A Husband for Mother

Senin, 23 November 2009 by: Forum Lingkar Pena

Short story by Hamzah Puadi Ilyas
Published in The Jakarta Post | Sun, 04/06/2008

Woman, Javanese, 31, 163/54, bachelor's degree, employee, polite; needs a man/widower, 31-40, 165/proportional height, min. academy graduate, full-time worker/entrepreneur, loyal, responsible, non-drinker and non-gambler, ready to marry.

The words arranged in the Matchmaking Contact column in a well-known newspaper was the answer to a mother's wish for her daughter. That was what Trie did to make her mother happy.

Her mother lay weakly in hospital, suffering from heart disease and elevated blood pressure, which she'd had for a few years.

Trie knew she would feel remorseful in the future if she hadn't made her mother happy. She seized the day, taking the last opportunity to sacrifice her life for her mother before the old woman shut her eyes for good. Trie remembered how her single mother looked after a hard day's toil to fulfill their daily needs, including her and her two sisters' tuition fees.

"Think it over, Trie!" said her mother again. "Look! Your two sisters are very happy with their husbands and children. Even now, Dodi, your nephew, has graduated from a high school and will soon go to university. Don't you envy them?"

Trie was quiet, trying to be polite and respectful by not refuting her mother's arguments. Trie's hand still fed her mother, her mouth still talking, even though her voice was weak.

Actually, her mother didn't know Trie's sisters often turned to Trie with their problems. They looked happy, but in fact they had hidden troubles. Trie's first sister had problems with her husband's family so she often thought about divorce, and Trie's second sister had a problem with her husband, who liked to chase young women. It was true she was well-to-do, but she was internally unhappy.

Trie was like a counselor to her sisters. She often heard of their domestic upheavals. It was impossible for them to talk to their mother since she was ill. They were afraid telling her such family problems would aggravate her condition. So, as far as Trie's mother knew, they had happy families -- so she insisted Trie get married soon.


The message in Matchmaking Contact got a reply. A thin and tall man was sitting on the couch in front of Trie. He was tidy and looked educated. He arranged his words in such a manner that he showed his intellectual capability. Unfortunately, he underestimated Trie's role.

The man had the opinion a wife had to be ready to take care of all her husband's needs and to accept all his decisions. And the most painful opinion of his was women had to be willing to be second wives because the number of women outweighed the number of men in the world.

Indeed, he didn't directly say he intended to be polygamous, but Trie abhorred the idea.

That was the first meeting with Indra. The first impression wasn't gratifying. There were contradictory principles that could be dangerous for both of them in the future if they married. They were like heaven and earth.

The next day, Trie met some other men, but unfortunately there was always a disagreement. Finally, she simply let it go and let destiny take its action.


"Mom, this is Feri," said Trie.

The old woman's eyes turned toward Feri's face. He wasn't really handsome, but attractive. He was average in height, not muscular but proportional. She smiled and raised her arm to shake hands. Politely, Feri extended his both hands and kissed her fingers.

"Good evening Mrs. Budiman." His smile was so sweet. The old woman asked Trie and Feri to come closer.

It had been a week since Trie's mother was hospitalized. The doctor treating her said she was under stress. She had a psychological problem that could worsen her disease.

With Feri coming, the cheerfulness came back to drive away the scratches of gloom from her old wrinkled face, bringing back the good looks of her young age. They got along very well straight way, like two empty hearts complementing each other.

Feri skillfully attracted the old woman's sympathy. She seemed to forget about her illness when she laughed so hard her body shook. Trie would stand up to sooth her mother's cough but it seemed that happiness defeated the old woman's frail body.

Out of the blue, Feri took a ring out of his pocket. In front of the sick old woman, he proposed to Trie and said he would be ready to take care of Trie and be her soul's blanket, sailing the ocean of marriage in happiness and sorrow. Trie's mother was stunned. That fast? Witnessing the sparkles in Trie's mother's eyes, Feri put the ring on Trie's finger. Happy smiles blossomed on both their faces, spreading a sweet fragrance all over the room.


Trie and Feri saw one another in the library of literature at university. Trie covered her heartbeat by pretending to seriously be reading Pearl S. Buck's novel, The Good Earth. Her mind was not on the words in the book.

The next day, they saw each other again. Then Feri approached her, pretending to need a highlighter. He said he needed to pinpoint the important parts in his note book for next week's mid-term test. The talk developed into a friendship, then changed into intimacy.

Their intimacy opened Trie's eyes that all this time there was a charming boy named Feri. He was two semesters above her. She realized that the campus life was not always about books.

Trie thought Feri was hers, even though she never heard "I love you" from the boy's mouth. Trie felt their closeness meant they were a couple. Love doesn't have to always be expressed with words, she thought at the time.

Two of Trie's friends warned her not to fall in love with Feri, a campus playboy and literature student who was good at writing poems to attract girls. There were a lot of girls suffering from a broken heart because of his cute and innocent look. But it was clear Trie didn't care. Love's flowers were in full bloom.

One day, Trie saw Feri sitting very close to a new student on the bench under a leafy tree next to the cafeteria. They were holding hands intimately. Trie decided she would no longer meet him. The next day, Trie got back to her books, making her become the best graduate from the school of literature.

That was more than ten years ago. They were united again through Matchmaking Contact. The last remnants of love sparked again, entwining the loose ropes of faded affection.


Dusk was falling, evening replacing the day. Its dim glow could be seen through the glass of the office building. In one room on the fourteenth floor, Trie took a long deep breath, feeling somewhat exhausted after working for nine hours. Suddenly, she heard a knock at the door. "Trie, you've got a guest. She's been here since three o'clock. She said she wanted to see you after you finished work."

"Who is she?" Trie asked the new receptionist.

"Her name is Dyah."

Trie's mind tried to remember a Dyah. There was no woman named Dyah in her mind and no meeting arranged with a client that day.

"What company is she from?" Trie asked.

"She said it was a personal affair."

Trie frowned, a little bit confused. But her curiosity overtook her confusion and her heart was racing.

"Well, ask her in."

A woman came into Trie's room. Trie asked her to sit on the brown couch next to the desk. They sat side by side. The woman was beautiful, but rather plump. She also looked dubious. Her face looked neither cheerful nor angry.

"May I know the purpose of your coming here?"

"I am sorry to disturb you." Dyah's voice was soft and it sounded sad, "I am Feri's first wife." Then Dyah started to cry her heart out.

Trie looked like she'd heard a thunderclap that struck a big tree and crashed it down.

A few minutes later, speaking in a halting voice, Dyah told Trie that she met Feri at campus. She still loved him, even though she knew Feri was close to several beautiful girls on campus.

All of a sudden, Trie remembered that Dyah was the girl she saw sitting next to Feri, holding hands; an event that had tormented Trie's heart at the moment she was enjoying the melody of love songs.

Dyah said after graduating from the university, they got married because she was pregnant. With Feri getting a promotion, they had more money. But gradually, Feri started coming home late, using business meetings as an excuse. Later, Dyah knew Feri had a new wife and a child. Since then, Dyah always kept an eye on his steps.

"Please forgive me. I'm doing this for your own sake so you are not shocked. But if you want to be his third wife, it's up to you." Dyah's tears rolled down her cheeks. Trie moved closer to her and hugged her.

The two women were embracing, both hurting for different reasons. The had both become the victims of an egotistical man who just wanted to fulfill his own desires.

Trie couldn't hold back her emotions. A tear fell down her face and touched her engagement ring. The tear moved around the ring's surface. Then, the image of her mother emerged. In a few days, the old woman would leave the hospital. What should I say to my mother? Trie's conscience screamed with pain and sorrow.