The night was still young in late April–or early May–when Dimas, Ficher, and I were riding our bikes along the empty Brawijaya St., the main road of Tulungrejo, Pare. Though it was only few minutes past ten, we saw no motor vehicle. It made me feel that I was being left behind by the rest of the people in the world.
Ficher was by himself but I rode along with Dimas. In the cold dark night, our faces were still filled by the reminiscence of laughter from Jendela Mimpi Cafe. We then turned to Dahlia Street. Ficher’s boarding house was not far from the three way junction intertwining the roads of Dahlia and Brawijaya. From its yard, I could see Ficher’s friends were still busy talking in the living room.
I followed Ficher to a square next to the main house whose function, beside to dry clothes, was to park bicycles. At the far corner, next to a deep old well, there was a bathroom which was illuminated by the dull light of a dying lamp. From there, a form which had been a silhouette unexpectedly came out: Ficher’s landlord. Sarcastically, the man greeted us–or Ficher.
“Mas Ficher, do your friends stay here?”
We raised our heads up to the voice. For a moment, what we could hear was only the chirps of crickets; we needed few seconds to comprehend the meaning of the landlord’s question. Meanwhile, up above, stars were shining brightly because this district had not yet been covered by smog preventing the light of the heavenly body to come to the ground.
“Well… No, sir,” Ficher answered. Anyway, he had a unique accent which perhaps was influenced by the combination of the culture of Makassar and the experience of studying Law for years. “They are just staying overnight because their boarding house is usually locked at 10 pm, sir,” he continued.
“But, I see them coming here every night,” argued the landlord.
Well, it was true that Dimas and I spent most of the nights at Ficher’s. Arrived several hours before dawn, we usually woke up 5.30 am and drank a cup of hot black coffee ordered by Ficher from a nearby shop–at certain days the coffee would be accompanied by hot steaming fried bananas. We really made ourselves at home.
We started to get the point of this conversation. He would keep arguing with Ficher until one of these things happened–either he earned extra money or he saw my friend leaving the dormitory for good. I still could stay calm although there were thousands of things in my head I wanted to say in defense to the landlord.
“The thing is, sir, these days we are practising our English so intensively that sometimes we forget the track of time,” Ficher replied.
In reality, those are the days when our nights were spent merely by hanging out at Jendela Mimpi Cafe, located in front of Elfast, which had just been opened. Studying hard all day, we sat around doing nothing at the cafe in the evening to balance our lives. But we did not really do nothing because while hung out we practised our English–sometimes we discussed grammar, another occasions we talked about anything just to make our spoken English more fluent.
Also, those days were the time when Dimas was busy decorating Jendela Mimpi with drawings using colorful chalks. Despite holding a black belt of karate and diploma in sport science, Dimas demonstrates a great talent in art. He is able not only to create wonderful murals and graffiti but also to hit jimbe–an amazing percussion musician he is. We played songs almost every night–I strummed ukulele and he gave me the beat with mini jimbe.
“But they should not stay every night. That is your room after all.” The arguing kept going. They looked like two people playing badminton but neither of them was brave enough to smash the cock–only long plain rallies. I imagined myself as the referee struggling to watch the boring match.
“Didn’t I pay full for the room, sir?”
“I understand that. But what if there is something bad happening?” The landlord seemed to lose his nerves. “What if somebody’s belonging is stolen? Since it is my house, I am the one who has to be responsible. I am the one who will be blamed.”
“The guys have already known both of them well, sir,” said Ficher, adding that we were taking the same English course. Dimas who had been sitting at the porch remained quiet. I guessed he was eavesdropping–or quietly giggling mockingly.
While the landlord was preparing another strike, I decided to let what had been kept in my head out.
“I am sorry, sir. Sincerely.” Though pretty sure that he could not see my pupils at all in the night so late like this, I looked into his eyes . “We are not hobos, sir. What makes us stay here every night is that our dorm is usually locked at 10 pm. Afterwards, we can not get in.”
I stopped for a moment to make sure what I had said could be comprehended by the landlord. Deep in my heart, I realized that I was the one who made mistake by staying at somebody’s house without asking permission beforehand. But that did not necessarily mean he could blame the one who paid for the room in public. The man would seem elegant if he talked the problem to Ficher after Dimas and I went home the next day. I had resided in three different boarding houses in Yogyakarta but never even once experienced such thing.
“Ficher told us that he has a boarding house having no curfew so we decided to come here every time we go back late,” I continued my pleidooi. “However, if his dormitory has one, we will offer him to stay at ours too, sir.”
Again, I remained silent for a while and the last words were floating under the pale light of full moon. Thereafter, I approached the landlord and shook his hand firmly. I stared fixedly at his eyes and said, “Again, I am sorry, sir!” I could sense an uneasy feeling emitting from him.
“I guess Dimas and I are better off,” said I to Ficher. I gently patted his shoulder and gave him an “it’s OK, dude!” gesture.
Afterwards, what was stored in my memory was that I pushed Dimas’ bicycle by hand from the yard; Dimas himself was walking along beside me, still struggling hard to hide his giggling. The living room which had been crowded became still.
And Ficher… Pushing his bike, he followed us. Then we drove to Jendela Mimpi through Brawijaya and Kemuning St. The next day, we became roommates because Ficher moved in to our room.