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Para Penjual Rumah Ustazah Nung

Ben Sohib writes short stories, essays, novels, and film scripts. The duology of The Da Peci Code (Rahat Books, 2006) and Rosid dan Delia (Bentang, 2008) were adapted into a movie titled 3 Hati, 2 Dunia, dan 1 Cinta (3 Hearts, 2 Worlds, and 1 Love) and won the best film in the 2010 Indonesian Film Festival. He was nominated as the best scriptwriter for the film Bid’ah Cinta in the 2017 Indonesian Film Festival.

Sohib’s short story collection Haji Syiah was translated into English by George Fowler under the title Haji Syiah & Other Stories.  Jorn Holger Sprode translated the collection into German under the title Hadschi Schia. The original and both translations are combined in one publication (Lontar 2015).

He can be reached at bensohib2@yahoo.co.id

Published in August 2019. Copyright ©2019 by Ben Sohib. Published with permission from the author. Translation copyright ©2019 by Oni Suryaman.

 

 

Para Penjual Rumah Ustazah Nung

 

Kau harus melihat sendiri bagaimana si bungsu itu memainkan drama di hadapan ibunya. Dia tahu ibunya selalu merasa iba kepadanya dan lekas terharu pada apa pun yang dikeluhkannya. Lelaki itu memang bebal dalam banyak hal, tapi tidak untuk urusan yang satu ini. Ketiga kakaknya, dua perempuan dan satu laki-laki, dibuat tak berkutik dan hanya bisa pasrah saat sang ibu akhirnya menuruti keinginannya: menjual rumah pusaka.

“Dulah tsudah tak tahan hidup tsendiri. Dulah ingin menikah lagi tsecepatnya,” itu yang dia katakan sambil tangannya mengusap sepasang pipi tembam yang basah oleh air mata.

Lihat, dia selalu berbicara dengan memanggil namanya sendiri, menegaskan bahwa dia memang anak bontot yang manja. Memang benar dia anak bungsu dari empat bersaudara. Tapi usianya 38 tahun, berperut buncit, berkepala botak, dan tak fasih melafalkan “s” karena dua gigi depannya sudah rompal (soal kenapa dua gigi depannya rompal akan kuceritakan nanti).

Aku tak tahu apa yang ada di pikiranmu jika kau berada di sana menyaksikan rapat keluarga sore itu, melihat seorang lelaki dewasa berbicara dengan memanggil namanya sendiri, sesuatu yang hanya pantas dilakukan anak balita atau paling tidak gadis remaja. Mungkin kau ingin menamparnya. Ketiga kakaknya ingin sekali membunuhnya.

“Kau tak memikirkan Umi?” tanya salah seorang kakak perempuanya.

“Umi bitsa membeli rumah kecil di kampung dekat-dekat tsini. Buat apa rumah tsebesar ini jika penghuninya cuma Umi dan Dulah? Lagipula, kalau nanti menikah Dulah kan juga ingin punya rumah tsendiri, punya mobil, punya utsaha, tseperti kalian semua!”

Namanya memang Abdulah, dan dia memang dipanggil Dulah, tapi percayalah, kau akan merasa jengah melihat seorang lelaki dewasa, dengan potongan seperti yang sudah kugambarkan tadi, berbicara dengan gaya memangggil namanya sendiri. Dan kejengahanmu akan menjadi-jadi setiap kali ada kata yang mengandung huruf “s” di tengah-tengah pembicaraannya.

“Tapi Umi belum tentu betah di rumah baru,” sergah kakak perempuan yang lainnya.

“Betul, selain banyak kenangan dengan almarhum Abah, Umi kan ada majelis taklim di rumah ini. Itu hiburan tersendiri buat masa tua Umi,” kali ini kakak laki-lakinya yang angkat bicara.

Si bungsu berdiri. “Hiburan? Hiburan buat kalian karena kalian tsudah punya tsegalanya! Kalian egoits! Kalian….” Dia tak mampu melanjutkan kalimatnya. Dia kembali duduk dan menutup wajah dengan kedua telapak tangannya. Sekarang dia tersedu. Kakak-kakaknya yang duduk di depannya terdiam, sementara sang ibu yang duduk di sampingnya tampak seperti orang linglung. Mungkin dia bingung menghadapi suasana seperti ini, apalagi pikirannya masih terganggu dengan kata-kata Abdulah seminggu yang lalu. Saat menyampaikan niatnya hendak menikah lagi setelah delapan tahun menduda, anak bungsunya itu mengawali dengan keluh-kesah bahwa dia tak pernah merasa bahagia sepanjang hidupnya, dan bahwa sekarang dia ingin menikmati hidup selagi usianya belum terlanjur tua. Pikiran Ustazah Nung—demikian perempuan itu dipanggil oleh warga kampung—makin ruwet ketika dia tahu dengan siapa sang anak hendak menikah (soal dengan siapa Abdulah hendak menikah juga akan kuceritakan nanti).

Setelah tangisnya mereda, si bungsu melanjutkan bicaranya, “Kalian tak pernah memikirkan hidup Dulah yang hancur, yang ketsepian, yang tak punya rumah tangga, yang tak punya apa-apa!”

“Kami semua memikirkan hidupmu, dan kau bebas mengawini setan mana pun yang kau suka, tapi jelas kami tak setuju dengan usulmu menjual rumah ini, kita juga harus memikirkan kehidupan Umi!“ kata kakak perempuannya yang pertama.

“Umi akan baik-baik tsaja, kalian berlebihan! Ini mumpung tsekarang harga tsedang tinggi, mau menunggu apa lagi? Kalian tega melihat Dulah hidup merana tseperti ini bertahun-tahun? Kalau begini tserus, Dulah bitsa-bitsa duduk dan jalan-jalan telanjang di depan rumah!”

“Akan kujual rumah ini, dan kubagikan uangnya sesuai hak waris masing-masing!” akhirnya Ustazah Nung ambil keputusan. Perempuan tua itu berbicara tegas dan lantang, dengan suara bergetar.

***

Kini tiba saatnya aku bercerita tentang bagaimana dua gigi depan Abdulah rompal, dan beberapa hal lainnya. Giginya masih utuh seandainya dia tak berbuat bodoh. Bahkan rumah tangganya mustinya juga masih utuh. Tapi dia terlalu bodoh untuk mempertahankan keutuhan gigi depan maupun rumah-tangganya.

Itu bermula dari petualangannya dengan seorang perempuan bernama Lola. Saat itu Abdulah sudah beristri. Tapi, dua tahun usia pernikahan tampaknya masih terlalu singkat untuk bisa memadamkan api cinta pertamanya kepada Lola. Dia memang sudah tergila-gila kepada perempuan itu sejak dia masih murid SLTA. Mereka belajar di sekolah yang sama. Abdulah murid kelas 3, Lola duduk di bangku kelas 1. Tapi mereka lulus dalam waktu yang bersamaan lantaran dua kali Abdulah tak naik kelas (Abdulah juga pernah tak naik kelas sebelumnya, dua kali saat di SD, sekali di SLTP).

Selama tiga tahun menjadi teman satu sekolahan, Abdulah tak berhasil menjadikan Lola sebagai pacarnya, tapi dia cukup senang telah berhasil membuat Lola bersedia menerima apa saja yang dia berikan, baik berupa barang maupun uang. Tak sekali pun pemberiannya pernah ditolak Lola. Rasa bahagia Abdulah berlipat-ganda saat Lola mulai berani meminta uang jajan seminggu sekali, yang langsung dia terjemahkan sebagai kesediaan gadis itu untuk menjadi istrinya.

“Lola memang cantik, tapi sepertinya dia bukan gadis baik-baik, aku sering melihat dia merokok di warung Bu Mameh,” kata Ustazah Nung saat Abdulah memintanya untuk meminang Lola, enam bulan setelah mereka berdua lulus SLTA.

“Lola cinta pertama Dulah, tak ada yang bisa menggantikannya,” jawab Abdulah.

Dengan berat hati Ustazah Nung akhirnya melangkah ke rumah Lola menemui ibunya, menyampaikan niat Abdullah. Dan dia pulang dengan membawa kabar buruk untuk anak laki-laki terkasihnya. : Lola “sudah ada yang punya,” seorang pengusaha biro perjalanan. Mereka akan menikah tahun depan.

Sejak saat itu Abdullah menjadi pemurung dan sering melamun. Keadaan yang membuat Ustazah Nung risau ini berlangsung selama hampir dua tahun, sampai salah seorang kakak perempuannya datang bersama seorang perempuan bernama Hilda.

“Ini adik temanku. Dia dari Tasikmalaya, ke Jakarta mau mencari pekerjaan,” katanya saat memperkenalkan kepada Abdulah.

Mereka menikah enam bulan kemudian. Ustazah Nung menjual sebidang tanah di Kebon Baru untuk biaya perkawinan, dan sebagian sisanya diberikan kepada Abdulah untuk modal usaha membuka warung sate kambing di Jalan Otista.

Di luar dugaan banyak orang yang mengenalnya, Abdulah berhasil mengelola warung itu dengan baik. Kian hari Warung Sate Kambing “Bang Dulah” kian banyak mendapatkan pelanggan. Dalam waktu dua tahun, Abdulah sudah berani mengambil kredit mobil. Saat itulah Lola kembali muncul dalam kehidupannya. Lola yang tak kunjung menikah, baik dengan pengusaha biro perjalanan atau biro apa pun juga, datang ke warung itu.

“Satemu enak,” katanya saat akan membayar di meja kasir.

“Kau tak perlu membayar,” jawab Abdulah dengan gemetar.

Lola mengulurkan dua lembar kertas, selembar uang kertas pecahan lima puluh ribu dan selembar lainnya kertas putih bertuliskan nomer telepon genggamnya. Abdulah menerimanya dengan tangan bergetar seperti orang sakit buyutan. Dan Lola sengaja menyentuhkan jemari tangannya ke telapak tangan Abdulah yang berkeringat dingin. Abdullah buru-buru memasukkan kedua lembar kertas itu ke laci, dan lupa memberikan uang kembalian.

Tak sampai dua minggu setelah kunjungan itu, kabar bahwa Abdulah sering pergi berdua dengan Lola sudah santer terdengar di seantero kampung. Menurut sas-sus yang beredar di antara warga, Abdulah memberi Lola uang bulanan. Sepeda motor bebek baru yang dikendarai Lola konon juga merupakan pemberian Abdulah. Kabar-kabar burung itu akhirnya hinggap di telinga Hilda. Saat Abdulah ke dapur hendak mengambil segelas air pada satu sore di hari Minggu, Hilda yang sedang mencuci wajan bertanya, “Benarkah semua yang aku dengar dari orang tentang hubunganmu dengan Lola?”

Entah apa yang saat itu ada di benak Abdulah. Awalnya dia diam saja, matanya sebentar memandang Hilda, sebentar memandang ke jendela. Lalu mendadak dia lancar berbicara setelah si istri berkata, “Ceritakan saja yang sebenarnya, aku lebih senang mendengar dari mulutmu sendiri.”

Abdulah membenarkan semua yang diceritakan orang dan didengar istrinya. Dia menutup pengakuannya dengan “Mungkin Dulah masih mencintai Lola” yang dia ucapkan sambil tersenyum.

Hantaman punggung wajan di mulutnya itu begitu keras, dua gigi depannya langsung rompal. Mendengar suara ribut-ribut, Ustazah Nung yang sedang rebahan di kamar bergegas menghampiri sumber suara. Dia menjerit melihat mulut Abdulah penuh darah. Malam itu juga Hilda pulang ke Tasikmalaya dan tak pernah kembali ke Jakarta. Sementara Lola memilih hengkang dari kampungnya. Dia tinggal bersama salah seorang sepupunya di daerah Kota. Konon di sana dia bekerja di sebuah restoran yang juga menyediakan karaoke. Sebulan sekali dia pulang ke rumahnya.

***

Abdulah kembali menjadi pemurung dan sering melamun. Entah karena sebab yang mana. Warung satenya dibiarkan tak terurus dan tutup tiga bulan kemudian, mobilnya dibawa pergi oleh dua orang debt collector yang datang ke rumahnya tak lama setelah itu. Pada tahun pertama setelah kejadian itu, juga pada tahun-tahun selanjutnya, Abdulah lebih banyak menghabiskan waktunya dengan duduk sambil merokok, berpindah- pindah dari satu kursi di ruang tamu, ke kursi lainnya di teras belakang atau teras depan. Setiap kali ibunya menganjurkan menikah lagi, selalu dia tanggapi dengan gelengan kepala.

Hingga pada satu malam di tahun yang kedelapan, setelah beberapa minggu sebelumnya sering terlihat berdiri di depan cermin memegang sisir, berusaha sedemikian rupa menyisir ke kanan sejumput rambut panjang yang tumbuh di sisi kiri kepalanya agar bagian atas kepalanya yang botak licin itu tampak seolah-olah masih ditumbuhi rambut tipis, Abdulah tiba-tiba menghampiri ibunya dan mengatakan hendak menikah dengan Lola.

Abdulah bercerita bahwa Lola sudah beberapa kali menemuinya dalam sebulan terakhir ini. Dia berkata bahwa Lola yang sekarang berstatus janda itu mencinta dirinya, bahwa Lola ingin dia menjadi ayah baru yang bertanggungjawab bagi anak satu-satunya. Mata Abdullah berkaca-kaca saat menceritakan bagaimana anak lelaki berusia tiga tahun itu, dalam waktu demikian singkat sudah terbiasa memanggilnya “Papa.”

***

“Tak ada cacatnya” adalah istilah yang digunakan para calo tanah dan rumah yang banyak berkeliaran di daerah ini ketika mereka mengomentari rumah Ustazah Nung. Ukurannya pas, surat-suratnya “bersih”. Rumah tua itu berada tepat di pinggir Jalan Raya Kampung Melayu Besar. Lebar depannya 30 meter, sementara panjangnya mencapai 50 meter, sangat bagus untuk gedung berlantai empat. Di kanan dan kiri rumah Ustazah Nung itu memang sudah banyak berdiri gedung berlantai empat.

Bukan sekali dua kali para pengembang menanyakan rumah Ustazah Nung kepada Bang Sanip, makelar bangkotan yang menguasi seluk beluk pertanahan di daerah ini. Bang Sanip hapal hampir seluruh riwayat rumah dan tanah di wilayah yang—sejak dibangunnya jalan layang ke pusat kota—menjadi incaran para pengembang itu.

Sejak jalan layang mulai dibangun sekitar tiga tahun lalu, harga rumah dan tanah yang terletak di pinggir jalan raya itu melambung. Kebanyakan warga memilih menjual rumahnya dan pindah ke daerah pinggiran yang harga tanahnya jauh lebih murah. Hanya tersisa beberapa gelintir warga yang memilih mempertahankan rumah dan tanah warisan leluhurnya, dan Ustazah Nung termasuk salah seorang dari mereka.

“Ini kesempatan emas, harganya bagus. Ustazah bisa membeli rumah baru, naik haji lagi atau umroh. Sisa uang Ustazah bisa disimpan di bank syariah, tujuh turunan tidak bakal habis,” bujuk Bang Sanip pada suatu sore. Sudah tiga kali dia bersama dua temannya datang menemui Ustazah Nung dalam setahun ini.

“Aku masih betah di sini,” jawab Ustazah Nung.

Bang Sanip dan kedua rekannya meninggalkan Ustazah Nung setelah menenggak habis air putih yang disuguhkan, tapi tenggorokannya masih terasa kering. Air liurnya nyaris habis setelah hampir satu jam dia merayu Ustazah Nung dengan berbagai jurus agar mau melepas rumahnya. Tapi perempuan berkerudung itu seperti tidak mengenal kalimat lain kecuali, “Aku masih betah di sini”.

Entah sudah berapa kali Ustazah Nung mengucapkan kata-kata ini. Dan setiap kali kalimat itu terucap, Bang Sanip dan kedua temannya merasa seperti dicekik.

Jawaban singkat yang diberikan Ustazah Nung setiap kali Bang Sanip menyelesaikan kalimatnya yang panjang lebar, benar-benar membuat pemimpin makelar itu putus asa. Kedua temannya yang bertugas membenarkan semua yang diucapkan Bang Sanip ikut putus asa. Mereka merasa kalimat-kalimat pendek seperti “itu benar,” “tepat sekali,” dan “betul sekali,” yang mereka sisipkan di tengah-tengah pembicaraan Bang Sanip, terbukti tak berpengaruh apa-apa.

Begitu sampai di luar pagar rumah Ustazah Nung, sebelum melanjutkan langkahnya, Bang Sanip menoleh dan menatap rumah tua itu beberapa waktu. Aih, rumah yang sangat cantik seandainya si pemilik tak suka mengulang-ngulang kalimat, “Aku masih betah di sini.”

Saat itulah Bang Sanip melihat Abdulah muncul dari dalam rumah, berjalan sambil membetulkan gulungan sarungnya menuju sofa tua yang diletakkan di pojok teras. Abdulah duduk mengangkat kedua kakinya sebelum menyalakan rokok. Wajahnya kusut seperti orang yang tak tidur berhari-hari.

Tiba-tiba Bang Sanip mengusap mulut, menyembunyikan senyumnya. Lalu dia berjalan dengan cepat, bergegas menyusul kedua temannya. Benaknya dipenuhi wajah Lola. Ingatannya dengan cepat menyusun kembali riwayat percintaan dan perselingkuhan yang melibatkan Abdulah dan Lola. Bang Sanip tahu di mana Lola bisa ditemui, dan dia juga tahu apa yang sedang dibutuhkan perempuan itu saat ini.

Malamnya, para makelar itu menggelar rapat hingga menjelang dinihari.

***

The Sale of Ustazah Nung’s House

Despite his technical background, Oni Suryaman is driven by literature. In his spare time, he writes essays, book reviews, and fiction. He also worked as a part-time translator for Indonesian publisher Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia and Kanisius Publishing House. He has recently published a picture book titled I Belog, a retelling of a famous Balinese folklore, an adaptation of which was performed at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) Singapore 2017.

Read some of his essays and book reviews at: http://onisur.wordpress.com and http://semuareview.wordpress.com

He can be reached at oni.suryaman@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sale of Ustazah Nung’s House

 

You’d have to see for yourself how the youngest son acted out for his mother’s benefit. He knew that his mother felt sorry for him and that she was quickly affected by whatever he complained about. He was dim-witted regarding many issues, but not this one. He stifled his three older siblings: two sisters and one brother. They could only yield when their mother finally decided to grant Dulah’s wish: sell the family legacy.

“Dulah can no longer live alone. Dulah wanth to get married ath thoon ath pothible,” Dulah said, wiping tears off his chubby cheeks.

Despite being a thirty-eight-year-old man, Dulah always referred to himself by name. He had a distended belly and bald head and couldn’t pronounce the letter “s” because he had lost two front teeth. Dulah was, indeed, the spoiled youngest of the siblings.

I don’t know what would have gone through your mind if you had been present that afternoon of the family meeting to witness a grown man refer to himself by his own name, something only acceptable from a toddler or young girl. Maybe you’d want to slap him. His three siblings felt like killing him.

“Don’t you ever think about Umi?” asked one of his sisters.

“Mother can buy a thmall houth in the nearby village. Why do we need a houth thith big when only Umi and Dulah live in it? Moreover, after getting married, Dulah altho wanth to get hith own houth, hith own car, hith own buthineth, juth like you all!”

His name, indeed, was Abdulah, and he was called Dulah. But believe me, it was embarrassing to see a grown-up man, with the appearance I described before, refer to himself by name. It was even worse when hearing him lisp in the middle of a sentence.

“But Umi might not be comfortable in a new house,” snapped his other sister.

“It’s true, in addition to the many memories of Father in this house, Umi also holds religious study groups here, which provide her with entertainment at her old age.” Now, the brother started talking.

Dulah rose. “Entertain? It might be entertainment for you all, becauth you already have everything! All of you are thelfith! You…” Unable to finish his sentence, he sat down. Sobbing, he covered his face with his hands.

His siblings, who sat across from him, remained silent, while his mother, who sat next to him, seemed confused. Maybe she was at odds about dealing with a situation like this, especially because her mind was still troubled by Dulah’s statement a week ago.

After being single for eight years, her youngest son made the announcement that he wanted to remarry, with complaints. He had never been happy, he said, and now, he wanted to enjoy life before he was too old. Ustazah Nung — that’s what the neighbors called Dulah’s mother — had become even more worried when she found out who her son wanted to remarry.

Once he stopped crying, Dulah continued. “You never think about Dulath wretched life, hith lonelineth, hith not having a family, not having anything!”

“We all think about your life, and you are free to marry any bitch you desire,” his oldest sister said. “But we absolutely do not agree with your proposal to sell this house. We also need to think about Umi’s life!”

“Umi will be fine!” Dulah cried. “You all are exaggerating! Right now, real estate priceth are high; what are you waiting for? Do you have the heart to thee Dulah thuffering like thith for many yearth to come? If thith continueth, Dulah will walk naked in front of the houth!”

In the end, Ustazah Nung made a decision. Firmly, she said, “I will sell this house and divide the proceeds according to your rightful share of inheritance.” The old woman’s voice cracked with emotion.

***

Let me tell you now how Abdulah lost his two front teeth — and a few other things.

If Dulah were not so stupid, his front teeth and marriage might still be intact. But he was too stupid to keep either.

It all started with a young woman named Lola, Dulah’s first love. He had been head-over-heels in love with Lola since high school. Abdulah was a senior, and Lola was a tenth-grader, but they graduated at the same time because Abdulah had to repeat two years of school. (Abdulah had repeated school years before; two times in elementary school and once in junior high.)

During the three years that Abdulah and Lola were schoolmates, he didn’t succeed in making Lola his girlfriend. Lola’s willingness to always accept anything he gave her, be it money or presents, was enough to make him happy. Abdulah was jubilant when Lola asked him every week for spending money. He considered this a sign that she was willing to be his wife.

“I agree, Lola is a beautiful girl,” said Ustazah Nung when Abdulah asked her to ask Lola’s mother for Lola’s hand, six months after they graduated from high school. “But I don’t think she’s a good girl. I’ve often seen her smoking in Bu Maneh’s stall.”

“Lola is Dulah’s first love, no one can replace her,” Abdulah replied.

With great reluctance, Ustazah Nung finally went to Lola’s house to convey Dulah’s marriage proposal to Lola’s mother. But Ustazah Nung went home with bad news for her beloved son. Lola was already betrothed to a businessman who owned a travel agency. They were to be married the following year.

Abdulah became depressed and often brooded. Ustazah Nung worried about his condition for almost two years, until one day, one of her sisters came to visit and brought along a woman named Hilda.

“She is my friend’s daughter,” said Ustazah Nung’s sister, as she introduced Hilda to Abdulah. “She is from Tasikmalaya and came to Jakarta to find a job.”

Six months later, Abdulah and Hilda married.

Ustazah Nung sold a piece of land to finance the wedding and gave the remainder of the money to Abdulah to use as capital to open a goat meat satay stall on Otista Street.

Contrary to the expectations of many people who knew him, Abdulah succeeded in managing his stall. Day by day, the number of customers to his Warung Sate Kambing Bang Dulang goat meat satay stall increased. In two years, Abdulah had the confidence to purchase a car on credit.

And at that time, Lola showed up again in his life. Two years of marriage were apparently not enough to douse Dulah’s flame for Lola, his first love.

Lola, who had not married the travel agency owner or anyone else, came to Dulah’s stall. “Your satay is delicious,” she said when she paid for the satay.

“You don’t need to pay,” said Abdulah, shaking.

Lola handed him two pieces of paper: one, a 50,000 rupiah bill; the other, a note with her cell phone number.

Abdulah trembled like someone suffering from Parkinson’s disease when Lola deliberately brushed her finger across his hand, which was soaked with cold sweat. Abdulah quickly put the two pieces of paper into the drawer and forgot to give Lola the change.

Less than two weeks after that encounter, village rumors ran rampant that Abdulah and Lola had been seen together. According to hearsay, Abdulah had given Lola spending money. Supposedly, Abdulah had also purchased Lola’s new scooter.

The rumors finally reached Hilda’s ears.

One Sunday afternoon, Abdulah went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. Hilda, who was washing a wok, asked, “Is it true what people are saying about your relationship with Lola?”

It is hard to know what was going on inside Abdulah’s head. Initially, he didn’t say anything. He merely glanced at Hilda and looked out of the window for a while. But after his wife said, “Just tell me the truth. I would rather hear it from you,” Abdulah blurted out everything.

Abdulah confirmed all the rumors people were spreading. He ended his confession, smiling. “Maybe Dulah still loves Lola.”

The back of the wok hit Abdulah’s mouth with such force that it broke his two front teeth.

Hearing the uproar, Ustazah Nung, who was resting in her bedroom, hurried to the kitchen. Seeing Abdulah’s bloody mouth, she screamed.

That night, Hilda returned to Tasikmalaya and never returned.

Meanwhile, Lola chose to leave the village.

People said she stayed with one of her cousins in the city. Supposedly, she worked at a restaurant that had karaoke entertainment, and she came home, once a month.

***

Once again, Abdulah became depressed and often fretted. He neglected his satay stall, and it closed three months later. Not long afterwards, two debt collectors visited his house and confiscated his car.

During the following years, Abdulah mostly wasted his time by smoking, wandering through the house, and moving from one chair to another. Every time his mother suggested that he remarry, he responded by shaking his head.

Until one night, eight years later, after several weeks of primping in front of the mirror trying to hide his baldness with a comb-over, Abdulah approached his mother and said that he wanted to marry Lola.

Abdulah said that he had seen Lola several times during the past month. Lola, who was now a widow, had told him that she loved him and wanted him to be the new father for her only son. Abdulah’s eyes filled with tears when he told his mother that the three-year-old boy, after only a short time of knowing him, already called him “Papa.”

***

“It is perfect!” exclaimed the real estate agents familiar with the properties in the surrounding area of Ustazah Nung’s house. The size was perfect, the deed “clean.” The old house was located right on Jalan Raya Kampung Melayu Besar, an arterial thoroughfare. The property frontage was 98 feet, while the depth was 164 feet — excellent for the site of a four-story building. Many four-story buildings had already been built to the left and right of Ustazah Nung’s house.

The land developers had repeatedly asked Bang Sanip, the old real estate broker who controlled the market in that area, about Ustazah Nung’s house.

Bang Sanip knew the history of almost every property in the area. After the construction of the flyover to downtown three years ago, the properties had become the target of every land developer and speculator. Their value had skyrocketed. Most of the property owners chose to sell their land and move to the suburbs, where land value was much lower. Ustazah Nung was one of the few inhabitants who had chosen to remain and keep her inherited property.

“This is a golden opportunity; the price is attractive,” Bank Sanip had urged Ustazah many times. “You could buy a new house, go on a hajj, a pilgrimage. The rest of the money could be deposited in a shariah, an Islamic bank, and would last for more than seven generations.” Bank Sanip and two of his brokers were now on their third visit to Ustazah’s house.

“I still like to live here,” answered Ustazah Nung.

Bang Sanip and the brokers left Ustazah Nung’s house. They had finished drinking the water she served them, but their mouths were still dry. They had spent almost an hour trying to persuade Ustazah Nung to sell her house, but the veiled woman didn’t seem to know anything else to say than, “I still like to live here.”

Ustazah Nung’s brief response to his long-winded persuasions frustrated Bang Sanip. Both of his brokers, who had been tasked to confirm everything he said, were also frustrated. They felt that all of their short affirmations — such as, “that’s true,” “exactly,” and “precisely” — that they had interspersed in Bang Sanip’s speech had not influenced the outcome of the situation at all.

Once outside the fence of Ustazah Nung’s house, Bang Sanip turned around and glanced at the old house. Ahh, such, such valuable real estate, if only the owner were not repeating the same sentence over and over again, “I still like to live here.”

It was then that Bang Sanip saw Abdulah walk out of the house.

While adjusting his sarong, Abdulah headed to the old couch in the corner of the porch. He sat down and pulled up his legs before lighting a cigarette. He looked disheveled, like someone who had not slept for days.

Suddenly, Bang Sanip wiped his mouth, hiding a smile. An image of Lola filled his head. Scurrying, he caught up with his two brokers. He quickly told them about the treacherous love affair of Abdulah and Lola.

Bang Sanip knew where to find Lola, and he also knew what the woman needed right now.

That night, the real estate brokers held a meeting that lasted till the break of dawn.

***

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