Friday, July 28, 2017

The News

I was reading through a rather ruffled copy of Kompas this morning at Starbucks. It was a couple days old, but the news is always basically the same, you know. I skimmed through articles about foreign affairs, the affairs of government (basically the same everywhere), dry economic forecasts and such-like, when one small piece down in one corner of one page caught my attention. Two young women in Bandung had committed suicide by jumping from a balcony of their apartment building. First the older sister, aged 33, then the younger, 27. A man, eating a meal in his apartment on the ground floor, witnessed the event. First the one, then the other. When they hit the ground, he said, it sounded like a car crash. Both women's feet and hands were broken, their skulls shattered, and their stomachs exploded. Both, it was reported had been suffering from "sakit jiwa", or mental illness, for the past 10 years, since the death of their mother, and had been in and out of treatment and rehabilitation centers. Curiosly, another woman, some two years previously, had jumped to her death at this same apartment building. This small article, life, loss, suffering, death, compressed into about 3 inches of print space, eclipsed nation and society and conflict and the world at large. It meant something. These two women meant something more essntial than nations and legislative bodies and political decrees and visiting dignitaries and sporting events and terrorist threats and religious debates and the FPI and whether Pancasila was dead of alive. Here was something real, immediate, definite, done, never to be undone. Final. We see them standing on that balcony, one about to leap, the other just behind, a man enjoyng his meal below - a moment that might have meant anything until it suddenly became what it was. We see them standing there, gowns caught by the breeze, perhaps, hair blown sideways, a sheen of sweat,or of tears, on the cheek. Silent. Fixed. Irreversible. Haunting.

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