Setelah Tanda Tanya

Every movement for a better world starts with faith in its possibility. In this story, a messenger from the sky assures a queer teenager that a better world is possible in this country. Such a simple yet powerful dream.

“Come on, give me your question,” urged the Voice, “Our time is limited. By dawn, I’ll be gone.” 

Pacing back and forth by the window of her bedroom, K struggled to find the question. Her mind was still clouded with the last sentence uttered by Nadya, the girl she had dated for a year who ended their relationship over the phone just a few hours ago.  

“There’s no future for us here anyway,” Nadya said. K could confute all the previous breakup reasons Nadya listed during their three-hour call. But not that one. 

As soon as Nadya hung up, tears started streaming down K’s face. At sixteen, she experienced her first heartbreak. This notorious agony K often heard somehow felt more painful than she anticipated. Her little sobs gradually turned into a loud wailing that the sky started weeping with her.

Taking pity on K, the sky sent a messenger to grant her one question about the future.

What would that be? The possibility is endless. I know what I want, though: To live happily. Being with someone I love surely will make me happy, preferably with Nadya. Shoot! Why does everything always come back to her? I blame the Voice for arriving at the most inconvenient time. I know it’s selfish to ask about romance. I should ask about the future of humanity instead. Will Jakarta sink by 2050? Will people like me have equal rights and thrive in my home country? Will I be with Nadya, though? Dammit!

With each passing second, K’s anxiety became unbearable. K sat down and stroked her arm, something she always does to calm herself. There was a small birthmark on it, which she loved. When her age permits, she planned to adorn it with tattoos. And that’s when the thought hit her. 

“The year is 2072. What will be tattooed on my inner left forearm then?” K finally found the question.

“K 17.5.06. Mamma 8.12.06. A footstep 12.7.07. A cat with the word Tobby. A red heart 13.8.21. A clapperboard with the words Blue Hour 2044. A house, Jakarta 2048. Senja Menanti Bianglala 2051. Surat Cinta untuk Warna 2055. A cat, Tobby II. Sekarang adalah Waktu yang Tepat untuk Merebut Kemarin 2057. Kala Pagi Bertemu Putri Malam 2060. An eight-coloured rainbow with white between red and orange 9.11.65. A knot, Kala & Putri 6.9.69. Setelah Tanda Tanya 2071.” 

She didn’t know how long it was between the silence following the Voice’s last word and her sudden realisation. All she knew was it felt like a long dream. 

“Are you gone? I still have many questions. Like, how do I meet the right Putri? It’s one of the country’s top five most popular names.”

Instead of the Voice, K’s question was answered by the call to Fajr prayer from the nearby mosque. Upon hearing the adzan, K smiled. 

I am really here. In a half-century, I will still be here. You are right, Nadya. There may not be a future for us together, but there can be one for people like us. And we don’t need to move to another planet or even another country for it to happen.

Here. It’s possible.

Read the other stories in this season:

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