Letters of Youth


/ 22 November 2021

Painting by Abd Latif Maulan


Your long-term girlfriend just posted in Facebook today with you hugging her from the back, revealing your Chesire smile. It’s your anniversary and you spent it in a beachfront restaurant. That romantic portrait of idealism collected one hundred sixty-four heart reactions, thirty three likes, and one weeping victim of your masquerade.

No, I never fell in love with you. You pushed me from the edge of the cliff when I screamed for help. You drowned me knowing I don’t know how to swim. You kept repeating the episodes of my nightmare that I no longer want to dream. You broke my innocence as I was struggling to grow. Now I miss the little girl who plays a Barbie doll because right now, I am the toy brought by misogyny.

“You’re getting more beautiful as you age,” that’s what you first told me when I was twelve. I never thought a compliment could scar me this deep. Whenever someone admires my natural charm, I get a panic attack. I want to bat my eyes because a neighbor says they look like stars. I want to stitch my rosy lips if a stranger takes even a slight glance. I want to wrap myself with baggy pants and my mom’s travelling jacket to hide my curves. I want to shave my head every time you touch my hair because it all started when you sniffed it. Even though I said, “Don’t,” you still did anyway. My pleading opposition doesn’t matter to you.

I just wanted to go home after hiking almost four kilometers from school but you stood in the dark and grabbed me. Even though your girlfriend marked her territory on your neck, still you grabbed me. “Take a rest,” you suggested. I said that I’m good but you hesitated. You sniffed my hair like it’s crack but you didn’t stop there. You proceeded nibbling my ears as tears started falling and this went on for years. Now I’m afraid of my elementary uniform– the plastic buttons you hurriedly opened even when I’m crying, and the green checkered skirt you unzipped even when I begged you to stop.

After that night, I no longer walk. I run as if I’m being chased by a pack of stray dogs. I prefer loads of rabies from canines than your teeth consuming me from flesh to bones but our town is small that you may be lining up in a department store next to me. And you fist bump your friends after whispering your victory of my trauma. They went on calling me “gwapa” thinking they will get the same non-permitted forced opportunity. Despite wearing my brother’s basketball clothes, they whistle to my defensive attempt of boyishness on the street. Sometimes I think of crossing as a big dump truck advances so I’ll be squashed on the road and they’ll finally be sorry.

You’ll finally be sorry. How do I forgive someone who never apologized? How do I heal a wound that offers no bandage? I’ve told the authority about what you did yet the piles of this disgusting crime escalates faster than its resolutions that is why your masquerade continues. Preach His words, sing His praises, put up a happy-go-lucky facade but we both know where you’re going to rot.