“Mam, please put your seat belt on,” the smiling stewardess forces me to open my eyes. Yea I don’t want to put the seatbelt on, it’s like agreeing to leave San Francisco. It is too late to run now they’d already closed the gate.
Great, now I am strapped… trapped in this twenty hours flight that will send me home, sandwiched in between the selfie queen on my right and the sleepy business guy. Why didn’t I request an aisle seat! I wish I had the guts to open the emergency door and jump out of this plane.
Surabaya Airport is always crowded since apparently it takes a village to send one passenger away. I see my parents standing in the arriving hall, surrounded by loud people who don’t know how to queue. My mom just turned 53. She now has lines on her face, still beautiful but older than I remember. My dad still looks the same, even though he complains about how uncomfortable dentures are.
“Put your seatbelt on!” Dad yells at mom when the seat belt alarm doesn’t stop going off. They always sweat the small stuff, how nostalgic. Ah, the traffic is worse now than a year ago; they are trying to turn this city into Jakarta. Funny, the dirty streets stay the same. Trashes are in every corner and the smell of untreated human waste mixed with years of garbage indiscriminately thrown into the river. Unlike in the States, hundreds of motorcycles and no one is walking. “It is too dangerous,” they said. “The air is too polluted,” they said. The fact is you would melt to death before arriving at your destination.
I hear dogs barking, I smile. Now this is home. Once I open the door, my furry babies are surrounding my feet. Soft fur, paws, wet kisses, love. The house is busier than usual; tomorrow is the big day: my sister’s wedding. I walk upstairs and then enter the lavender room, my childhood room, our room; there is the bride to be. She looks gorgeous, more than ever; I miss her. The beautiful off-white dress with a beaded bustier and a wavy voluptuous ball gown is hung on the canopy bed frame. I helped her pick the dress a year ago. I can’t believe that my sister is getting married at 21. After a year of long texts, I shook my head every time she texted me: choosing shoes, makeup, hairdo, invitations, venues, expensive menus, dealing with the drama on table seating, and figuring out who to invite. I don’t get why we have to pay for 450 people, which is considered a small wedding here, since usually, people splurge to invite a thousand – mostly the parent’s connections, not even the bride’s and groom’s friends. Well, she is happy.
I had put on a cobalt blue chiffon dress when my mom walked in.
“Are you sure you want to wear that dress, the neckline is too low, also everyone will see your back tattoos,” she complains. I remember when she fired me from the family business after I got five tattoos in one day. Yea, I used to work for my mom, just like most Indonesians who help their family businesses.
“This is the only dress that fits,” I did gain 30 pounds since I moved to the States. Pizzas.
“Are you sure?” She pulls out a pastel dress with Chantilly lace applique that I wore to the high school prom. The zipper broke when I tried to wear it.
Video by The School of Life
It’s 4 am in the morning. Sighs… Everyone has to get up this early. The wedding organizers were already busy lining up before the makeup artists arrived. Seven photographers are busy capturing the special day, the flashes are hurting my eyes. Oh shoot, here comes Aunt Ursula. She is wearing the same dress as I am, with extra flowers, crystals, and feathers and hair as tall as pineapple. “Oh I know [another single human] – he is rich. But you have to lose weight first. Then I will set you up,” the small talk grates on my last nerve. The room is loud, I hate social gatherings like this, panic attack, “Mom, where is my Xanax?”
In my bathroom – trying to breathe. The bridesmaid is knocking on the door because she left her purse inside. I ignore her. I can’t stand seeing so many fake smiles downstairs. Now the event organizer is knocking, it’s my turn to get my make up done.
At the church, “I do,” they say. My sister hugs my parents and cries.
Mom is crying, Dad is sobbing.
The ballroom looks opulent with red rose centerpieces, crystal chandeliers, black, red, and white fabrics hanging, and a black grand piano on the stage. My sister wasn’t kidding when she said she would invite the city’s orchestra. The east meets west food fusion is mouth watering. My favorite is the braised bird’s nest with fish maw, enoki mushroom, and crispy shrimp wanton. We walk to the pool area and the fireworks displays scenic colorful explosions. The wedding was beautiful; the guests were not
“Why are you still single?”
“Maybe your are too picky.”
“Why did you gain so much weight?”
“You should catch the bouquet.”
“Are you okay? Are you happy?”
Yes, I am, until I got here. Here, if you are not married, you are doing something wrong. It doesn’t matter if I have a successful career, it doesn’t matter if I pay my bills instead of relying on a rich guy. It doesn’t matter if I have a healthy dating life and a perfect social circle back in the States.
There is nothing wrong with not wanting to get married. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to continue my parents’ business. There is nothing wrong with being curvy. There is nothing wrong with tattoos. There is nothing wrong with not wanting Hermes bags or Louboutin shoes. But, they will never get me here.
Have you ever felt awkward being single at a wedding? Leave your response in the comments below.