Two Women with a Similar Face

Senin, 23 November 2009 by: Forum Lingkar Pena

Short story by Hamzah Puadi Ilyas
Published in The Jakarta Post | Sun, 04/05/2009

All of a sudden, Prio was no longer interested in the two lumps on Elda's chest. Blazing desire quickly abated as though it had been rained on with iced water. Sweat, starting to appear under scarfskin, died away and was disinclined to become visible. Everything faded and became feeble - slowly growing cold - as cold as the night wind that was compelled to penetrate a room ventilator covered by a mosquito frame full of dust.

Elda seemed to understand, but no words came from her mouth.

"Why did you do this, Elda?" asked Prio. "Why? Do you think I don't belong to you any more?"

Prio's eyes did not focus on Elda. His eyes were facing the moon, starting to make a full circle through the window glass not covered by the red curtains. As always, they left the curtains open until the husband and wife ritual was done, a wild horse's breath stopped at the finish line.

Elda simply bowed her head, she softly covered her naked body with an evening outfit once bought by Prio as a token of affection. He had bought it during his training abroad. It was a well-known brand. But at this moment her slim body was like a piece of meat, having lost its attractiveness and fragrance. Prio used to be crazy about it, like a hungry cat offered baked fish.

Slowly, Elda's face lifted and saw Prio's back. Her lips, whose shape had already changed, tried to smile. The lips were thicker and fuller than before. She stretched her fingers and started to creep them along Prio's pajama-less back. It was very cold, like the surface of an ice block.

Elda made an attempt to spread honey with sweet words, dripping from her lips. Prio used to be fond of her lips when they first met at a caf* after office hours, but the words sounded unmelodious to his ears, false and hoarse. Again, the palms of her hands tried to give the sweetest touch to his dark brown back, but there was no explosion to arouse his passion.

Prio kept staring at the moon that people said had been touched by human feet. The moon seemed to amuse his deeply disappointed heart, as if it said there was another moon that had not been defiled. He could still find that moon, somewhere else.

Realizing there was no response, Elda stopped her guerilla.

"Forgive me, Mas."

Finally, there was a word of remorse from her. But Prio got up, without paying any attention to it. He went to the bathroom and not long afterward there was the sound of the shower.

Elda threw herself down on the bed, regretting what she had done. It was a silly thing to do that she thought would have made her husband happy. Elda looked toward the window. The sky was getting dim, the moon covered by a thick bank of clouds.


Prio ordered the taxi driver to race. He wanted to see Elda now, the pretty woman who had been his wife for three years. He longed for her nose, eyes, cheeks, chin and lips. He had been away for training, and had been on duty in various areas for about three months.

He could hardly wait. The cab seat was as if full of lice scrambling to bite his buttocks. He kept giving instructions to the driver, making the old man nervous and he shook his head several times, but Prio did not care.

At last, the cab entered a housing complex with big horse statue at the main gate and, two minutes later, the cab stopped in front of a comfortably small house with Palm trees along the fence. As quick as lighting, Prio got out without asking for change. The driver was very pleased - his peevishly annoyed look now gone.

Prio knocked on the door and called to his wife. His heart beat raced with his impatience to meet his beloved wife. It had been so long!

"Welcome home, my handsome man." The door opened wide and a woman whom Prio hardly recognized stood before him. The nose, chin, cheeks and lips which he had longed for had changed. Only the big eyes with the long eyelashes were the same.


The woman smiled, but the smile was different, as though there was a line around her mouth. Her nose was more pointed than before and her cheeks more sunken. Her chin was like the tip of knife.

"Hug me, Mas. I know you've missed me."

Prio's hand unconsciously dropped the gift. He did not embrace his wife's waist which was narrower. He was perfectly still, just like a statue, his eyes not blinking.


The faces of some of the women at the Arisan* gathering were similar, especially their noses, lips, cheeks and chins. Three women were wearing sexy dresses that made their breasts (bigger than before) more visible.

Subsequent to deciding the winner, the group spread themselves out around the house, enjoying expensive refreshments. In one corner, Elda and a woman wearing glittering jewelry were talking.

"Jeng Elda, look at Mrs. Alex. The wrinkles around her eyes are gone, her nose is more pointed."

The woman's hand - with a beautifully expensive bracelet coiled around her wrist and a jewelled ring on her finger - pointed to a woman across the room.

"You know, Jeng. That's the work of Doctor James."

Elda saw the beautiful woman, who always smiled from a distance.

"Jeng Elda, don't be old-fashioned." The woman gulped down her drink. "It's time to please your husband so he won't have an affair with a younger woman. You know, there are lots of beautiful and sexy women out there.

"If we cannot compete with them, our husband will not feel at home," she said and giggled.

Elda nodded, her sight moving from one woman to another. They all looked beautiful and classy.

"Have you ever visited Doctor James?" asked Elda.

"Of course, if you saw my pictures from three years ago, I looked like a hick." She laughed and covered her mouth with her left hand,

"Now my husband loves me a lot." She laughed once again, her eyes blinking. There were no wrinkles on her forehead, even though she was already 47 years old.

"By the way, how much is it?"

"Not too expensive Jeng." Then she whispered. "Well, he is the best plastic surgeon in Indonesia - maybe in Asia. He graduated from the best university in America. I'm sure you won't regret it. You know, most Indonesian celebrities go to Doctor James to make them look more beautiful."

Again, Elda nodded, her thoughts hovering. The sound of the chatter sounded like the buzzing of bees. Prio's face abruptly appeared. He was smiling, the sweetest smile she had ever seen in her life.


Prio smiled when he saw a very natural face. The face looked like Elda's old face. It radiated charm and shine, making his apparently dead heart beat again.

The shine coiled around his body so that he could not move it, and kept following where it went. It turned out the owner of the shine lived in a beautifully quiet village, in a small house made of bamboo near a river.

In the beginning, Prio had difficulty talking to her. There was doubt trying to restrain his desire. But because of his masculine seduction, he plucked up his courage to drop by every time he had a chance, bringing several different kinds of gifts. Eventually, he managed to express his feelings.

"Will you keep me company for the rest of my life?" Prio asked.

She smiled. God! Her lips were naturally beautiful. Her nose, chin and cheeks reminded him of his love, lost because of human interference.

Begging, Prio repeated his proposal. A few seconds later he saw a nod of agreement. A few days later, his job auditing a branch office finished. He went back to Jakarta and reported to his superior.

"Are you sure you want to be placed at the branch office?"

"I am, Sir." Prio answered, looking more cheerful.

"Tell me why."

Prio thought for a moment. "The branch has a lot of potential. If not managed professionally, it will suffer a loss. And I'm ready to develop it to make it the most profitable branch." Prio said looking at his superior, waiting for comment.

"Besides, I'm already bored with the noise of Jakarta."

"No wonder, you look weary lately."

The man laughed while stroking his beard. He took a quiet moment to think.

"Ok, your wish is granted."

"Thank you very much, Sir." said Prio. They shook hands.


Prio left without leaving any message for Elda. He had already taken possession of Elda's old face in a village girl. The girl had filled his empty heart. After tying the knot, he carried her off to the capital city of the province.

Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. That afternoon, Prio was on the porch, sitting on a rocking chair and enjoying a cup of hot tea. The surroundings were very pleasant, the afternoon breeze blowing gently. From afar, he saw a woman walking toward his house. She was getting closer and closer. When she was only three meters from him, Prio recognized it was Elda. The nearly forgotten memory began to surface.

Prio did not move.

Soon, Elda ran and put her face in Prio's lap.

"Please forgive my mistake, Mas." Elda cried, but Prio kept still, looking at the green grass. The feeling of guilt slowly disturbed him, remembering how he had left without saying anything.

The village woman showed up, her hands holding a plate of fried banana and a cup of hot coffee. She stopped, seeing there was a woman's head in her husband's lap. Suspicious feelings mingled with compassion and prejudice.

Prio was unable to talk. Elda raised her head, her eyes still filled with tears. Slowly, Elda's face seemed to change as though her lips, chin, and nose had returned to their original shape. Prio turned to the village woman, staring at her face. After that, he saw Elda's face. Their faces looked alike.

The afternoon sky was suddenly overcast. Rain was about to fall. Prio was totally bewildered, unable to think clearly, because there were now two women with a similar face in front of him. What would he do with two wives?

*A regular social gathering for women at which every participant contributes a certain amount of money. At each meeting there is a lottery and the winner gets all the money. At the next meeting the previous winner doesn't participate in the lottery