A Night in the City: An Ode

Falling in love with a city weirdly feels like finding the right dentist to go to: I have witnessed how far some people are willing to travel just to make sure their teeth are okay within their half an hour appointment. It is quite odd, yes, considering how many good dentists mushrooms and there they are ending up with the farther one as the usual.

For quite a while, I tried to come up with what explained it best. Even though I knew deep down what I wanted to tell, it was still pretty challenging to cram the jumbled words inside my head. I finally settle with this:

A city is only a city if you have no memory to align it with. A city becomes a legend when you spent your childhood in it. A city, however, creates another story when you have its name engraved even in your sleep.

The other day, I got to wander around the street of the latest fad proudly claimed as the Citayam Fashion Week, or at least what of it that remained in style. Small crowds gathered in what looked like a half-impromptu, half-rehearsed street dance show. I didn’t get to watch the stage, sadly, as people were swarming around it and I was never the biggest fan of crowds.

But the mass pulled like a magnet. Even when I chose to observe from afar, I was still intrigued all the same. It was overall a nice, warm night to explore Jakarta at its pinnacle, so instead of going straight home and calling it a night, I went out with my sister to get two cinnamon rolls afterward.

That was when my mind started its own voyage. What fueled them to go back to Sudirman even after the zeal abated, and the reason I always choose Jakarta as my go-to city, are probably one and the same. No matter how strange it may sound, there is something about it that feels almost sedative: the never-ending block of skyscrapers in the main street, the traffic jam that initiates casual conversation with an almost stranger, the ability to stay still without affecting your surrounding, and the life you try to build based on a mere dream.

In the eyes of many, me included, it’s a city full of possibilities. A perfect place to start over. A game changer to some even. I like that Jakarta never stops moving; it never waits either. A constant reminder of how perpetual your daily life is can be found in the simplest things: buses that circulate until almost midnight, or the unsurprising fact that some still do errands at 3 o’clock in the morning.

But living in this city is not always a walk in the park. Jakarta has seen me in love and laughing, basically the many good things, but it has also witnessed the tears. Like the day I got my heart broken for the very first time, the numbness I felt looking at those living my dream, and the way I cried out for help in silence when people were being unconsciously mean.

Like any other city, dramas are inevitable. But here, I was the onlooker in the front seat, watching both ceremonies and tragedies. I have made friends with good people who eventually move out and depart. I have witnessed how some people fell in love and tied the knot, and how some marriages plummet harder than their love could endure. If I’m enthralled by the fact that Jakarta never stops moving, I hate how it seems to not care at all. I hate that it mixes black and white like it’s all supposed to be gray.

So why the persistencewhy Jakarta of all cities in Java? I honestly don’t know. The people I met at the dentist a few weeks ago would probably furnish a similar answer if I asked them why they went to the length they did. There is just something in this city that pulls me (and the rest of Jakartans) in deeper to want to survive in it. And a night spent surrounded by the people whom I was pretty sure could relate to this sentiment somehow evolved the feeling even greater.