Hold My Heart Tightly

(Following short story was published in the Jakarta Post (with some edits), on Sunday, August 30, 2009.)

“Hold my heart tightly,” Helena says, her eyes facing the man before her, “but, please, don’t hurt it.”

“I like the line,” Tegar stretches his lips, and tries to show half of his front teeth, whatever the gesture means; the line she’s just said penetrates his brain like echoes reverberating from a distant memory, “Hollywood. Which movie do you take it from? If you may help me; my memory is failing me nowadays….”

Helena responds: “You are accusing me guilty of plagiarism? I’m sorry my friend, it’s just against my policy,” She doesn’t hide her disappointment that her heartfelt expression is taken for granted by the man who supposedly returns her feeling with an equal heart-moving expression of love.

Tegar, for his part, dislikes the silence being forced upon them following her last sentence. What’s more, she fixes her gaze on him like he’s just got lost and she’s the first person he finds to tell him the right way home, “I trust you with my heart.” Tegar hears her voice almost cracked, and when he looks into her eyes, they are as innocent as five year olds.

She continues telling him her minds, and heart, but Tegar doesn’t pay attention to her words; his mind is wandering, everywhere, trying to remember the line that he believes he’s heard, at least once, somewhere.

Or perhaps he just feels insecure with his own love. And that where the trouble lies: Helena senses his insecurity and shoots him straight to the core of the matter, “You don’t believe me, do you?”

He takes her hands, “Take it easy.” He may have distaste for plagiarism, but he would confess her hands are so original, free from cosmetics tampering but yet they are so tender and beautiful. Those long and delicate fingers, one of them shall host his vowed ring, he swears. This is one of those few moments when he feels at peace by just holding her hands. Joy, he knows by heart, is very close whenever he’s near her.

“Don’t get me wrong, Sayang (Indonesian for Sweetheart, Honey, Darling, Love).” He quickly realises what damages he’ll have inflicted upon her if he still insists that the line is indeed a quotation.

It’s the first time ever he calls her Sayang. The word leaps out of his mouth without any efforts from him to edit it. He admits, “Sayang” is too sacred a word, in this case, to be said. The word, unfortunately, in his opinion, is going to have the same fate as its overused English counterparts. For example, yesterday, in his office, his Department’s gorgeous secretary, who is not romantically linked to him, said the magic word to him repeatedly, in her efforts to correct him typing, as if he was a primary schooler who just learnt how to type.

He continues, “I’m a person easily to be convinced. And I didn’t mean to doubt you.” He brings her hands to his chest.

“Can you say it again?” She’s begging him with her best smiles.

“You can convince me easily, if you know how to do it.”

“Not that one, Tegar!” the volume of her voice rises a few decibels.

“I never doubt you?” he frowns at her in confusion.

“Why you are such a selfish and narcissist bastard, Tegar?” She wants to answer him back with this question. She’s getting desperate with this man, with men in general, for their insensitivity to connect to female deeper emotions.

Instead she says, “The word after ‘don’t get me wrong’.”

Ah, he knows where this request is leading: she’s asking him to repeat the word “Sayang” again. He winks at her then finds a good spot on her thigh to pinch.

“Just say it! P-L-E-A-S-E, Tegar Sayang!”

Tegar is caught between embarrassment and reluctance. “Sweetheart,” finally he says the word in English faster than normally he would pronounce it.

“Yes, say that to your bule (white-skinned) mistress! But what I want is for you to say it not in English but in our own language.”

Rather than meeting her demand, he draws one of the chairs on the tenth floor of a well-known rendezvous café in the town, for her to sit. “I’ve got a story to tell you.”

Then Tegar tells Helena a story that once he’s read. It’s has been long time, and he doesn’t remember where he’s read it; but when she said the line, hold my heart tightly and please don’t hurt it, fifteen minutes ago, the story that has been vaguely buried in his memory suddenly pops out.

So he begins to tell, repeat rather, the story to her as best as he can:

“Once upon a time,” Tegar starts. Helena laughs: “Are you going to tell me a bedtime story?

“Fairy tales delight me,” She reminisces. “My father, when I was a little girl, used to entertain me with bedtime stories.”

Tegar resumes his tale, “Once upon a time in a maritime kingdom far, far away, separated by seven vast, mighty oceans, lived a Princess….”

“Beautiful Princess?” Helena interrupts him, “I like beautiful princesses.”

“The Princess had a bird, what we call it now, Steller’s Sea kind of Eagle, that she loved so much. Every morning the eagle would leave the palace and flew to the sea and came back to her in the afternoon. She would let it fly from her hands and it would return, in the afternoon, landed on the same hands it flew from in the morning. For years it had been her, their, ritual. And for the same years the eagle always returned to her without fail. It never, even once, failed and disappointed her.

“However, as time went by, she became increasingly possessive and very afraid of losing the bird, scared that someday it would not return to her anymore, despite the fact that the eagle never, even one single day, run away from her.

“So one morning she took the eagle on her hands but, this time, she didn’t let the bird fly. Instead she grabbed its wings and held them tightly, so tightly that the wings broken within her hands.

“The eagle could no longer fly because she’d broken its wings and she was happy that the bird now for the whole day was by her side.

“However, three days later, the bird died of broken wings, and of course from broken heart.”

Helena looks as Tegar grabs the cappuccino on the table, signalling an end to the story. “La fin.” He says, officially ends his story.

“Interesting,” she opines, “But you’d better find any practical values from your own story. To satisfy your ego, though, let’s say I enjoy the story.”

Then Helena tells Tegar her own version of the story. But she doesn’t tell him whether she read it somewhere or whether it was one of her father’s bedtime stories. Or whether she just makes it up.

“Once upon a time,” Helena starts. Tegar laughs: “Are you going to tell me another bedtime story?

“I enjoy fairy tales,” He reminisces. ”My mother, when I was a little boy, used to tell me bedtime stories.”

“Sorry to disappoint you; this time it’s not a fairy tale.

Helena resumes her tale, “Once upon a time in a land somewhere, lived a man and a woman; they had just brought their relationship to the next level but the problem was the man began to look very possessive of the woman.”

“He being very possessive of her?” Tegar interrupts her, “Not the other way round?”

Helena ignores him.

“Because the man was getting obsessive with her, she became uncomfortable with his affections, although, she had to acknowledge it, she adored this man more than any man she ever knew (except her father).

“One day, they were at the beach, as they mostly spent their times together. Both of them love beaches: watching seabirds, listening to the sound of waves while waiting for the sun to set. ‘It’s so heavenly,’ the man once said, ‘even more divine when you’re right here beside my side’. The words touched her heart like the dew in the morning of dry seasons.

“But since then she had been waiting for the right moment to tell him in the right way, on her own way that she wasn’t his possession; that between love and obsession exist an unbridgeable abyss, dividing them forever.

“’Please hold these sands,’ The woman told her man one afternoon, minutes before the vast west horizon was about to devour the sun, ‘I want you to hold them so as not even one single grain of sands falls out of your grip’

“The man did as he was requested. In order to prevent the sand grains from falling, he tightened his grip, but the tighter he did, the more grains fell out of his hands, until no more grains of sands left.

“Then the woman showed him the correct way of keeping the sands safe in their hands: she took the sands again and let them there, held them gently, and in so doing not even one single grain of sands fell out of her hand.

“’The key is,’ the woman said, ‘to hold the sands gently because, as you’ve seen, the tighter you hold them the more grains slipped out of your hands.’

“Before shadows of darkness blanketed them, the man had hugged his woman as though a hurricane was raging on and by his protection alone she wouldn’t be blown away. Then the man whispered to his woman: ‘I’m sorry if you have suffered because of my love.’”

Tegar looks as Helena takes a deep breath, signalling an end to the story. “La fin.” She says, officially ends her story.

“Interesting,” he opines, “But you’d better find any practical values from your own story. To satisfy your ego, though, let’s say I enjoy the story.”

“Thank you for letting me know that.” Tegar says to Helena after she tells him that one of her male friends is going to pick up her tomorrow to visit their mutual friend who is being admitted to a hospital. “As long as you don’t fall in love with him.” He was, of course, joking although he says it seriously.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” she answers him, “because you’ve stolen my heart.” She was, of course, not joking although she says it humorously.

Tegar objects strongly with her statement: “I’m not a thief you know that, Helena!”

He looks with longing to this woman of his love and continues, “I want to thank you because you didn’t only let me occupy a space within your heart but also gave the entire heart to me. I’m grateful for your love, I really appreciate that.” Then he holds her hands. She holds his hands back.

“Hold my heart tightly,” Helena says, her eyes facing the man before her, “but, please, don’t hurt it.”

“I like the line,” Tegar stretches his lips, and tries to show half of his front teeth, whatever the gesture means; the line she’s just said penetrates his brain like echoes reverberating from a distant memory, “Hollywood. Which movie do you take it from? If you may help me; my memory is failing me nowadays….”

(Jakarta, October 04, 2007)

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Julitra Anaada:

Born and grew up in Talaud Islands, the northernmost, and one of the remotest, parts of Indonesia.

He earns living in Jakarta, the capital.

All posts are his own work, unless stated otherwise. For non-fictional piece, the opinions are strictly personal views.

He can be reached at julitra dot anaada at gmail.com.


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