way to honor both the therapist’s memory and the grief over her loss might be for the depressed person to try to become as special and caring and nurturing a friend to herself as the late therapist had been.

[5] As a natural part of the grieving process, sensuous details and affective memories flooded the depressed person’s agonized psyche at random and unpredictable moments, pressing in on her and clamoring for expression and processing. The buckskin pelisse, for example, though the therapist had seemed almost fetishistically attached to the Native American garment and during cool weather had worn it, seemingly, on a near-daily basis, was always immaculately clean and always presented an immaculately raw-and-moist-looking-flesh-toned backdrop to the varioform cages the therapist’s unconscious hands composed. It had never been clear how or by what process the therapist’s authentic pelisse’s buckskin was able to stay so perfectly clean—unless, the depressed person confessed to imagining, the therapist had worn it only for their particular appointments. The therapist’s chilly home office alos contained, on the wall opposite the bronze clock and behind the therapist’s recliner, a stunning molybdenum desk-and-personal-computer-hutch ensemble, one shelf of which was lined, on either side of the deluxe Braun coffeemaker, with small framed photographs of the therapist’s husband and sisters and son; and the depressed person often broke into fresh sobs of grief and self-excoriation on her workstation’s headset telephone as she confessed to her Support System that she had never even asked the therapist’s intimate loved ones’ names.

[6] The singularly valuable and supportive friend on the telephone was an alumna of one of the depressed person’s boarding schools, a generous, nurturing divorced mother of two in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, who had recently undergone her second course of chemotherapy for a virulent neuroblastoma, which greatly reduced the number of activities and responsibilities in her full, vibrant, undepressed life, and who thus was not only almost always at home but also enjoyed nearly unlimited conflict-free availability and time to share on the telephone, for which the depressed person was now careful to enter a daily prayer of gratitude in her Feelings Journal.

 

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Tiga Cerita tentang Pengarang dari H. Misbach Yusa Biran: (3) Nasihat untuk Para Seniman

Bagaimanapun juga Rusli tetap teman saya, meskipun ia sudah jadi pemuda kumal. Saya harus menolong dia dari keadaannya sekarang. Baiklah, saya tidak akan mengatakan bahwa ia telanjur jadi seniman, karena ia akan sedia berkelahi dengan siapa saja yang mengatakan soal telanjur itu. Saya tidak takut bertarung dengan Rusli yang berbadan kerempeng dan berpantat tepos, cuma saya tidak gemar berkelahi. Lagi yang saya niatkan adalah ingin menolong dia. Dan syukurlah, ia bisa menyetujui pendapat saya tanpa harus berkelahi, yakni bahwa ia harus mempunyai pekerjaan tetap. Menurut Rusli, menganggur itu merusak jiwa. Entahlah, tetapi yang pasti dengan menganggur seperti sekarang ini penghidupannya tidak terjamin dan sayalah yang terus-menerus dirongrongnya: rokok sebatang, beli pita mesin tik, aspro …. Tak apa, sungguh tak apa kalau masih ada. Tapi dia harus menjamin hidupnya sendiri, bagaimana kalau saya mati?

Saya punya kenalan, seorang kepala di salah satu kantor pemerintah yang mengurus soal-soal kebudayaan. Ia baru saja diangkat. Rusli setuju untuk saya ajak minta pekerjaan padanya. Saya bisa bolos, gampang, saya kerja di kantor pemerintah.

“Pukul delapan baru buka kantor, kan?”

“Betul, tapi sebaiknya kita memberi kesan pertama yang baik. Kita harus sudah berada di sana pada pukul setengah delapan,” kata saya dengan perasaan mulai lega karena sudah terbayang rasanya sebentar lagi Rusli telah berpakaian rapi sebagaimana orang baik-baik lazimnya.

“Mana orang kantor pemerintah sudah datang sepagi itu?”

“Itu bukan urusan kita.”

“Tidak, soalnya apakah besok aku bisa bangun pagi-pagi. Nanti malam aku akan menyelesaikan cerita pendek yang tanggung dalam penggarapan.”

“Aku bermalam saja di rumahmu.” Menyesal saya. Sejak pukul tujuh sore ia sudah duduk di muka mesin tik. Termenung-menung kemudian mengetik, termenung dan mengetik lagi. Begitu terus tidak bisa diajak ngobrol. Kesal menunggunya. Mau keluar dari rumah, segan, jalanan di luar rumahnya becek betul. Tadinya saya pikir paling lama juga tiga jam ia kerja, sudah itu kami bisa cerita-cerita asyik tentang masa depan. Tetapi lewat tiga jam malah ia lebih asyik lagi termenung dan mengetik. Kadang-kadang hampir setengah jam penuh ia cuma melotot saja. Rokoknya sudah punah pada jam dua belas, merembet pada rokok saya. Setengah satu mata saya sudah berat sekali.

“Tidurlah, tinggal sedikit lagi. Aku sedang mencari penutupnya saja.”

Tidak tega rasanya meninggalkan dia duduk bekerja sendiri. Saya paksa-paksakan membuka mata. Entah sesudah berapa lama, maka mata saya telah dengan sendirinya terpenjam. Rasanya belum lama ketika badan saya digoyang-goyang oleh Rusli. Sudah pukul setengah tujuh. Rusli tidak tidur hingga waktu itu.

“Kaubilang semalam cuma tinggal mencari buntutnya saja.”

“Aku ulang mengetiknya. Ada beberapa bagian di tengahnya yang harus diubah, karena penutupnya ada perubahan.”

“Satu cerita pendek harus dikerjakan semalam suntuk?”

“Sebenarnya tidak perlu, tapi kalau kutunda buyar lagi idenya. Sudah lima hari aku cernakan dalam kepala.”

Lima hari, bisik saya dalam hati. Lima hari satu cerita pendek.

Saya pergi mandi, Rusli duduk dengan kaki terbujur lepas, pucat benar mukanya. Lalu ia cuma cuci muka saja. Itu saya tidak setuju benar, tetapi saya tidak tega menegurnya. Ya Allah, bagaimana kalau anakku sendiri yang jadi pengarang …?

Perkiraan Rusli salah. Setengah delapan pagi kenalan saya itu sudah berada di kantornya. Ia kepala bagian, jadi harus memberi contoh pada bawahan. Tetapi soalnya yang pokok, menurut Rusli, karena ia baru dijadikan kepala bagian di situ.

“Saya baru beberapa bulan saja duduk di bagian ini,” kata kenalan saya, “Dan Saudara tahu apa yang baru bisa saya lakukan? Membongkar, membongkar, dan merombak! Saya telah diserahi kerja untuk meneruskan kerja orang yang terdahulu, dan ternyata rencana serta konsep mereka tentang kebudayaan hanya membuat saya terpingkal-pingkal saja. Saya rombak semua, apa boleh buat harus peras keringat karena untuk kebudayaan kita tidak bisa main-main. Kebudayaan adalah jiwa, warna, dan segala-galanya dari suatu bangsa. Bagaimana mungkin hal besar ini hanya diserahkan kepada orang-orang yang hanya biasa kerja rutin, yang kerja hanya untuk menunggu pensiun saja? Omong kosong! Orang dengan kapasitas begitu tak mungkin bisa mencintai kebudayaan, menghargai hasil seni, menghargai seniman, serta bisa ikut mengembangkan kesenian Indonesia yang tengah mencari coraknya ini! Bagaimana mereka bisa menghargai, bahkan untuk hanya sekadar bisa mengerti penghidupan seniman?”

Kalau diladeni terus omongan bapak ini bisa sampai malam, pikir saya. Maka begitu ia sedang terhenti karena menempelkan rokok ke mulutnya, saya buru-buru masuk bicara.

“Pak, maksud kedatangan saya ini ialah untuk memperkenalkan kawan saya, yang tempo hari pernah saya ceritakan kepada Bapak.”

Bapak Kebudayaan dan saya sama-sama memandang ke arah Rusli. Masya Allah, Rusli tertunduk, tidur rupanya. Saya tendang kakinya. Bapak kebudayaan pura-pura tidak melihat.

“Saudara pengarang, bukan?” tanya Bapak kebudayaan sambil menoleh ke arah lain. Rusli termenung-menung kebingungan, masih belum pulih kesadarannya. Saya tendang lagi kakinya.

“Ya …, ya, begitulah ….”

“Saya yakin bahwa pekerjaan saya harus mendapat dukungan kalangan seniman-seniman muda, yang jiwanya masih hidup, dinamis, penuh cita-cita, dan semangat. Saya kira kita akan banyak bisa kerja sama.”

“Jadi, apa saya bisa diterima kerja di sini, Pak?” tanya Rusli.

Saya kagum akan keberanian Rusli kali ini.

“Punya ijazah SMA?”

“Tidak, Pak,” kata saya, “Saudara Rusli pernah duduk di kelas tertinggi SMA, bagian B lagi, Pak.”

“Yang penting ijazah,” jawab Pak Kebudayaan dengan suara kecewa sambil bangkit. Melangkah pelan ke jendela. “Saya sudah memajukan sebuah rencana ke atas. Kalau diterima, saya kira Saudara bisa saya pakai. Tetapi itu harus menunggu lama sekali karena banyak betul meja yang mesti dilewati oleh rencana tersebut.” Pak Kebudayaan menoleh pada Rusli, Rusli sedang melamun ke arah lain. “Saya gembira sekali bisa bekerja sama dengan seniman muda. Jangan salah sangka, saya bukan orang kolot. Tetapi saya kira, buat seorang seniman hidup tidak terikat adalah lebih baik, kan?”

“Tidak!” jawab saya kontan. “Penghasilan yang didapat dari tulisan tidak mencukupi.”

“O, ya …?” Bapak Kebudayaan duduk, nampak ia sangat tertarik pada jawaban saya. Rusli menendang kaki saya.

“Berapa honorarium sebuah cerita pendek? Dapat empat ratus?”

“Tidak sampai ….”

“Berapa? Tiga ratus?”

“Tujuh puluh lima,” jawab Rusli, “paling tinggi.”

Bapak Kebudayaan lesu menyandarkan bahunya ke sandaran kursi. “Begitu kecil ….”

“Majalah-majalah sekarang oplahnya kecil, terutama majalan kesusasteraan.”

“Tetapi itu bukan alasan untuk tidak menghargai suatu hasil seni!” kata Pak Kebudayaan dengan amat sungguh-sungguh, bernafsu. Berdebar hati saya, rasanya Rusli akan ditolongnya juga bekerja.

“Jadi, bagaimana, Pak?” tanya saya halus dan sopan.

“Pemuda tidak boleh mundur!” Pak Kebudayaan merenung sebentar. “Saya kira, saya bisa mendapatkan jalannya ….”

“Ya, Pak,” sambut Rusli tidak sabar. “Jalan apa?”

Bapak Kebudayaan tersenyum, “Jalannya adalah bekerja secara sistematis. Anak-anak muda sekarang memang tidak bisa disalahkan kalau mereka tidak bisa bekerja secara sistematis karena orang-orang tua mereka sendiri telah mengalami keguncangan hidup disebabkan perang dunia kedua. Tetapi walaupun bagaimana, bekerja secara sistematis tetap diperlukan. Terutama bagi para seniman dewasa ini.”

“Betul, Pak!” saya menggongi. “Maksud Bapak, di sini Saudara Rusli harus bekerja secara sistematis?”

“Bukan kerja di sini. Bekerja sendiri, sebagai pencipta. Maksud saya begini, sebuah cerita pendek kan honorariumnya tujuh puluh lima?” kata Pak Kebudayaan. Rusli diam saja, saya yang mengangguk. “Saya tidak bisa menduga berapa biaya hidup seniman sebulannya, entah tiga atau empat ribu. Akan tetapi biasanya seniman irit, taruhlah dua ribu. Maka mulailah dengan mengumpulkan nama-nama majalah serta mingguan yang memuat cerita pendek. Sepuluh buah saja cukuplah. Maka kalau semua penerbitan itu sekaligus Saudara kirimi cerita pendek dan memuatnya, artinya Saudara akan menerima honorarium sepuluh kali tujuh puluh lima rupiah, berarti tujuh ratus lima puuu …?”

“Luh,” sambung saya.

“Ya! Tujuh ratus lima puluh, satu minggu. Maka satu bulan akan berarti empat kali itu, sama dengan tiga riii ….”

“…,” saya tidak menyambung.

“Tiga ribu rupiah, berarti seribu lebih banyak daripada biaya yang dibutuhkan oleh seorang seniman. Itu kalau Saudara bekerja secara biasa saja. Lebih-lebih kalau Saudara mau pula mengisi majalah dan mingguan yang begitu banyak bertebaran. Saya satu, satu bulan bisa terima bersih enam ribu rupiah, gampang!”

Enam ribu sama dengan harga sebuah scooter Vespa. Bapak Kebudayaan memandang kami berdua sambil tersenyum, menunggu pujian atas idenya yang hebat itu. Rusli hanya mengangguk-angguk kecil, tetapi saya segera tahu bahwa ia akan berbuat nekad. Betul saja. Kalau saya tidak buru-buru minta permisi pulang, Rusli sudah niat akan ngomong yang kasar-kasar.

“Enak saja …, empat puluh karangan sebulan,” gumam Rusli waktu saya bonceng menuju ke tempat redaktur untuk mengambil honorarium tulisannya. “Kalau semua nenek-moyangnya mau bangun lagi dari dalam kubur untuk membantu aku mengarang sih, boleh juga …!”

“Sabar,” kata saya. “Innallaha ma’a shabirin.”

Untung belum terlambat, sang redaktur baru saja akan berangkat.

“Tapi daftar honorariumnya belum dibuat, Bung Rusli. Sabarlah, besok saja kemari lagi. Atau hari Senin sajalah, besok Sabtu, setengah hari kita kerja.”

“Ini kali saya betul-betul minta tolong, Bung. Saya ada …, saya perlu betul ….”

Redaktur kesal, membuka majalah yang memuat tulisan Rusli. Dipelajari, ya sebentar, diukur-ukurnya panjang karangan.

“Lima puluh rupiah, bagaimana?”

Rusli tak menjawab. Terasa mata saya berkaca-kaca. Redaktur tak mau melihat keadaan kami berdua. Ia menjatuhkan matanya kembali pada tulisan Rusli dalam majalah. Ujung jarinya dipukul-pukulkan ke meja, berpikir.

“Nah,” kata redaktur tiba-tiba sambil merogoh kantong, “Saudara terima saja dulu uang saya pribadi, enam puluh lima …. Sisanya terserah kapan mau ambil, sepuluh lagi …. Beres?”

Rupanya Rusli ada janji bayar utang hari itu pada warung nasi dekat rumahnya, lima puluh rupiah. Sisa lima belas.

“Lebihnya ini kita belikan rokok dulu, kemudian boleh kita makan sama-sama …, kita habiskan semua, habiskan semua!”

Lima belas dikurangi lima setengah rupiah untuk rokok, tinggal sembilan setengah rupiah. Sisanya akan dihabiskan untuk makan berdua.

“Saya sakit perut sajalah, Rus.”

“Sakit perut saja bagaimana?”

“Maksud saya, saya pulang saja …, sakit perut …, tidak ikut makan ….”

Kami berpandangan dan sama-sama mengerti. Rusli makan sendiri.[]

halaman 96-102, Keajaiban di Pasar Senen oleh H. Misbach Yusa Biran (penerbit CV Indocamp, Jakarta, cetakan ketiga, 2005)

Tiga Cerita tentang Pengarang dari H. Misbach Yusa Biran: (2) Hadiah Lebaran

Seorang seniman haruslah seorang manusia yang merdeka. Bebas jiwa dan segala-galanya karena hanya dengan jiwa yang bebaslah seseorang baru mungkin bisa menciptakan sesuatu yang besar. Kata-kata itu sampai bisa saya hapal karena seringnya saya dengar dari kawan-kawan, seniman-seniman di Pasar Senen. Ditanya atau tidak, kalau pembicaraan sudah menyinggung soal pekerjaan, maka kalimat-kalimat itulah yang meluncur. Atau kalau ada yang baru tahu bahwa saya adalah seorang pegawai, kalimat-kalimat itu juga yang diberondongkan ke telinga saya. Meskipun sudah saya cegat lebih dulu dengan keterangan, bahwa saya bisa memahami kalau dia tidak bekerja. Tidak urung dia akan desak saya untuk mendengar kalimat-kalimat tersebut, agar saya betul-betul yakin bahwa menganggur bagi seniman adalah kewajiban yang sah. Jangan pandang rendah.

Memang kalau tidak menjadi pegawai, orang akan bisa bebas merdeka. Tidak ada yang memerintah. Tidak akan diburu-buru waktu. Tidak terikat oleh peraturan-peraturan birokratis yang memperkecil jiwa manusia. Boleh melamun semaunya. Tidak usah takut pulang kemalaman karena besok pagi boleh bangun pukul berapa maunya. Tidak akan ada yang memaksa, terserah kita mau bekerja atau tidak. Cuma, kalau tidak bekerja tentu tidak akan dapat gaji. Begitu pula hadiah Lebaran.

Beberapa malam sebelum Idul Fitri, baru saya tahu bahwa salah seorang teman karib saya semasa kanak-kanak di kampung termasuk juga salah seorang seniman yang tidak menerima hadiah Lebaran itu. Rusli namanya. Saya kenal dia sejak kanak-kanak benar, di Rangkasbitung. Saya kenal keluarganya. Kami satu sekolah dan pernah sama-sama bolos untuk belajar berenang di Kali Ciujung. Malah kalau mau pergi taraweh dia selalu saya samper. Tetapi ketika malam itu ia berdiri di muka saya, hampir tak bisa saya kenali. Mukanya pucat, matanya cekung. Terlalu sering begadang tentu, berdebat sampai pagi.

“Jadi, kau seniman, Rus?”

“Ya. Aku penulis sekarang …, maksudku aku penagrang,” jawab Rusli dengan tekanan-tekanan yang pasti.

“Mengarang apa?”

“Macam-macam,” jawabnya cepat. Lalu dipandangnya mata saya yang menunggu keterangan dia lebih lanjut. “Macam-macam. Tidak ada faedahnya buat kauketahui.” Saya mengangguk. Rusli senyum. “Bagaimana kabar kau, pegawai setia?”

“Biasa saja,” jawab saya sambil tetap terpikat pada keadaannya yang menyedihkan itu. Bajunya kumal.

“Apa ada kemajuan? Kapan pensiun?” tanya Rusli dengan nada olok-olok yang sudah saya kenal betul di Pasar Senen ini. Pertanyaan serupa itu tidak memerlukan jawaban.

“Kau tidak kerja lagi?” tanya saya. Rusli menggeleng ringan saja, serupa perempuan ditawari rokok. “Kenapa kau jadi seniman, Rus, kenapa?”

“Kenapa? Kenapa kautanyakan itu? Tiap manusia punya lapangan sendiri-sendiri. Ada bakatnya masing-masing. Kau tahu bakat?” tanya Rusli yang lebih dekat kepada membentak. “Kau tidak tahu, tentu. Menjadi pegawai tidak memerlukan bakat. Baiklah, tiap orang mempunyai lapangan dan daerah sendiri-sendiri. Ada yang lapangannya adalah memimpin, ada yang hanya cocok jadi budak, ada yang pantasnya hanya untuk menunggu pensiun.” Kata pensiun ditekankan Rusli hampir di muka saya. “Dan … jarang yang bisa dan berani menghadapi hidup ini dengan kekuatan sendiri, di atas kedua kakinya. Apa salahnya kalau aku bisa? Kau tak akan bisa mengerti. Kau tidak tahu apa artinya bakat! Ya ….”

Kata-kata Rusli terputus begitu saja sambil melihat ke kepala saya. Dan saya baru sadar bahwa rupanya waktu itu saya sedang menggaruk-garuk kepala. Alangkah panjang jawabannya. Saya hanya ingin tahu kenapa anak baik yang dulu kukenal benar di kampung itu kini jadi kusut begini. Tetapi dia jadi membentak-bentak saya di tengah Pasar Senen yang ramai. Ingin saya pergi saja, tetapi masih kangen. Setelah saya mengambil waktu sedikit dengan menoleh ke sana kemari, rupanya Rusli telah bisa tenang kembali. Ia minta rokok. Kebetulan ada rokok enak, maklum baru terima hadiah Lebaran. Cocok pula buat selera Rusli.

“Sehari sebelum Lebaran aku akan pulang ke Rangkas, Rus,” kata saya dan Rusli nampak jadi tertegun. “Lebaran yang lalu juga kau ‘kan tidak pulang?”

Rusli hanya menyeringai, buang muka. Kami sama-sama diam beberapa saat.

“Sebetulnya …,” kata Rusli tiba-tiba. “Ya, apa boleh buat …, sebetulnya aku pengin betul pulang.”

“Apa boleh buat bagaimana? Pulang saja! Kita berangkat sama-sama,” kata saya separo mendesak.

Rusli tidak langsung menjawab.

“Ayooo!”

“Pulang lebaran lain, kan,” jawabnya agak terlalu perlahan. “Ah, sudahlah! Rencanaku semuanya meleset. Aku harap tadinya bisa dapat uang dari majalah yang memuat tulisanku, tetapi, tjs baru bisa diambil habis bulan.”

“Kalau sekadar ongkos kereta saja bisa aku tolong,” kata saya.

Rusli hanya memandang saja pada saya.

“Kau tahu jumlah hadiah Lebaran sekarang ….”

“Ya, ya, aku tahu,” tukasnya. Diam sesaat, senyum tak enak. “Pulang Lebaran harus bawa apa-apa tentunya.” Rusli diam lagi, sangsi untuk bicara, tetapi harus mengucapkannya, “Aku punya celana yang masih baik satu. Tapi kalau kujual pakai apa nanti Lebaran?”

“O, jangan … jangan, jangan dijual! Lagi celana twedehan tak berapa harganya hampir-hampir Lebaran begini,” kata saya. Dia setuju. Saya sodorkan lagi rokok, lalu kami sama-sama berpikir mencari jalan.

“Apa kau kenal pada redaktur majalah Kancil?” tanyanya iseng.

“Majalah cerita anak-anak?” tanya saya kembali iseng-iseng pula.

“Ya!” jawabnya semangat. “Bisa minta persekot kalau kau kenal ….”

“Tidak,” jawab saya.

“Redaktur majalah …. Ah, mana pula kaukenal sama redaktur.”

“Kenal, Rus, tetapi redaktur mingguan, bukan majalah. Si Medi ….”

“Haaa?” teriaknya sampai saya terkejut. “Betul kau kenal dia?”

“Betul. Aku pernah indekos di rumah kakaknya …. Nanti, tahun berapa tu ….”

“Kau harus tolong aku!” potongnya sangat bersemangat.

“Tentu. Bagaimana?”

“Ini jalan yang kucari. Rasanya kita bisa pulang sama-sama. Kau tahu bagaimana?”

“Tidak,” jawab saya. “Itu yang aku tanya. Bagaimana?”

“Ya, begini …, aku punya cerita pendek. Kalau teman kau bisa tolong memuatkan, beres. Kita bisa pulang. Honorariumnya cukup untuk beli sekadar kue-kue, ole-ole,” tuturnya dengan lancar dan gembira.

“Aku antar besok, jangan khawatir.”

“Tapi besok kan kau kerja?”

“Ah gampang, aku bisa permisi sebentar. Bilang saja …, ah, gampang deh.”

Hari baru pukul sepuluh malam waktu itu, masih ada dua jam lagi untuk mencapai pukul dua belas, yakni saat yang saya rencanakan malam itu untuk pulang dan tidur. Kami habiskan waktu dua jam ini dengan cerita-cerita tentang masa kanak-kanak di kampung dulu. Kemudian kami bayang-bayangkan apa yang kami lakukan pada hari-hari Lebaran nanti. Sesudah sembahyang Ied ia akan menjemput saya di rumah nenek, lalu kami akan sama-sama menuju kebun ayahnya di Rumbut, lima kilometer dari kota. Dulu, kami sering ke sana pada bulan puasa untuk menunggu-nunggu sore. Sekarang kakek Rusli tinggal di situ, jadi sekalian famili akan tumplek ke sana. Mudah-mudahan kemenakan Rusli yang manis itu juga akan datang. Tentu yang belakangan ini tidak saya sampaikan pada Rusli, tetapi rasanya ia sudah maklum juga. Rencana perjalanan pada hari raya telah tersusun lengkap sampai jam-jamnya. Demikian pula apa yang akan kami lakukan pada beberapa hari setelah Lebaran karena saya masih akan tinggal agak seminggu di kampung, dapat perlop, dan Rusli telah memutuskan untuk terus tinggal di sana selama itu. Hari demi hari telah terisi dengan rencana-rencana yang serba asyik. Termasuk berlayar-layar dengan getek batang pisang, seperti yang pernah kami lakukan dulu. Walhasil asyiiik.

Besoknya saya bonceng Rusli ke kantor si Medi. Untung orangnya ada dan kantor lagi sepi. Biasanya penuh saja dengan kuncup-kuncup seniman yang bukan main bisingnya kalau ngobrol. Dengan begini bisa leluasa omong-omong dengan Medi, bisa pakai bumbu dan bunga-bunga untuk memperlicin jalan menggolkan cerita Rusli.

“Ooo, kalian sama-sama dari Rangkasbitung? Dia (menunjuk saya) sering betul cerita tentang Rangkas. Seolah-olah kota yang paling hebat di seluruh dunia …,” kata Medi sambil tertawa. Saya ikut tertawa. Rusli payah betul memaksakan mukanya tersenyum, ia terlalu tegang pada cerita pendeknya yang berada di tangan Medi.

“Saudara Rusli sudah lama menulis?” tanya Medi sambil membaca-baca sepintas.

“Eee …, ya …, lama juga.”

“Hmmm. Kebetulan saya belum pernah baca tulisan Saudara. Dimuat di mana?”

“Dimuat di … eee …, begini, ya … baru di majalah-majalah kecil.”

“Ooo.” Medi mengebet-kebet. “Akan saya pelajari tulisan Saudara ini.”

“Maksudnya?” sambar saya cepat. “Kalau mungkin, bisa dimuat nomor depan ini, Med.” Medi mengangkat mukanya pada Rusli. Tapi Rusli tidak berbunyi sedikit pun, cuma tersenyum-senyum saja seperti perawan kampung yang baru pacaran. Kesal betul, padahal semalam bukan main galaknya kepada saya.

“Kenapa mau buru-buru?” tanya Medi baik-baik, tetapi nampak Rusli seperti terkejut betul mendengarnya.

“Saya ingin lekas melihat tulisan saya dimuat dalam mingguan terkenal …,” jawab Rusli, ia lalu tertawa sedikit, entah kenapa.

“Ah …, jangan tergesa-gesa, Saudara Rusli. Saudara masih muda,” kata Medi dengan cara biasa-biasa saja, tidak membentak atau sambil memelotot. Tetapi mungkin di telinga Rusli kedengarannya menggelegar karena Rusli jadi kuncup dan tersipu-sipu. Tidak sedikit pun nampak ada niatnya untuk menyampaikan apa yang sebenarnya dimaksud.

“Dia perlu duit, Med. Buat pulang!”

“O ….”

“Ah, tidak!” tukas Rusli tegas. Berikutnya kuncup lagi. “Cukup buat saya, asal bisa dimuat nomor depan.”

Medi mengebet-kebet lagi, dua-tiga kali melirik ke arah saya dan setiap kali beradu dengan pandangan saya yang terus tajam padanya. “Tapi …,” kata Medi agak diseret, “Kalaupun bisa dimuat, honorariumnya ….”

“Tidak apa habis bulan …, tidak apa. Asal bisa dimuat.”

“Hmmm …, isi nomor depan sudah penuh,” kata Medi sambil berpikir dan sesudah melirik saya selintas dia lanjutkan, “Tetapi kalau Saudara cuma perlu uang, saya bisa pinjamkan persekot ….”

“Baik!” potong saya, “Kami akan pulang tanggal dua puluh ini.”

Medi langsung merogoh kantongnya dan saya kagum akan kecepatan otak saya yang lantas sudah bisa menghayalkan berlebaran sama-sama dengan Rusli di Rangkas. Kami tertawa-tawa di kebun ayahnya, memukul bedug di surau semalam suntuk ….

“Tidak usah, Bung!” kata Rusli tiba-tiba. “Saya tidak perlu persekot. Saya hanya kepengin betul cerita saya itu bisa dimuat pada nomor Lebaran ini. Cukup itu saja, tolonglah.”

Dongkol benar saya pada Rusli. Pulangnya saya suruh dia yang membonceng saya.

Dua hari sesudah Lebaran, saya terima kiriman pos dari Jakarta: Mingguan yang memuat cerita pendek Rusli. Pada pojok atas tulisannya dicantumkan catatan, salam selamat hari raya dari dia buat sekalian teman-teman. Saya faham, maka saya bawa mingguan itu pada teman-teman.

“Hebat ya, si Rusli. Tidak sangka,” kata kawan yang satu.

“Memang, dari dulu sudah kelihatan bakatnya,” yang lain bilang.

“Bukan main dia sekarang,” menurut seorang gadis.

“Luar biasa. Pantas dia tidak pulang. Jadi wartawan memang repot sih ….”

“Bukan wartawan,” tukas saya. “Seniman. Ya, seniman ….”[]

halaman 65-72, Keajaiban di Pasar Senen oleh H. Misbach Yusa Biran (penerbit CV Indocamp, Jakarta, cetakan ketiga, 2005)

Tiga Cerita tentang Pengarang dari H. Misbach Yusa Biran: (1) Kalau Bung Seniman, Jangan Tinggal di Kampung

“Kalau Bung seorang seniman, jangan tinggal di kampung,” kata seorang pemuda dengan penuh kesungguhan. Pemuda itu belum pernah saya kenal dan pada suatu malam kami ditakdirkan Tuhan duduk berhadapan di warung kue putu merek “Cirebon” yang menetap dekat teng bensin di Pasar Senen. Dari cara dia duduk yang semaunya itu, dari semula sudah saya duga bahwa anak ini tentunya termasuk bangsa-bangsa seniman. Oleh karena malam itu saya mengenakan baju yang siangnya saya pakai tidur, lecek, maka saya pun tidak menyalahkan kalau dia sebaliknya mengira saya seniman pula. Dan memenuhi kebiasaan di antara seniman, yakni meskipun belum pernah kenal atau berkenalan dapat saja bicara dengan intimnya, maka saya tidak ragu-ragu lagi.

“Kenapa?” tanya saya sambil menghembuskan asap rokok dengan gaya bebas, menggaruk-garuk rambut semaunya. Gaya yang saya sesuaikan dengan keadaan saya malam itu: seniman.

“Saya sudah mencobanya. Saya tinggal di kampung,” jawabnya sedih.

“Saudara seniman, ya?”

“Pengarang,” jawabnya tandas, tapi segera disusul dengan helaan napas yang dalam, seperti ia tengah menjalani suatu takdir yang amat berat.

“O, pengarang. Mengarang apa? Barangkali saya pernah baca tulisan Saudara di majalah.”

Kawan itu tidak menjawab. Ia pura-pura tidak mendengar pertanyaan saya, buang muka. Saya yakin ia telah menyesal membuka pembicaraan dengan saya. Kebetulan saya segera sadar bahwa saya telah membuat kekeliruan yang amat besar. Karena saya pernah tahu, bahwa pertanyaan “yang mana karangan Saudara” adalah pertanyaan yang paling tabu diajukan kepada seniman-seniman muda. Sebab besar kemungkinan seniman tersebut telah menjadi seniman sebelum menulis satu karangan pun. Pertanyaan itu akan sangat melukai hati. Kalau sampai ketahuan bahwa ia belum pernah mengarang apa-apa, kan tentunya sulit buat pemuda yang ditanya untuk tetap mengaku seniman. Maka, saya pun cepat-cepat membelokkan pertanyaan itu. “Maksud saya, nama Saudara siapa? Tentunya saya pernah dengar-dengar.”

“Duka,” jawabnya tak bernafsu sambil tetap memandang ke arah lain.

“Cuma Duka saja?” tanya saya dengan suara yang saya buat-buat supaya kedengarannya betul-betul kepengin tahu.

“A. Indra Dukawan.”

“Betul! Saya sering dengar nama itu, sering disebut-sebut orang.” Apa boleh buat, saya terpaksa berdusta. Tetapi karenanya saya bisa menebus kesalahan tadi. Ia kembali tertarik pada saya. Malah lebih dari itu ia jadi baik sekali, membayari kopi dan dua potong kue putu. Dan pembicaraan menjadi lancar, terus sampai malam. Rupanya malam itu ia sedang betul-betul pantas memakai nama Dukawan. Sedang dirundung kesusahan. Yang menjadi soal adalah asmara. Tetapi menurut A. Indra Dukawan, yang menjadi pokok utama adalah karena ia tinggal di kampung.

“Bagaimana mereka bisa mengerti kalaupun saya terangkan kepada orang-orang kampung itu?” katanya dengan suara yang betul-betul menunjukkan kesulitan. “Bagaimana saya bisa menjelaskan kepada mereka, bahwa pekerjaan seorang seniman tidak sama dengan pegawai-pegawai biasa yang pernah mereka kenal? Menurut anggapan mereka, orang yang baik dan rajin itu kalau pagi-pagi menenteng tas pergi ke kantor. Sedangkan saya yang mencari inspirasi setengah mati, bermenung-menung di kebun belakang, mereka katakan pengangguran, sinting, kurang waras. Malah ada yang mengira bahwa saya belajar ilmu sihir, tetapi tidak kesampaian, jadi agak linglung. Betul saya tidak bekerja, tetapi saya mengarang terus. Bekerja keras. Tetapi tidak ada yang bisa memahami. Dan tambah menyedihkan lagikarena saya sering keluar malam, ada pula yang menyangka bahwa saya adalah OKD*. Sama sekali saya tidak menganggap hina pekerjaan OKD yang tidak menerima gaji itu, saya sendiri juga tidak pernah punya uang, tetapi saya bukan OKD. Saya pengarang. Keluyuran malam yang saya lakukan adalah tugas yang sulit, mencari ilham, inspirasi. Dan kalau berhasil …? Ya, kalau berhasil saya bisa bikin buku …, bisa ….”

“Bisa kaya …,” saya telanjur lagi, tetapi cepat bisa saya tutupi, “Maksud saya, biarkan sajalah orang-orang kampung itu, nanti juga kalau sudah terbukti ….”

“Tetapi ini justru soal sekarang, bukan nanti. Sekarang! Saya punya pacar di kampung tempat tinggal saya. Orang tua si gadis terlalu menganggap sepele pada saya.”

“Sepele bagaimana?”

“Orang tuanya yang pertama-tama menganggap saya ini OKD, dan menyiar-nyiarkannya kepada tetangga.”

“Yang penting kekasih Saudara itu bisa mengerti. Habis perkara. Persetan dengan orang tuanya,” kata saya rada bernafsu. Memang panas juga hati mendengar seniman disangka yang tidak-tidak. “Sering-sering jumpai gadis itu, jeksi terus agar tidak kena pengaruh orang lain yang bodoh-bodoh itu. Ada kesempatan tidak, untuk sering-sering ketemu dan bicara?”

Dukawan diam saja selama dua menit. Dan setelah ia menggelengkan kepala sekian kali, berbisiklah dia, “Dia tak akan mau kepada saya, orang tuanya sudah menghasut dia begitu rupa ….”

“Pernah Bung menyatakan cinta Bung terus terang?”

“Ya …,” jawabnya tidak begitu jelas, “Melalui sajak-sajak yang dimuat dalam majalah Rindu Damai keluaran Kalimantan.”

“Barangkali dia belum baca sajak itu.”

“Barangkali,” jawabnya. Menghela napas panjang. “Saya sendiri pun belum pernah melihat majalah itu beredar di Jakarta.”

“Jadi bagaimana dia bisa tahu pasti bahwa Bung mencintai dia?”

“Dia sudah seharusnya tahu. Cinta yang besar dan suci pasti akan sampai ke alamatnya,” kata Dukawan dalam tekanan yang berirama.

“Apa saja yang gadis itu bilang kalau kebetulan bertemu?”

Dukawan menggeleng. Setelah selesai menepuk nyamuk yang menggigit kakinya, baru ia menggumam, “Kami belum pernah ada kesempatan bicara.”

Saya kira tidak terlalu sulit untuk memahami, bagaimana sebenarnya duduk perkara percintaan kawan saya ini.

“Dia tetap adem saja?” tanya saya untuk lebih meyakinkan.

Dukawan mengangguk.

“Pantas,” sambut saya dalam hati. Nyata letak kesalahan tidaklah seluruhnya pada orang tua si gadis. Karena, walaupun ayahnya tidak mengira Dukawan ini sinting lantaran belajar ilmu sihir atau mengatakan ia OKD, tetapi kalau Dukawan diam-diam saja, yaaa ….

“Barangkali perlu dicari jalan lain?”

“Bagaimana?”

“Pakailah baju yang ….” Tak jadi kalimat ini saya selesaikan.

“Saya mengerti! Saya tidak punya pakaian bagus. Dan saya tidak mau ia cinta kepada saya karena pakaian saya,” sedih benar kata-kata ini diucapkannya.

“Saya belum habis bicara tadi,” kata saya.

“Teruskan, teruskan!”

“Saya mau meminjamkan pakaian saya ….”

“Tidak …,” jawabnya lesu sambil menundukkan kepala. Jelas ia merasa tersinggung sekali.

“Maksud saya,” kata saya buru-buru, “saya sedia menolong. Bicaralah terus terang pada gadis itu agar jelas. Saya mau menolong kalau diperlukan. Nanti ….”

“Nanti, nanti!” katanya agak membentak. “Sekarang! Soalnya adalah sekarang ini!” Usul saya hanya menaikkan darahnya saja. “Sekarang-sekarang ini saya harus sekaligus kasih lihat kekuatan. Kenapa? Minggu depan dia akan diajak ke Puncak oleh si Achmad, pemuda otak kosong yang sekadar punya motor itu. Saya juga harus sanggup mengajaknya ke Puncak! Kenapa tidak? Berapa kira-kira ongkos jalan ke Puncak?”

“Kalau jalan kaki sih, murah,” jawab saya tak sengaja bercanda. Betul-betul kurang ajar kelakuan saya ini, tak pantas bermain-main juga dalam keadaan begitu.

“Taksi!” bentaknya bernafsu. “Pakai taksi berapa? Dengan makan-makan sedikit di restoran Puncak. Berapa?”

“Besar, Bung ….”

“Yaaa, berapa?”

“Seribu …. Mungkin kurang sedikit. Sewa taksinya saja kira-kira lima ratus. Makan-makannya …, oleh-olehnya ….” Terhenti saya karena tiba-tiba mata Dukawan memindahkan pandangan ke arah lain, redup matanya. Tersumbat kerongkongan saya. Kadang-kadang ia melihat ke arah tanah di bawahnya, entah melihat apa, sekali ia menoleh sekilas pada saya dan tersenyum sedikit. Entah apa maksudnya. Tapi semua itu menimbulkan suasana yang menyayat hati. Sekuat tenaga saya memeras otak, bagaimana caranya mengembalikan mata Dukawan agar agak bersinar lagi. Paling tidak seperti sebelum ia berkenalan dengan saya tadi.

“Begini, Bung, ada jalan,” kata saya. Ia hanya melirik sedikit saja. “Kalau naik bus barangkali bisa dikejar juga ongkosnya. Makanan, Saudara bawa saja dari rumah.” Usaha saya berhasil, perlahan-lahan tatapan matanya bertambah tajam pada saya. Malah sedikit senyum yang jernih mengembang pula.

“Berapa kira-kira,” tanyanya harap-harap cemas. “Berapa kira-kira ongkosnya semua sampai kembali lagi di Jakarta?”

“Saya kira, yaaa, saya kira seratus rupiah cukup.”

“Seratus?” ulangnya perlahan sambil berpikir keras, lalu mukanya dihiasi senyum lagi. Dipegangnya tangan saya, “Mau Bung membantu saya?”

“Mau!” jawab saya kontan. Tentu saya harus bersedia membantu dia karena sejak tadi kerja saya hanya membuat ia kecil hati, sedih, atau tersinggung. “Bagaimana? Katakanlah!”

“Saya punya sepasang sepatu dan satu celana wol yang jarang sekali ada gunanya buat saya. Tolong kaujualkan ke tukang loak. Saya malu menjualnya.” Saya sangat terkejut, Dukawan tidak melihat. “Saya kira akan laku semua itu seratus perak. Cocok dengan ongkos yang diperlukan.”

“Mampuslah kau!” bisik saya dalam hati pada diri sendiri. Tetapi saya sudah menyatakan bersedia membantu. Besok sorenya saya suruh si Sarpan, tukang becak kenalan saya untuk membawa celana wol dan sepatu Dukawan ke pasar loak di Gang Jagal. Saya menunggu saja di ujung gang.

Semua harta-benda Dukawan laku Rp 97, 50. Saya beri Sarpan seringgit sebagai upah. Lalu saya tambah dari kantong sendiri Rp 5,00 maka genaplah jumlah yang dibutuhkan A. Indra Dukawan. Senang hatinya. Rasanya cukup terbalas juga segala kesalahan saya membuat ia terus-menerus duka tempo hari itu. Tetapi saya harus berbuat sesuatu yang lebih baik lagi. Dia tidak boleh meneruskan rencana mengajak gadis kecintaan pergi ke Puncak dengan naik bus dan membawa makanan dari rumah. Pasti ia akan ditertawai habis-habisan. Tentu hal itu akan terasa jauh lebih pedih daripada sekadar disangka jadi OKD.

“Kenapa Saudara harus bersusah-payah menyaingi si Achmad yang otaknya kosong itu? Tidak tepat kalau jalan yang kita ambil adalah justru apa yang padanya lebih kuat,” kata saya dengan tekanan-tekanan yang amat sungguh-sungguh meyakinkan.

“Apa maksud Bung? Diam-diam saja seperti yang sudah-sudah?”

“Bukan. Nyatakan cinta Bung itu dengan kesanggupan yang ada pada Saudara, mengarang. Kesanggupan yang pasti lebih daripada si Achmad yang kepalanya kosong itu. Dengan uang seratus ini belilah kertas dan karbon ketengan dan pita mesin tik. Bikin cerita atau sajak. Persembahkan kepada kekasih itu.”

A. Indra Dukawan terdiam mendengar usul saya itu, ia berpikir dan berpikir.

“Betul juga,” katanya kemudian. “Dia tidak boleh jatuh pada saya karena saya dikiranya kaya, tapi harus karena kagum akan kesanggupan saya, pada bakat saya, pada cita-cita saya ….”

Sebulan kemudian, kami ketemu lagi di Pasar Senen, di samping warung si Kecil, warung Cina yang menjual buah dingin. Disodorkannya selembar majalah yang dilipat terbuka pada bagian yang memuat tulisan Dukawan. Hampir saya berteriak gembira melihatnya. Betapa tidak? Setahu saya, itulah tulisan Dukawan yang pertama, yang berhasil diterima oleh majalah, dan itu terjadi karena dorongan saya.

“Kapan ini dimuat, Bung?” tanya saya dengan sungguh-sungguh gembira.

“Seminggu yang lalu,” jawabnya sambil tersenyum sedikit, lalu agak menunduk. “Maaf, uang honorariumnya sudah habis buat beli obat, tidak bisa mentraktir Bung.”

“Aaah, tidak apa. Sungguh mati tidak apa-apa.”

Di bawah kepala karangan itu tertulis “untuk si jantung hati, Rina”.

“Rina nama gadis itu, Bung?” tanya saya sambil agak tersenyum nakal, mengajak sedikit bercanda. Dukawan hanya mengangguk kecil saja. “Jadi, apa katanya? Dan bagaimana kata orang-orang kampung setelah mereka tahu bahwa Bung seorang pengarang?”

“Rupanya pengarang tidak boleh tinggal di kampung,” tukasnya dengan nada jengkel. “Mereka tidak bisa menghargai seni! Tambah buruk lagi pandangan mereka terhadap saya sekarang. Katanya tukang karang adalah tukang bohong, tukang berhutang. Memang sulit.”

“Tetapi, Bung jangan mundur!” nasihat saya yang kembali merasa terbakar dan jatuh kasihan pada Dukawan yang melamun saja sambil menggulung-gulung majalah di tangannya. “Masing-masing orang punya bakat sendiri-sendiri. Dan bakat yang jarang pada manusia ini jangan dibikin urung hanya karena pandangan orang kampung saja.”

Dukawan tidak segera memberi reaksi. Ia berpikir dan berpikir. Sesudah saya sodori rokok, barulah ia ada napsu untuk bicara. “Memang, saya tidak boleh mundur hanya karena si Rina tidak mau sama saya. Bung benar, masing-masing orang punya bakat sendiri-sendiri, betul. Mau menolong saya?”

“Tentu. Saya akan tolong Bung sebisa-bisanya agar terus menjadi pengarang yang hebat!” jawab saya penuh napsu. “Biar orang-orang kampung itu tahu bahwa mereka orang bodoh. Biar mereka betul-betul menyesal nanti karena menghina Bung, sekarang. Bagaimana, tolong bagaimana?”

“Kertas tik saya sudah habis,” jawab Dukawan segera. “Saya masih punya barang yang kira-kira bisa laku Rp 45,00. Mau tolong menjualkannya ke tukang loak?”

Masing-masing orang punya bakat sendiri-sendiri memang, dan bakat saya menurut penglihatan A. Indra Dukawan rupanya adalah bakat untuk berurusan dengan tukang loak.[]

*) OKD: Organisasi Keamanan Desa, kini Hansip

halaman 34-42, Keajaiban di Pasar Senen oleh H. Misbach Yusa Biran (penerbit CV Indocamp, Jakarta, cetakan ketiga, 2005)

Terjemahan Dongeng Novianita, “Kendi di Depan Rumah”/”Jug in the Front Yard” (Kompas Klasika, 31 Januari 2016)

Untuk mengasah kemampuan berbahasa Inggris secara tertulis, saya mencoba menerjemahkan tulisan dari bahasa Indonesia ke bahasa Inggris. Cerita anak dipilih sebagai bahan belajar karena bahasanya sederhana. Penyajiannya di blog ini–yang berselang-seling antara teks sumber dan sasaran–terinspirasi dari blog Raysa Prima. Terjemahan ini pastinya tidak luput dari kesalahan. Saya sangat terbuka dan berterima kasih apabila ada pembaca yang berkenan memberikan saran.

Kendi di Depan Rumah

Jug in the Front Yard

Penulis : Novianita

Writer : Novianita

“Bima, kendinya sudah kamu isi?” tanya eyang dari depan pintu kamar Bima.

“Bima, have you filled the jug?” asked Eyang[1] in front of Bima’s bedroom door.

Bima meletakkan novel, lalu beringsut dari tempat tidur. “Belum Bima isi, Eyang. Paling, masih ada.”

Bima put his novel, then moved slowly from the bed. “I haven’t filled the jug yet, Eyang. I guess there’s still some water in it.”

“Kalau kendi itu kosong, kasihan orang-orang yang kehausan.”

“If the jug is empty, poor those who are thirsty.”

Bima lalu menenteng ceret mungil keluar dari dapur. Setiap ceret berayun, sepercik air tumpah dari mulut ceret.

And then Bima carried a tiny jug out of kitchen. Every time the jug swung, a splash of water spilled from its mouth.

“Aduh, Bima. Sayang airnya. Banyak orang ndak bisa minum,” omel eyang.

“Oh, Bima. What a waste. Many people can’t afford drink,” grumbled Eyang.

Eyang menyediakan sebuah kendi besar lengkap dengan gelasnya di depan pagar rumahnya di Klaten, Jawa Tengah. Pedagang keliling atau siapa pun yang kebetulan lewat dan merasa haus bisa minum air dari kendi itu.

Eyang provides a big jug of water, completed with some glasses in front of her gate in Klaten, Central Java. Peddler or anyone who happens to pass and feels thirsty can drink water in it.

Sebelum dan sepulang sekolah, Bima harus memastikan kendi itu selalu terisi. Saat matahari sangat terik, kendi itu cepat sekali kosong karena banyak pedagang keliling yang minum air.

Before and after school, Bima has to make sure that the jug is always filled. When the sun is very hot, the jug is quickly empty since many peddlers drink the water.

Keesokan hari saat pulang sekolah. “Panas sekali hari ini,” gumam Bima yang kehausan. Sayangnya, bekal air minum di botol sudah habis. Lalu, ia melihat teman-temannya mengerumuni para penjual minuman dingin di depan sekolah. Bima hanya bisa menatap kepingin karena tidak berbekal uang.

The next day after school. “It’s hot today,” mumbled Bima, who was thirsty. Unfortunately, he ran out of water in his drinking bottle. And then, he saw his friends was gathering around cold drink pedlars in front of the schoolyard. Bima could only stare in thirst because he didn’t bring any money.

Bima lalu bergegas pulang. Berkali-kali ia menjilati bibir karena menahan haus. Di tengah perjalanan, ia bertemu pedagang yang menarik gerobak penuh bertumpuk-tumpuk ember. Bibir si pedagang tampak kering karena terlalu lama menahan haus.

And then Bima rushed home. Many times he licked his lips, suffering thirst. On his way home, he saw a peddler pulling a cart filled with piles of buckets. The peddlar’s lips were dry for too long suffering thirst.

Bapak itu pasti haus sekali, batin Bima. Semoga dia lewat depan rumahku biar bisa minum dari kendi eyang. Eh, kendi eyang? Tadi pagi belum aku isi! gumam Bima.

That man must be very thirsty, thought Bima. I hope he will pass in front of my home so he can drink from Eyang’s jug. Ah, Eyang’s jug? I haven’t filled it up this morning! murmured Bima.

“Selamat siang, Eyang,” ujar Bima saat masuk ke rumah. “Bima haus. Bekal minum Bima habis,” katanya sambil menyambar segelas air yang disodorkan eyang.

“Good afternoon, Eyang,” said Bima, going into home. “I’m thirsty. My drinking bottle is empty,” he said, at the same time grabbing a glass of water Eyang gave him.

“Eyang, baru saja di jalan. Aku bertemu tukang ember. Sepertinya tukang ember itu haus sekali. Terus aku ingat. Tadi pagi aku lupa mengisi kendi,” ujar Bima.

“Eyang, I’ve just met a bucket peddler on my way home. He seemed very thirsty. And then I remember that this morning I forgot to fill the jug,” said Bima.

“Besok jangan lupa lagi, ya. Tadi sudah diisi Eyang Kakung sebelum ke kantor.”

“Then you must not forget tomorrow. Eyang Kakung[2] had filled it before he went to work.”

“Iya, Eyang. Bima janji ndak lupa lagi. Kasihan kalau ada pedagang kehausan. Bima saja haus sekali, padahal cuma bawa ransel. Pedagang itu bawa dagangannya berat sekali. Pasti lebih haus dari aku.”

“I promise, Eyang, I will not forget anymore. How pity the thirsty peddler. I felt very thirsty, though I carried mere backpack. While the peddler carried such heavy load. He must be thirstier than me.”

“Ya, itulah sebabnya Eyang menyediakan kendi. Biar mereka bisa minum gratis. Rumah ini punya air bersih yang melimpah agar Eyang bisa berbuat baik untuk mereka yang kehausan.”

“That’s way I provide the jug so they can have free drink. This home has abundance pure water, so I can be kindly giving some to the ones who feel thirsty.”

“Bima juga ingin berbuat baik,” sahut Bima penuh tekad.

“I want to be kind, too,” said Bima in determination.

Semenjak hari itu, Bima tidak pernah lupa mengisi kendi. Ia senang bisa berbuat baik untuk orang lain melalui sekendi air.

From that day on, Bima never forget to fill the jug. He is happy doing good thing for other people by a jug of water.

Dari Kompas Klasika, Minggu, 31 Januari 2016

From Kompas Klasika, Sunday, January 31, 2016

[1] (Java) term of address and reference for grandparent

[2] (honorific, Java) male

Catatan: Tradisi menaruh kendi di depan rumah ini pertama kali saya dengar dari dosen bertahun-tahun lalu. Sejak kecil, saya tidak pernah menemui tradisi itu di lingkungan perumahan saya di Jawa Barat, termasuk di tempat saudara saya di beberapa kawasan berbahasa Jawa, yang hampir semuanya berada di perkotaan. Maka ketika mengetahui adanya tradisi itu, dan mengingat betapa banyaknya pedagang keliling yang lewat di sekitar rumah sepanjang hari, saya merasa tersentil. Tradisi ini baik sekali, sehingga sayang karena tidak dilestarikan dan malah akibatnya terasa tidak lazim jika dilakukan.

Terjemahan Cerita Anak FiFadila, “Oto-Bot” (Kompas Anak, 13 Desember 2015)

Untuk mengasah kemampuan berbahasa Inggris secara tertulis, saya mencoba menerjemahkan tulisan dari bahasa Indonesia ke bahasa Inggris. Cerita anak dipilih sebagai bahan belajar karena bahasanya sederhana. Penyajiannya di blog ini–yang berselang-seling antara teks sumber dan sasaran–terinspirasi dari blog Raysa Prima. Terjemahan ini pastinya tidak luput dari kesalahan. Saya sangat terbuka dan berterima kasih apabila ada pembaca yang berkenan memberikan saran.

Oto-Bot

Oleh: FiFadila

Penulis Anak, Tinggal di Malang, Jawa Timur 

Oto-Bot

By: FiFadila

Author of children’s literature, Lives in Malang, East Java, Indonesia

Profesor Teri seorang ilmuwan genius. Namun, ia juga pelupa. Ia membuat sebuah robot serbaguna yang diberi nama Oto-Bot. Sayangnya ia lupa bagaimana cara menghidupkan si robot. Catatannya pun terselip entah ke mana. Profesor Teri sibuk mencari kertas catatannya dari laboratorium kerja, kamar tidur, ruang makan, ruang tamu, dapur, hingga gudang atas.

Professor Teri is a genius scientist. Yet, he is absent-minded. He creates a versatile robot named  Oto-Bot. Unfortunately, he forgets how to turn the robot on. His note slips somewhere. Professor Teri is busy looking for the paper from work laboratory, bedroom, dining room, guest room, kitchen, up to storeroom.

Dani, cucu Profesor Teri, masuk ke laboratorium. Dia mencari sang Kakek untuk mengerjakan PR Matematika yang sulit. Dani melihat sosok berdiri menghadap jendela. Ia mengira itu Kakek. Dani mengendap-endap dan mengejutkannya.

Dani, Professor Teri’s grandchild, comes into the laboratory. He looks for his Grandpa to perform difficult Mathematics homework. Dani sees a figure is standing before window. Dani supposes that it is Grandpa. Dani creeps up and startles it.

“Dooor …. Kakek Teri!” Dani mendorong pinggang sosok itu.

“Baaang …. Grandpa Teri!” Dani pushes its waist.

Sosok itu tidak melompat terkejut atau berteriak kaget. Sosok itu jatuh menabrak meja tanpa gerakan. Bunyi jatuhnya pun mengejutkan Dani.

That figure doesn’t jump over nor screamed in surprise. That figure falls against a table without moving. The sound of its fall startles Dani.

Klontang! Seperti bunyi kaleng beradu. Punggungnya menabrak kaki meja. Terdengar suara seperti tombol dipencet. Klik.

Clank! It sounds like hitting metal. Its back rushes against leg of the table. There is a sound like pushed button. Click.

Dani jadi bingung melihatnya. Sosok yang jatuh itu bukan Kakek Teri. Tapi, kaleng besi yang bisa bergerak. 

Dani is puzzled to see it. The fallen figure is not Grandpa Teri. But, an iron bucket who is able to move.

“Halo … halo … halo …” ucap kaleng besi itu dengan suara mesin komputer. Ia melambai-lambaikan tangan dan duduk tegak.

“Hello … hello … hello …” says the iron bucket in computer machine voice. It waves its hand and sit upright.

“Hei, kamu robot buatan Kakek Teri ya?” Dani kegirangan. Ia seperti bertemu seorang teman. Ia mengulurkan tangan dan menarik robot itu berdiri. “Namaku Dani. Kamu siapa?” 

“Hi, you are made by Grandpa Teri, aren’t you?” Dani is happy. He seems like have met some friend. He passes his hand and pulls the robot to stand. “My name is Dani. Who are you?”

Robot mengangguk. “Halo, Dani. Aku Oto-Bot, robot serbaguna. Dibuat oleh Profesor Teri. Aku bisa membersihkan rumah. Bisa juga bermain bola.”

The robot nods. “Hello, Dani. I am Oto-Bot, a versatile robot. Made by Professor Teri. I can do housecleaning. Can play football, too.”

Dani girang bukan kepalang. Dengan adanya robot ini, dia bisa bebas tugas. Dia bisa bermain sepanjang waktu.  

Dani is pleased as punch. With this robot, he can be free of duty. He can play all the time.

“Bisakah kau mengerjakan PR Matematika?” Dani menyodorkan buku tulisnya di meja. “Lalu kita bisa main bola.”

“Can you do Math homework?” Dani puts his book on the table. “And then we can play football.”

Oto-Bot melihat buku Matematika Dani, “Tentu …. Tapi, bateraiku lemah. Aku bisa hidup sampai 15 menit lagi.” 

Oto-Bot looks at Dani’s Mathematics book, “Sure …. But, my battery is low. I can go for fifteen minutes left.”

“Mana charger-mu?” Dani mengelilingi laboratorium kakek mencari semacam charger laptop. Setelah berputar selama sepuluh menit, ia bisa menemukan charger yang pas buat Oto-Bot. Lubang charge ada di punggung Oto-Bot.

“Where is your charger?” Dani goes around grandfather’s laboratory looking for a kind of laptop charger. After turning around for ten minutes, he can find an appropriate charger for Oto-Bot. The charger slot is on Oto-Bot’s back.

“Isi aku selama 24 jam. Dalam keadaan mati, agar tidak panas berlebihan,” kata Oto-Bot menunjuk tombol di punggungnya. 

“Charged me for 24 hours. I must be turned off, so as to not overheat,” says Oto-Bot pointing to a button on his back.

“Tidak usah. Bateraimu bisa diisi sambil mengerjakan PR matematika. Biasanya main tablet sambil nge-charge juga tak apa kok,” jawab Dani. 

“It is not necessary. You can be charged while working on my homework. I used to play tablet while charging its battery and it was just fine,” answers Dani.

Dani menyorongkan buku Matematika di tangan Oto-Bot. Mata Oto-Bot bergerak memindai 10 soal Matematika di hadapannya. Menghitung luas dan volume bangun ruang. Tak ada sepuluh menit, Oto-Bot sudah menyelesaikan soal nomor sembilan. Tulisan Oto-Bot juga rapi. Seperti cetakan printer.

Dani hands his Math book to Oto-Bot. Oto-Bot’s eyes move scanning the ten Mathematics problems in front of them. Calculating size and volume of geometry. Less than ten minutes, Oto-Bot has done the ninth problem. Its writing is neat, too, like printing.

“Peringatan! Panas berlebihan. Panas berlebihan. Panas berlebihan. Cabut … charger … dari … soket.” Oto-Bot memberikan peringatan.

“Warning! Overheat. Overheat. Overheat. Take … the charger … off … the slot.” Oto-Bot gives warning.

Sayangnya, Dani terlambat memahami peringatan Oto-Bot. Dia sibuk melihat kecanggihan Oto-Bot bekerja. Dalam bayangannya, Bu Guru dan teman-teman akan memuji hasil PR-nya.

Unfortunately, Dani is lost in getting the Oto-Bot’s warning. He is busy observing how sophisticated Oto-Bot works. He imagines, his teacher and friends will praise his homework.

Oto-Bot diam tak bergerak. Padahal tinggal satu nomor lagi. Bau gosong tercium di hidung Dani. Punggung Oto-Bot berasap. Dani cepat-cepat mencabut aliran listrik. 

Oto-Bot is still. Whereas there is only one problem left. Dani sniffs burnt smell. Oto-Bot’s back is smoky. Dani quickly unplugs its power supply.

“Oh, tidak! Bukuku gosong!” teriak Dani. Dilihatnya tangan Oto-Bot juga berasap dan meninggalkan bekas hitam di buku Dani.

“Oh, no! My book is burnt!” cries Dani. He sees Oto-Bot’s hand is smoky, too, and leaves dark traces on Dani’s book.

Dani ketakutan. Dia melakukan dua kesalahan. Yang pertama dia tidak mendengarkan peringatan Oto-Bot men-charge baterai harus dalam keadaan mati. Yang kedua, dia merusak robot buatan Kakek. Akibatnya, PR-nya gosong. Belum lagi harus mendapat hukuman dari Kakek.

Dani is afraid. He has made two mistakes. First, he didn’t listen to Oto-Bot’s warning in order to charge the battery off stage. Second, he has damaged Grandpa’s robot. As a result, his homework is burnt. Not to mention he must get punishment from Grandpa.

“Dani, apa yang kau lakukan di laboratorium Kakek tanpa izin?” terdengar suara Kakek Teri tiba-tiba. 

“Dani, what are you doing in my laboratory without my permission?” Suddenly there is Grandpa Teri’s voice.

Dani tertunduk. Ia takut Kakek marah. Tetapi, ia tak punya alasan untuk lolos dari kemarahan Kakek. Dani pun menceritakan kejadian Oto-Bot berasap dengan jujur. Ia juga ikhlas mendapat hukuman. 

Dani bows. He is afraid Grandpa will be angry to him. However, he has no reason to escape from Grandpa’s anger. Then, Dani tells the smoky Oto-Bot incident honestly. He also willngly have the punishment.

Mata Kakek membulat, “Jadi, kau tadi menghidupkan Oto-Bot? Kau bercakap-cakap dengan Oto-Bot? Dan Oto-Bot memintamu men-charge baterainya?” 

Grandpa’s eyes rounded. “So, you had just turned Oto-Bot on? You talked to Oto-Bot? And Oto-Bot asked you to charge its battery?”

Dani terkejut saat Kakek menepuk kepalanya dengan bangga. 

Dani is surprised when Grandpa taps his head proudly.

“Kau genius, Dani! Kakek dari seminggu lalu bingung menghidupkan Oto-Bot. Ternyata kau berhasil melakukannya. Setelah kau selesaikan PR-mu, bantu Kakek memperbaiki Oto-Bot.”

“Dani, you are a genius! Since a week ago I was confused how to turn Oto-Bot on. It turns out that you can do it. After you finish your homework, help me to fix Oto-Bot.”

Dani mengangguk lega dan cepat kembali ke kamarnya. Untung ia berkata jujur kepada Kakek. Kali ini Dani mengerjakan PR sendiri dengan semangat. Ia tak sabar membantu Kakek memperbaiki Oto-Bot.

Dani nods in relief and quickly go back to his room. Fortunately he told the truth to Grandpa. This time he performs his homework by himself with vigor. He can’t wait to help Grandpa fixing Oto-Bot.

Dari Kompas Anak, 13 Desember 2015 

From Kompas Anak, December 13, 2015

Terjemahan Dongeng Agus Kurniawan, “Namaku Tokek”/”My Name is Gecko” (Bobo, 13 Desember 2001)

Untuk mengasah kemampuan berbahasa Inggris secara tertulis, saya mencoba menerjemahkan tulisan dari bahasa Indonesia ke bahasa Inggris. Cerita anak dipilih sebagai bahan belajar karena bahasanya sederhana. Penyajiannya di blog ini–yang berselang-seling antara teks sumber dan sasaran–terinspirasi dari blog Raysa Prima. Terjemahan ini pastinya tidak luput dari kesalahan. Saya sangat terbuka dan berterima kasih apabila ada pembaca yang berkenan memberikan saran.

Namaku Tokek

oleh Agus Kurniawan

My Name is Gecko

by Agus Kurniawan

Namaku Tokek. Bentuk tubuhku mirip dengan cicak, hanya sedikit lebih besar. Aku tinggal di atap rumah keluarga Pak Rahmat. Keluarga ini miskin, namun hidupnya tenteram dan bahagia.

My name was Gecko. The shape of my body was like small house lizard, but a little much bigger. I lived in The Rahmats’ rooftop. The family was poor but they lived happily in peace.

Pak Rahmat mempunyai dua anak, Budi dan Uci. Mereka senang sekali memakai suaraku untuk bersenda gurau. Caranya begini, setiap aku berbunyi, “Tokek…” Budi mengangkat telunjuk sambil berkata, “Aku”. Kemudian pada bunyi yang kedua, “Tokek…” ganti Uci yang mengangkat telunjuk dan berkata, “Aku.” Begitu seterusnya sampai aku tidak bersuara. Nah, anak yang mengangkat telunjuk pada bunyiku yang terakhir, dialah yang kalah dan harus mendapat pukulan. Tentu saja pukulannya pelan dan tidak menyakitkan. Karena mereka saling menyayangi.

Mr. Rahmat had two children, Budi dan Uci. They were very happy making fun with my sound. This way: each time I made the sound, “Gecko…” Budi raised his index finger saying, “Me.” Then on the other sound, “Gecko…” it was Uci raised her index finger saying, “Me.” And so on until I got silent. Well, whoever raised the index finger at my last sound was the one whom lose and must be beaten by the other. It was just a soft blow and hurtless, of course, for they love each other.

Ada lagi yang lucu. Budi sering menjadikan suaraku untuk meramal apa yang akan dia lakukan. Bila dia ragu-ragu untuk menerima ajakan temannya, maka dia menghitung suaraku.

There was another amusement:  Budi often made my voice to predict what he would do. When he hesitated to accept an invitation from his friend, then he counted my voice.

“Tokek…” kataku, dan Budi menyahut, “pergi.”

“Gecko…” I said, and Budi said, “go.”

“Tokek…” kataku lagi, disahut oleh Budi, “tidak.” Begitu seterusnya sampai aku berhenti bersuara. Bila aku berhenti pada kata “Pergi,” maka dia terima ajakan temannya. Dan bila sebaliknya, maka ia akan menolak.

“Tokek…” I said again, answered by Budi, “not go.” And so on until I was quiet. When I stopped on the word “Go,” then he received the invitation. And if I said the opposite, then he refused.

Namun yang mengharukan bagiku adalah Uci. Bila sedang sendiri, anak itu sering mengajakku bercakap-cakap. Seolah sedang berbicara dengan sahabatnya. Padahal aku hanya diam. Kalaupun aku berkata, dia tidak akan mengerti apa yang aku katakan.

But I was touched by Uci. If she was alone, she often talked to me as if she babbled with some friend. I was quiet, though. Even though I said something, she wouldn’t tell what it was.

Uci juga sering meletakkan remah-remah roti di atas lemari. Maksudnya untuk diberikan kepadaku. Dia tidak tahu makanan kegemaranku adalah nyamuk, bukan roti. Namun untuk menyenangkan hatinya, remah-remah roti itu terpaksa kumakan juga.

Uci often put breadcrumbs upon the cupboard as well. She would like to give it to me. She didn’t know that my favorite food was mosquito, not bread. But, in pleasing her, I forced myself to eat the breadcrumbs.

Pada suatu hari aku mengintip Uci dan ibunya sedang berbicara. Kulihat Uci menggaruk sela-sela jemari kakinya. Bu Rahmat memeriksa kaki anaknya sambil berjongkok.

One day I peeked at Uci and her mother were talking. I saw Uci was scratching between her toes. Mrs. Rahmat squatted while examining the child’s feet.

“Sejak tadi malam gatal sekali. Aku menggaruknya sampai luka,” kata Uci sambil meringis menahan sakit dan gatal.

“It was so itchy since last night. I scratched until it hurt,” said Uci in grimace for bearing the itch and pain.

“Ini penyakit kulit. Eksim namanya, Ci. Sebaiknya kamu makan daging tokek agar cepat sembuh. Biar nanti ayahmu yang menangkap tokek di atap rumah kita.”

“It’s skin disease named eczema. You should eat gecko flesh so that you recover soon. Your father will catch the gecko in our rooftop.”

“Jangan, Bu. Tokek itu jangan dibunuh. Kasihan. Belikan saja obat penyakit kulit yang dijual di toko,” pinta Uci.

“Don’t do it, Mother. Don’t kill the gecko. What a pity. Just buy me some medicine for skin disease from store,” asked Uci.

“Boleh. Tapi Ibu ragu apa penyakitmu bisa sembuh dengan obat dari toko.”

“You may, but I ‘m not sure the medicine from store will help.”

Benar juga apa yang dikatakan Ibu. Obat yang dibeli di toko ternyata tidak manjur. Setelah beberapa hari kaki Uci diolesi salep, masih saja dia menggaruk-garuk sela-sela jemari kakinya. Bu Rahmat akhirnya memutuskan memakai cara pertama.

Mother was right. The medicine from store was not strong enough. For a couple of days Uci’s feet got recovered by salve, yet she scratched between her toes. Mrs. Rahmat, finally, decided to take the first method.

Tuh, lihat saja. Obat dari toko tidak manjur. Karena itu, kamu harus makan daging tokek,” ujar Bu Rahmat.

“See? The medicine from store is not strong enough. Therefore, you have to eat gecko’s flesh,” said Mrs. Rahmat.

“Kita tunggu sampai tiga hari lagi, Bu.”

“Let’s see for another three days, Mother.”

“Untuk apa?” tanya Bu Rahmat tidak mengerti.

“What for?” asked Mrs. Rahmat didn’t get the idea.

“Saya sudah menulis surat buat Paman di kota. Saya ceritakan tentang gatal-gatal di kaki saya. Saya meminta Paman untuk membelikan obat yang paling baik,” Uci menjelaskan. Bu Rahmat setuju dan mau menunggu hingga tiga hari lagi.

“I have written a letter to Uncle in town. I told him about the itch on my feet. I asked Uncle to buy me the best medicine,” explained Uci. Mrs. Rahmat agreed and would wait for the next three days.

Tepat di hari terakhir, hatiku cemas. Kiriman obat dari paman Uci hingga siang belum juga datang. Uci juga merasakan kecemasan yang sama. Aku tahu dari raut wajah gadis kecil itu.

Just on the last day, I was worried. The medicine from Uci’s uncle hadn’t come yet until noon. Uci was worried as well. I knew it from her face.

“Petugas pos sudah lewat sejak tadi, Ci. Berarti Pamanmu tidak mengirim obat ke sini. Bagaimana, kalau kita tangkap tokek itu sekarang juga?” kata Pak Rahmat. Uci terpaksa mengangguk lemah. Seakan tidak rela aku diburu dan dibunuh untuk menyembuhkan penyakitnya.

“The postman have past from a little while ago. It means your uncle doesn’t send the medicine here. How if we catch the gecko right now?” said Mr. Rahmat. Uci perforce nodded weakly, as if not willing I was hunted and killed to cure her disease.

Di atas atap aku bersiap diri untuk mati. Aku tidak akan lagi menghindar bila Pak Rahmat menangkapku. Aku rela dibunuh untuk menyembuhkan penyakit Uci. Kasihan sekali gadis kecil itu. Sudah satu minggu dia tersiksa oleh penyakit yang dideritanya.

On the rooftop I was prepared to die. I would not stay away anymore if Mr. Rahmat catch me. I was willing to be killed for Uci’s health. It was too bad for that little girl. It had been a week she suffered the disease.

Pak Rahmat sudah mengambil galah untuk menangkapku. Sementara Bu Rahmat, Budi, dan Uci memperhatikan Pak Rahmat yang bersiap menyodok tubuhku. Namun ajalku rupanya belum tiba hari itu. Pintu rumah diketok dari luar sebelum galah digerakkan.

Mr. Rahmat had taken a spear to catch me, while Mrs. Rahmat, Budi, and Uci watched him was ready to shovel me. However, it seemed that the day was not my time to die yet. There was knocking on the door before the spear was moved.

“Hore …. Paman datang! Paman membawakan obat untukku, kan?” sambut Uci gembira.

“Hurray …. Uncle is coming! Do you bring the medicine for me, don’t you?” Uci welcomed happily.

“Tentu sayang. Mana mungkin Paman membiarkan Uci menghabiskan waktu hanya untuk menggaruk-garuk kaki,” jawab Paman dengan mimik lucu.

“Of course, dear. How could I let you spend your time just for scratching your feet,” answered Uncle in funny expression.

Hari itu juga Uci meminum obat dan mengoleskan kakinya dengan salep yang dibawa Paman. Kata Paman, obat dan salep itu didapat dari dokter spesialis penyakit kulit. Tentu saja harganya mahal. Namun sangat manjur. Beberapa hari kemudian penyakit Uci sembuh. Dia tidak lagi menggaruk-garuk sela-sela jemari kakinya.

That very day Uci took the medicine and dabbed the salve her Uncle had brought on her feet. Uncle said that he got the medicine and the salve from a doctor specialized in dermatology. Of cource their prices were expensive. However they were really strong. A few days later the disease had gone. Uci didn’t scratch between her toes anymore.

Namaku Tokek. Aku tinggal di atap rumah keluarga Pak Rahmat. Keluarga yang miskin, namun hidupnya tenteram bahagia. Aku merasa sangat beruntung bisa hidup di tengah-tengah mereka.***

My name is Gecko. I live in The Rahmat’s rooftop. The family is poor, but they live happily in peace. I feel so lucky to live among them.***

Dari majalah Bobo tahun XXIX 13 Desember 2001 Rp 4.500,00

From Bobo magazine year XXIX December 13, 2001 Rp 4.500,00