photo by Banyu Bening :

It was a strange village. The moment red appeared on the horizon, the village became silent. So quiet and sleepy. Even though the lights came on, hardly anyone breathed. A hushed rustling of wind whispering in the bamboo forest, eerie. The stones of the street seemed to know that silence should reign the moment dusk arrived, and unnoticed sadness greeted each other between the orange clouds.

Sadness bred and cracked the chest like a beating drum. But, as if it were a rule from God, it was not to be spoken of in this village. When sadness was discussed then, without mercy, their throat would perforate, and their voice would never again come out of their mouths.

People with holes in their throat immediately covered their neck in a variety of ways. Some wore a necklace with precious stones as big as the hole itself, others ordered special clothes so that their neck was tightly covered. The contents of the hole must be covered, because otherwise, the hole in the neck would become infected and their pain would escalate. Sadness giving birth to pain. The people in the village didn’t want to experience pain, so every sadness that befell them they would desperately try to hide, so that even their own breath didn’t know where the sadness was.

Throughout the morning and evening there were only happy faces, the sound of booming laughter and chit-chat abounding. People with a hole in their neck would always put on their best face. Forming a smile. It was like they were trying to make up for their mistake, having exposed their sadness to the wind and voice. The world is happy, that was the prevailing jargon. Sadness is a crime. A sense that, if necessary, it must be destroyed.

Since birth babies knew that the jargon was like dogma murmured to the holy spirits. Mothers cradled their children with lullabies against sadness. When the children grew up and asked about the word ‘sad’, the mothers covered their mouths tightly telling them that the ruler of darkness would quickly come if that word came out of the mouths of children with such beautiful eyes.

‘Child, get rid of your sadness, we eradicate tears in this delightful world, stay away from your dark world, only laughter has a place in our hearts,’ the lullaby went something like that. While enjoying the warmth of their mother’s chest, the baby stored an image of a world that only allowed happiness.

In the village-head elections, the candidates competed to offer the most effective programs to  combat sadness. Like supermarkets with massive discounts before the holidays, the program that was most interesting would be swamped with people. Even college students giving lectures in the village were required to teach only the happiness program and they must sign a contract with heavy sanctions for breaking it. Emotional dictation! So the students swore.

It was really a joyful village. Everybody obeyed the rules of the village without exception. Including Kemplu, the hero of the village. He was so intense, echoing the words of the campaign that sadness was a terrible crime. Tears should be suppressed. Even when a big storm blew his family who knew where, Kemplu laughed in delight, had a big party and invited almost the entire village. Not long after that he got married and had children. Life really must continue, he said. He laughed at people with holes in their neck. Weak people. He sneered.

‘Only weak people cry, uncontrolled emotions are for undignified people. Tears are foolishness.’

Only at dusk that could not lie. When the colour at the border between world and dreams was like tears about to fall, sadness trickled from the chest of the village residents. Panic always struck with the coming of dusk. Quickly they tied their chest with ropes so tight, covered their mouths with plaster that was very strong. They tried desperately to stop the sadness exploding so that their necks didn’t get a hole and pain didn’t became a friend of their every remaining breath. They were quiet in their houses, enduring their dripping sweat, preventing the explosion of chests full of sadness, concentrating so it didn’t burst from their mouth and eyes.

Everyone was looking for a way to keep the sadness in place; at the quietest point in their heart. If necessary, even God should not be allowed to find it.

Among them, there were people that, with firmness, voluntarily exchanged the sadness they couldn’t control with the gentle smile of the angel of death. Pain from the hole in their throat more deadly than a cut by the sharpest sword. Whenever a tinge of orange began to blow at the horizon, almost all windows and doors were closed. All tightly storing sadness that exploded in their houses.

Surprisingly, Kemplu always disappeared at dusk. His wife only knew that he went to the forest at the end of the village. The forest that was called Cheerful Forest by the residents even though no-one knew why it was called that, like the teasing of wind that blew every morning, thick with sadness.

If the wind blew over the forest, the rustling of the leaves hummed the saddest requiem. The branches of the trees echoed their answer, a loud rhythm, humming with an intense sadness.

When people touched the name board of the ‘Cheerful Forest’, it was like their heart was pierced and forced to take the sadness within to be vomited.  Just like the ‘knowledge of the heart’ the evil criminals in action movies.

Yet the puzzle of the forest could not be answered. Even Kemplu who came out of the forest every morning full of laughter and extraordinary delight, always replied that the sadness of the forest was already there the first moment trees were planted on the land. The universe cried because Adam was separated from Eve, and that is the only reason why sadness was allowed on the surface of the earth.

‘Adam was the first person, he had a special right and he was the only one who was allowed to feel sad. The feeling so thick in his heart that his grandchildren had to get rid of it.’

Magic. Mysterious words. All agreed without a shred of doubt.

Until one day, the village head decided that the only way for the level of happiness in the village to increase rapidly was to make the biggest joyful park in the country by cutting down the Cheerful forest. Everyone agreed, along with the people with holes in their throat. They hoped with a joyful park the feeling of pain that throbbed in their throats would vanish. Only Kemplu protested.

‘We need fresh oxygen and that would wreck the environment,’ his cried aloud, mimicking environmental activists on television. The village head who was the nephew of a powerful general remained stubborn. While Kemplu was organizing a movement against the Joyful park, the bulldozers were brought in to flatten the Cheerful forest. In two or three hours, nearly all the trees had fallen. Only one tree was left.

Kemplu was pale. The atmosphere suddenly as tense as it was at dusk, although the blaze of the sun was cracking their heads, like when death breathes its smile and prepares to remove all traces of breath.

The bulldozer approached the last remaining tree. When the mouth of the bulldozer was only a centimetre from the tip of the tree, suddenly Kemplu’s voice came out in a howl of intense grief.

Like thunder in a severe dry season, everybody’s heart stopped beating. Kemplu, the biggest hero in the village screamed his sadness so loud. The sobs that poured out couldn’t be stopped even when cradled in a woman’s heavenly breasts.

‘My family live in the hollow of that tree. They weren’t lost in the storm. I talk to them every dusk. I give them conversation of tears there. The hole is my mouth and my ears. I smell their sweat and I take care of them with all the love I have. That storm tricked us. My family was always concealed in that hole, I entertain them with my loneliest conversations. Sorry, this sadness is unbearable. I need to speak about my sadness, I need to share it. I can’t stand it. Please, don’t take my tree, it’s the only one that will listen to me….I will die without that hole….’

His voice was disappearing. A hole in his throat suddenly burst through. Everybody screamed, because the hole didn’t stop at the end of his throat. The hole got bigger and bigger until finally Kemplu’s body exploded and bits of his body scattered everywhere. Only his heart continued to beat. His new wife fainted, his children collapsed. A thick silence.

The sad secret of the Cheerful forest was revealed. While convincing themselves that that scene was just an illusion, the village head picked up the beating heart. Carefully he put it in the hole of the last tree. As soon as it was put in, the tree was alive like a happy family room in a television commercial. The sound of thunderous laughter, clinking piano, full of merriment. All the residents hearing it knew that Kemplu was really happy inside.

Since then, things changed. Every dusk, the village became noisy with laughter. Family rooms warm. Doors and windows were opened wide. Even though the wind might destroy their body,  the residents knew that their heart would endure. They knew, every time dusk fell, their heart would harden and strengthen. They accepted it with joy.

A very friendly sadness….

When they recognised this, sadness became beneficial and overflowing with the beat of happiness.  The forest continued to function as public space. But now it was called Teardrop Park. Anyone could come and cry to their hearts content. In fact excited visitors to the park who wanted to feel the beauty of the park’s sadness could buy sadness stimulating medicine offered by the ticket person at the gate. Every visitor, before going home, had the opportunity to be photographed at Kemplu’s tree, as they called the only tree that hadn’t been cut down. The shady tree.

Thanks to sadness and tears because with them we learned perfect strength. A circle doesn’t have to be completely round, like a line doesn’t always have to be straight.

A beautiful dusk, a dark dusk…..

translated by Bronwyn Duke (