|Photo: Mahatma Putra‘s Personal Archive
The room was black, as black as his past. He sat there alone, in his black Victorian-chair, accompanied only by his books. He had no friends, for he thought there were no one he could speak to, he thought everyone else was dumb and that if he socialize with them, it could lead him away to reach enlightenment. So he locked himself in his black painted office, where he could spoke and listened to Heidegger and Machiavelli -some of his few imaginary friends. They told him -and he believed- that when he had enlightened, his black-painted office would transform itself into a brilliant white box. When someone was too lonely, sometimes there was a voice that one couldn’t differ whether it was real or not.
He had been a director in Mayhem-Factory for almost a thousand years. This job was no different than any other job; it had its ups and downs, and maybe this time, right now was the most-down side his job. He mourned a lot, for everything around him, it seemed like forever for him.
He had a good taste in music though; he needed it very much to entertain him. Music could take him anywhere he wanted to be, even into different universes. He liked Janis Joplin very much, and Radiohead too, of course. His favorite was “Ball and Chain” by Janis, and “No Surprises” by Radiohead, those songs confronted his monotone tasks at the factory, to forget that he was a slave. Yes, he was nothing but a slave to this factory -even the “director” titled gave him slice of difference though.
Today he listened again to “Ball and Chain.”
“I don’t understand how come you’re gone, man. I don’t understand why half the world is still crying, man, when the other half of the world is still crying too, man, I can’t get it together. I mean, if you got a cat for one day, man, I mean, if you, say, say, if you want a cat for 365 days, right, You ain’t got him for 365 days, you got him for one day, man. Well I tell you that one day, man, better be your life, man. Because, you know, you can say, oh man, you can cry about the other 364, man, but you’re gonna lose that one day, man, and that’s all you’ve got. You gotta call that love, man. That’s what it is, man. If you got it today you don’t want it tomorrow, man, ’cause you don’t need it, ’cause as a matter of fact, as we discovered in the train, tomorrow never happens, man. It’s all the same fucking day, man!”
He liked this part so much, in this part Jan did not sing at all, it was only her kind of speech, but her voice flowed to his ear more beautiful than an angel’s voice. He met an angel once, and it was not better than Janis. The angel’s voice was so tender, but he’d prefer a hoarse voice, the one just like Janis. If he could meet Janis he would ask her to have dinner with him and thank her for this song that helped him not to count the days that passed him by. Unfortunately he could never leave this factory.
“Its all the same fucking day, man!” He sang that part loudly. Danced with his imaginary Janis, a voice from a 1983 gramophone.
He never thought that his life would change, that he would never live more lively. Not until his butler came to him and whispered him gently.
“She is already on her way here!”
He had been waiting for her for thousands years. He was relieved; finally the one that would free this factory is about to come.
“This is not the same fucking day man!” He shouted loudly and kissed his butler’s cheek. His butler startled. He had never seen his master smile, laugh or that happy!
The director ran to the front office of the factory, and waited at the front gate. There was a barbed-wire fence that was built not to prevent the factory from burglary, but to prevent its worker from escape. He saw the fence and imagined, that in a little time, there will be no more of that. He would replace the barbed wire with the jasmine creepers.
He waited there anxiously. He forgot to use his shoes, and today was cold, the cold stone beneath his feet spread its coldness to his neck, to confirm that he was nervous. When he was anxious or nervous his hands were always wet and his neck were always cold.
Finally, he saw two shapes of people flying across the chimneys around the factory. He was very curious to see the girl he had been waiting for. He hoped that she was a bit like Janis Joplin.
He was a bit disappointed when the two of them landed. The girl he expected was nothing like Janis Joplin. She was Asian, black-eyed, black-haired, and tan-skinned, but she was pretty enough though. Exotic.
Then she introduced her self with a bit hoarse voice,
“Hello my name is Che.”
The director accompanied Che to tour around the Mayhem Factory. Che was very excited. She was curious what they build in such mega factory. She remembered she use to watch National Geographic Channel and amazed with program such as ‘mega factory’ that always show her how things like car and other heavy tools were built.
Che never been to a real factory before, so she walked behind the director, she did not want to interrupt the workers there, they all looked very serious. Like a documentary films she used to watch, the situation in the room she were into was looked like a footage from Chinese labor issue film. There were so many workers in a huge room. The film set looked the same.
“Why they all looked so serious?” asked her.
“They have been told to make such expression when I walked them over. They will look happier when I wasn’t around”
“Why? Is it because they hate you?”
“No, because they are all afraid of me, and that’s how I make everything in order around here”
Che used her favorite blue-converse shoes, the only bright color she saw around there beside her red socks. It was very dark and gloomy there. The only bright color in there was tungsten yellow from the desk lamp on every worker’s table. The rest of the factory was painted black and gray.
From the moment Che arrived, there were hardly any people around her tried to make a conversation with her. Che knew from the aura of the room, and how the director spoke to her, that implicitly the director wanted her to obey him, so things around her would become orderly too, but Che did not like order; she was the one who everyone should obey. That what was happened in her world, and should be happen in this world too.
Che tried to see what the workers doing in their desk. Seem like they were writing something, but even they didn’t know what each other wrote. The workers separated about two meters distance, so they must work on their own. They even couldn’t speak to each other.
“What are they doing? Are they writing something?”
I will show their work to you later.” Said the director gently.
The room was very huge. Che felt exhausted just to walk to the door in front of her. It looked very far, perhaps around ten kilometers, yes it was very big room, and every ordinary person will exert to cross that room, including her. She could not stand to walk again, she wanted to fly, but it was not polite to leave the director alone, maybe he couldn’t fly, and she did not know exactly where she wanted to go. So she stopped.
“Let me rest, and maybe have a simple chit-chatting with some of the worker,” asked Che. She was very curious about what they were doing.
“Ok then, please yourself.”
Che walked approaching the worker nearest to her, she stepped very quietly tried not to interrupt them. She knows that when someone is working seriously, she must not bother him or her. So she looked for the one who were not looked too serious in their writing task.
She saw someone around the corner. He was having a conversation with his mobile phone in his work time. He looked young and wise –some quality you rarely found in the age of early twenty.
Che knew that this was the one she should approach. She heard his flirty sound flowing to his 1990’s mobile phone. He was an old-school type of person, she thought.
The young guy then finished his conversation and back to his chair with his smiley face –maybe he was happy after talked to someone he missed so much- when suddenly he saw Che stood in front of him and tried to make some conversation.
“Hello, my name is Che, what is yours?”