A date with Daddy is not something that I miss. Nor look forward to. Never have I expected to sit alone with Daddy and share stories. Huh..sharing stories is a little bit too much, I have to think a thousand times to say ‘yes’ to a dinner invitation from him. What for? He left. And now he’s trying to make it up? He has to hold on, because there are several doors that he has to knock on. Mommy’s is one of them.
But today I choose to say ‘yes’. Finally, I have a date with Daddy. In a coffee shop. Because he knows that I love coffee. Because he knows that I would refuse if it’s not a coffee shop. Because he knows that I would refuse if we are not going to a place that I want. And Daddy is missing me too much.
I pick-up Daddy in our the agreed place. In a bus stop. Daddy is smiling when he sees my car pull over to pick him up. As usual, he looks very shabby. He still has his firm figure, only not so neat. Daddy used to be very neat. With slick hair and wearing a sharp shirt. Though he has dark skin, Daddy’s face used to look fresh and charming. But that was then. When he used to be Mommy’s husband.
‘How are you Nduk?’ he asked when sitting in the car.
‘Fine.’ I replied briefly.
We don’t say a word on our way to the coffee shop. I’m not looking for a conversation either. Because Daddy knows that I don’t like to have chit chat with him. Only with him. Daddy knows that every conversation he started with me ended up with arguments. Only with him. Only with me. Therefore we, Daddy and me, decide to not say a word.
We are trying to maintain this getting better relationship. Just maintaining it, not making it into a better one. Perhaps we are going to get better. Or perhaps not. But we don’t know yet, only God knows what will come. And Daddy and Me are not God. Then we will never know. All we know is that if we are having a conversation then everything that we have maintained will be broken. We don’t want to break it at this stage.
It’s almost an hour in the car. This city is known for its traffic on Friday, which makes our journey to the coffee shop much longer. Longer than it used to be. But the coffee shop won’t go anywhere. Instead, we are getting there. Though the time distance is really frustrating.
The evening is quickly shattering and turning into night. I turn on my headlights because it’s getting dark out there. Meanwhile in the car we can only hear the music from my favorite radio station. Yes.. everything has to be in my favor. Because this is my car. Daddy doesn’t have a voice or rights or even strength to tell or rule my surroundings. It’s all gone on the day when he left Mommy. When he left me.
Suddenly Daddy takes out 5 candies. One of them is a fruity jelly candy. My favorite. He opens one then eats it. He puts the rest onto the dashboard. Daddy opens the fruity jelly candy and offers it to me. I shake my head.
‘Why?’ He asks. ‘This is your favorite candy, Nduk.’
‘That was then.’ Again, I answer briefly.
‘There’s no difference between now and then, Nduk. Especially in jelly candy.’
Again, Daddy chose to be in silence after hearing my answer. He chose not to continue the father daughter conversation. He realized that if he said something wrong, then fatal will be his new friend. Though deep down inside, I regret my answer.
We arrive at the coffee shop. This place is always crowded. I’m looking for a table that’s far from the crowd. A table that’s quite shady. So no one can see that I’m on a date with Daddy.
I order a cup of coffee. Meanwhile Daddy orders a cup of tea. I also order a slice of tiramisu. Meanwhile Daddy is eating the left over fritters that he bought at the bus stop while waiting for me. Daddy doesn’t drink coffee. Daddy also doesn’t like any cakes that smell Europe. He likes getuk lindri, also nasi gudeg. Because he is a Javanese. And according to him, a Javanese must eat getuk lindri and nasi gudeg.
Again, we are in silence. I stir my black coffee and Daddy stirs his warm tea. Daddy offers me the jelly candy again. This time, I take up his offer. Daddy is smiling as I chew the candy.
‘How is Mommy?’
‘How are you?’
‘I heard that Mommy is not in good condition. Is she sick? Is that true?’
‘Yes. But that was a month ago. Mommy is fine now.’
‘Good to hear. What was she’s suffering?’
‘Just a normal headache.’
‘May I see her?’
I don’t know how to answer that question. I am stunned. I don’t want Daddy to see Mommy. I don’t want Daddy to be near Mommy. He hurt her so much. Mommy is happy now. Without him. Mommy has me and Rasha. We are fine. Even without him.
I sip the coffee from the flowery cup that has been served by the waitress. After sipping it, I put the cup back on its saucer which also has a flowery motif. The cup motif and the name of the coffee shop, “Amor”, are really in accord. Amor means love in Italian. But that’s not in accord with my relationship with Daddy.
‘No. You can’t see her.’ My answer was firm. Straight forward.
‘Forgiveness is something that’s out of my reach right now. Right Nduk?’
I look at his face. The face of a 56 year old man who’s sitting right in front of me. A man with dark skin, curly hair like mine, face like he’s older than his age. Daddy’s face is filled with wrinkles. Daddy used to be a charmer, but now… it’s all gone. His charm got lost on its way to charm me. His face is now filled with sadness. Everyone is somehow able to feel his sorrow. Everyone.. except me.
‘I don’t know.’
‘Do I have to kneel, Nduk? I would if I have to. As long as forgiveness from you would knock on my door.’
‘Don’t be so dramatic, Dad.’
We are in silence for I don’t know how long. Daddy turns his face from me. A glimpse… I saw Daddy shed a tear. He’s able to do that now. I was stunned. When Nyai passed away, that was the first and last time I saw Daddy crying. And now is the second time. But I don’t feel sorry. I don’t pity him. I don’t care. Oh, dear God… am I made of stone?
‘But Mommy is alright, Nduk?
‘Yes Dad. She’s fine. Don’t worry.’
This time it’s his turn to sip his warm tea that’s served in front of him. The cup motif is the same as mine. Flowery.
‘I had a package yesterday, Nduk. A box of rambutans. Do you want some? You like rambutans so much.’
‘Hmm.. I do.’ I answer briefly with a smile.
‘I’ll send them to your home, Nduk. Do you want mangoes as well? Bude has lots of mango trees now. Harum manis mangoes. Though they won’t be as sweet as you used to buy. But the fruit is very juicy.’
‘Yes Daddy. I do.’ Again, a brief answer.
Daddy is smiling now. His tear has gone. Rambutans and mangoes are the only things that can make me put a smile on my face. He is satisfied enough.
‘Give some to Mommy as well. She likes mangoes so much.’
‘I will. But Mommy can’t have too many mangoes, Dad.’
‘Why?’ He asked.
‘Because her doctor said so.’
‘Oow.. well.. just don’t forget to give her a little bite. Please give my regards to Mommy. Also my apology.’
‘Yes Dad. I’ll tell her.’
That was the last conversation we had that night. We stayed at the cafe until our coffee and tea ran out and words were nil along the way. The rain was pouring hard when we decided to go home. But inside the car it started to get warm, even though I turned on the AC. As usual, I dropped Daddy at the bus stop. I never take him all the way to his house. Too much trouble, he says. Or he just basically doesn’t want me to find out about his new family. But I don’t want to have a constant argument over that. I choose to let it go.
After I drop him off, home is my next destination. I can’t wait to tell Mommy about my date with Dad. About the mangoes and rambutans that he’s going to deliver to our house. About Daddy sending his regards and apology to her. I can’t wait to tell it to Mommy tomorrow on her grave. With flowers and water and prayers. Mommy… wait for me tomorrow. Because I have a story.
- Nduk is a Javanese word that means dear or sweetie. it is only said to a girl or woman who is younger than the speaker.
- Nyai – Palembang word for grand mother
- Bude – Javanese word for Aunty