Halo, I'm in a Novel


Before I finally fly to England again I decided to go home to meet my mother. An act to see her one last time in case my plane crashed into the middle of the ocean. Although I will only stay in England for two weeks, death would only take a few seconds.

In her house in kampung I looked around the small bookshelves in my room and found a book that I had written ten years ago. The title is Halo, I'm in a Novel (Halo, Aku Dalam Novel). That was the first bildungsroman I wrote. The book tells the story of a student who likes to get angry and agrees to stay in Oregon just to satisfy his mother. Another thing he likes to do is writing, to the point that the characters in his work appear in the real world. One of the characters’ name is Halo.

After ten years passed I finally decided to read it again. And to be honest, I was a bit surprised because I felt it was a kind of novel that I actually wanted to read. Without intending to brag, I thought it was a pretty good writing, with complex characters and accountable stories. I remember the market acceptance in 2009 was pretty decent, at the crossroads between good and bad. But at that time I was still in college and had not yet gotten my bachelor's degree. I'm still so young and don't think much of what I'm writing about. All that was spilled was something I wanted to say and surprisingly the manuscript was not edited so much.



I have never been so proud of the work but if you don't know, the novel is what introduced me to my beloved Malaysian publisher, Amir Muhammad. He wrote the story about the novel in his blog page:  Amir Muhammad Blogpost

This event was so important because through Amir I and my career could be in various places that I had never imagined before. If I may be honest, and I will, even though the book is fictional, it is actually inspired by someone so precious to me. Many parts of it are at some point is hyper-biographical. I myself had been to Oregon and lived there for several months. Not because I'm rich, but because I got a scholarship. I believe that I was 22 years old. Flying by plane for the first time in my life. Very anxious, nervous and excited. Such a kampung boy go and live in America in a very foreign soil. I was so na├»ve, couldn’t care less, and just wanted to learn, but also very grateful at the same time.

On campus I was in the same class as privileged kids who came to college because they were supported by their families. I didn't feel belong, but I really enjoyed studying. Maybe actually I really love learning. I recall one time in the cafeteria those kids made fun of me because I was too effeminate. I still remember the faces, but there was no hatred, only good memories. One of them is named Mike. He is the type of child who is loved because he is smart and also pleases the eyes when seen. Maybe it's because we ended up working in a group that made the two of us then became closer than just classmates. We began to recognize each other.

I am a very lonely person, but I am so used to it and it is no longer striking. But I do have some kind of interest in someone who appears fine but is always alone in his mind. I don't know but I always feel like accompanying these people. I am naturally attracted to them. It’s like two birds walking, instead of flying.

Mike was the very first person to invite me to dinner at their place, with food he cooked himself while I watched. He even hugged me long enough when we separated, even though he said he had never hugged a man before. Maybe in one side I did impose that friendship on him. "This is the right hug," I said at the time. He was laughing and he said that he was learning.

We spent a lot of time together to do things on campus and some people sometimes tease that we are lovers. But Mike is a very straight person and he married a few years ago, and at that time I adored him because he was the nicest person to treat me that I ever known my whole life. Meeting him was a gift. Eleven years passed and two days ago I received a long e-mail from him. He gave me news about his life and I gave mine. We do exchange e-mail two or three times every year. He even made me the first person to know when he got his first job. Maybe I have meaning in his life too. He was the only friend who survived eleven years of communication even though we separated a great distance and only met once for a few months.



Mike is very closely related to Halo, I'm in the Novel because there is so much about him in the novel. And rereading the book opened up feelings that I had not known for a long time. That's what I like about my writing. I feel my writing is a kind of activity to frame the feelings and concepts that have touched me in a phase of life. Something to look back on and a kind of preserving the memory of things I'm grateful for and proud of. Although not always so, but in part. I myself am a person who is so forgetful, and with the manuscripts I can remind myself of what was and thus I also can define that my writing is a process of improving myself.



This is a scene in the novel that I find funny, a scene in a basement where the main character thought he could find solitude just to find that there were some people doing laundry. He was so irritated by others presence.



"What's wrong with you, why is your attitude like that?" Asked Ardian.

I did not answer. Do not want to answer it. It feels, if I answer I will sin.

"You have a problem, huh?" She asked again. "We, are both from Indonesia... who knows you need help..."

I took a dollar out of my pocket, then threw it at her without looking up.

"Buy something so that your mouth is shut," the idea suddenly came to my head.

Merry (another girl in the room) immediately took the money, then went outside the room. She laughed.

Meanwhile, Ardian might now cry. I do not care. "I asked nicely!" she snapped.

"Indeed, who told you to ask?" I replied. I no longer care about her. Don’t mind if she kill herself or something as long as she is silent, I will be satisfied. Not long after, that Merry girl returned. She brought a very large bowl of chocolate ice cream.

"Hey, thanks for the dollar," she said. That girl always eat. Then, I started writing and they started talking again, acting like I wasn't there.



If I am given the opportunity to republish novels that are no longer in print, I will submit this novel and will try to translate it because I think this book best reflects my truself ten years ago—and still related to my presentself too. Writing was easy when you know nobody.


Btw, this is one of sentences in Mike’s recent email:

"In a sense, we both are crazy, we push the boat with every last strength in us. We don't know if it will work or not, but we push anyway with everything we got. Because this is what we wanted."

You who are reading this, we are now pushing our boats. Might as well we doing it laughing. But if we passed each other, let us say hi; so we are not that lonely.