“This jail is cold, Celine”

By Achmad Supardi

Not many people visiting this lake in a freezing autumn like now. Water ripples barely noticeable. The lake seems pale greenish. Maybe in some of its parts the water has become frozen. I circled the entire lake with my eyes. Only two boats moored at the edge of the wooden harbor.

There’s not much that can be seen in this lake, at this time. All around is just a breeze. Terraces of vineyards in northern slope send the remaining aroma of the last harvest. The blackened vine trunks cover the slope of Matterhorn. But the silence it sent covers me and my surrounding.

There’s not much else that can be imagined in this lake. There are no geese anymore. I remember how you often brought geese then intimately you let them go at this lake to enjoy the last moment of their lives. When twilight comes, you go after those geese and cook them for our dinner. What else can I hope if you who made my dream, are not here anymore?

Not much which make me happy at the moment. Strawberry, that you used to pick from the bushes nearby, then you slice them, stir with mixture of lemon juice and sugar syrup, which you playfully force me to eat it, can’t be expected anymore.

Not much to hope at this lake. Autumn promises nothing better than the day we have been through.

***

Red sky. Matterhorn peak’s reddenned. The water in the lake reddenned. Red surrounds me. From those reds you appear. Your white sneakers hit the road. You looks fierce in front of thousands of screaming people. Their faces were red. Their faces tinge of resentment. You’re on the front. You lead the rally.

“Stop the construction of the shopping center! We do not need to shop! We want to go to school!” you shouted. “We do not hate the mall. We’re not anti-mall or plaza all the way. We just do not agree that a mall is going to replace schools where hundreds of our kids learn something! That is the condition we can’t accept! ”

I’m sure that you shouted those sentences far away in your homecountry! I never doubted your attention to your people that you said less educated. I know that. I do believe that your social concern outdo the number of scholarships you’ve been receiving from the government of your country.

I do not blame you for leaving university which provides you calm surrounding and bright future. I do not think you’re stupid for daring to return to your homeland to oppose the development of the mall which you said useless. I do not dare to blame you because I know that you are right. However, I still can’t understand your decision!

And you know, I even more confuse when I receive a letter from you. Your decision is really stunned me!

“Forgive me Celine for making our possibility to meet again shrinking. But you know, I had to do it! As I often told you, many people in my country do not valued education peoperly. In their minds the school means huge expenditures. At the other hand, shopping malls mean huge tax. And having a large amount of tax income is their definition of welfare

Celine, I know that I can no longer see the Matterhorn peak which always covered by snow. Maybe I will no longer boating along the banks of the lake with you again. I bet you’re not angry. I’m sure you understand what I’m doing. You said to me that you are amazed knowing a labor’s child like me finally trekking the streets in Zermatt and joining its great campus only by perseverance and passion in education?

Celine, you too must have been thinking about the children who want to be like me. They need school, the one which will be destroyed for a shopping mall. No, Celine! I will not let it happen.

Celine, sorry, I had to do it”

***

Matterhorn remains there: white, dashing, daring me who now sat limply. The wind now warmer. The valley is so vibrant. Colorful tents set up everywhere. Group of climbers or people who just want to jog around come each time. The water of the lake was no longer frozen. It invites anyone to come down: swimming, boating or just sit quitely like me now.

Down there, the old houses of Zermatt start to come alive. I can see their brown wooden walls from here. Fog has gone. And indeed, the summer days are always promising cheerful, warm and colorful days. But unfortunately, your next letter broke my wish to have you again here, enjoying the atmosphere of this lake.

“They tried me, Celine!” The first sentence of your letter struck me. What other recklessness you did?

“They alleged me as provoking those elementary school children. They thought that those kids who joined the rally were there because of me. They think I am a rioter, vandal!

Celine, do you believe it? I know you won’t. Moreover, is it wrong for children to demand that their school remain intact? Even if there were provocateurs, they should be heroes who made the children stay in school?

Celine, I do not know what’s in the mind of people who took me to court. I can assure you that their children did not attend that dirty modest school. But, is it justify the replacement of a school for a shopping mall?”

***

Snow began to fall. The soft white cotton wrapped the wooden dock where we often chat together, discussing all things we experienced. Didyou remember when a French border officials stop us and asking for documents? You were deadly scared since you forgot to bring your passport with you. You envied me, the Swiss and European people who can travel freely in Eruropean Union countries. Lucky you that you obeyed my advice to cover your face with a book and pretend as falls asleep.
“Who is he?” the officer asked me. I should admit that he is more handsome than you.

“A friend. He is deadly sleepy after shuffling libraries in Paris the whole day,” I said quietly. He thought you were Swiss citizens like me so he let us passed by. And you’re laughing all the way home about the incident which you call a victory.

It’s freezing. You know, I need to go to Paris over and over again to search for additional materials for my thesis. And you know, crossing French-Swiss border without you is really sucks! You must be with me now if only you were not home for that crazy thing. I feel so close to you yet I can’t understand any better.

The latest news that I received from you diluted my expectations to the edge. You went to jail. You’re an inmate now. But you have to believe I do not care about it at all. There was only a sentence in your last letter which made me speechless.

“This jail is cold, Celine”. (*)

Note: sorry for the poor English.

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