Latifa Sekarini, Short Story, The Jakarta Post

Sea Foam


Short Story by Latifa Sekarini (The Jakarta Post, October 23, 2017)

Sea Foam ilustration Budhi Button - The Jakarta Post.jpg

Sea Foam ilustration Budhi Button/The Jakarta Post

Everyone in school knew exactly how I had developed an infatuation toward Daffa Fadhila by the time I started the ninth grade. I would get drunk on his laugh whenever it made a rare appearance, or on the way he’d raise his eyebrows and shrug.

I admired the way sunlight traced the curve of his cheek, and the way he’d turn his head toward the slightest sound. There were moments when I’d find myself frozen in the middle of an exam, helpless and inert, and I didn’t understand how I could be so fascinated with another person’s existence when that particular person was clearly unaware of my existence.

After spending several months getting my hopes up, I’d abandoned the desire to feel wanted in the midst of my lonely mornings spent in different cities; in a way, it was similar to how Daffa had tried to convince himself that love was simply a burden you were forced to carry.

And while I had ensconced myself in a private sanctuary that consisted of a substantial amount of exotic words and palaces built out of paragraphs, Daffa managed to find solace in the rush of adrenaline that had struck him like lightning whenever he turned up the ignition and sped past his competitors.

The two of us had pushed aside our anthology of feelings and picked up our rhythm once again in order to focus on blossoming without each other.

“Let me get this straight,” Joanne said as she gulped down her coke. “You’re telling me that this guy had managed to turn your life upside down, just before the two of you left school, and all of a sudden, you decided that his violent tendencies and abusive behavior is actually something that you, of all people, would find attractive.

“Moreover, after all these years, his request to connect with you on Facebook is enough to convince you to let him back into your life and possibly ruin it for the second time?”

She shook her head for the umpteenth time. “I don’t see what you find attractive in men.”

Joanne had stopped believing in love at 5 years old. Her father had run away with a checkout lady from Waitrose, and her father’s choice had left her mom devastated. We’d met underneath the principal’s dress, and clicked straight away, with her father’s absence and my mother’s indifference being the foundation of our bond.

Baca juga  A Hairy Tale

She would come over at tea time, and as we got older, she found ways to sneak into my room without the parental unit finding out. Now, we’d gotten jobs as an obstetrician and a nurse, and after three years of saving up, we were sharing a house in Jakarta.

I hadn’t expected her to ask me if we could move to my home country, where homophobia and racism were still abundant and ignorant bigots walked around aimlessly, but she’d insisted on a change of scene, telling me that perhaps, she’d have something to defend, something to fight for.

“It’s just a Facebook connection,” I told her. “What could possibly go wrong?”

To my surprise, the look on her face softened, and she reached out to touch my hair gently. “You, of all people, should know that love has the ability to damage, to ruin, to manipulate.”

Statistics had proven enough to me without her having to tell me that. Don’t you ever wonder, how many books, songs, poems, have been written about love? Don’t you ever wonder how many people have died, or killed themselves in the name of love? Take Romeo and Juliet as an example. Or another pair of star-crossed lovers who just happened to have the worst luck in the world.

“Don’t go looking for trouble,” she said.


Things barely ever turned out the way we wanted them to turn out, and in the end, it wasn’t actually me who had gone out of my way to find trouble. It was the other way around.

The doorbell rang, just as I walked out of the shower. Joanne had been downstairs, cooking breakfast, so she’d been the one to answer the door.

“Who is it?” I yelled from the top of the staircase. I’d managed to pull on a pair of sweatpants and an old T-shirt before trudging downstairs.

“Come see for yourself,” Joanne said. “For all I know, Romeo here is practically dying to see your face.”

I stopped dead in my tracks when I caught a glimpse of the face behind the door frame.

He raised a hand timidly, and I almost laughed at the incredulity of it all, because it used to be me who was scared. Scared of his anger, scared of losing him.

Baca juga  Given Another Life

Joanne left us after making a thread of sarcastic comments, and he started to talk, each word clearing the fog that had blinded the two of us, but especially me.

“I thought it was time to tell you,” he admitted quietly.

“Tell me what?”

“Tell you that I’m sorry, for everything. And for taking so long to say so.”

The city welcomed our newfound love and watched over us serenely as we shared long, languorous kisses underneath the star-studded sky. He begged me to tell him stories.

I told Daffa about Eurydice and Orpheus, and the moon goddess who had fallen in love with an archer. I told him of the little mermaid who dissolved into the sea foam and became the daughter of the air because of her unrequited love toward the prince who had fallen for another. All of them were tales of love and lust and loneliness; of men and women who had loved and loved and loved, yet found themselves being pushed aside, or forgotten, or torn away from their lovers.

“Why do you always tell stories with sad endings?” Daffa asked me.

“Because they are closer to reality, more than our haunted reveries will ever be, more than our pathetic daydreams will ever be.”

“It’s not pathetic to believe in love,” he said with a minute shake of his head.

“Deep down, what you’ve said is the polar opposite of what you believe,” I replied.

“You’re right,” he says. “You are absolutely right.”


Joanne had had a late night at the hospital and was planning to sleep through the whole morning, so I had to open the door that Sunday morning.

There was no love in his eyes. Not this time. It was just traces of impatience and regret, and maybe what was left of our love.

“I thought it was time to tell you,” he admitted quietly.

“Tell me what?”

“Tell you that I’m sorry, for everything. And for taking so long to say so.”

He left the week before Christmas, and his footsteps were quickly washed away by the rain before I could memorize them.

Baca juga  Doves


I had stared at my ceiling enough times to know the precise number of stars that my father had glued to the ceiling, a few months before he went to prison. I’d made wishes on them, back when I did not know any better and thought of wishes as substitutes for prayers. We had spent hours cutting shiny sweet wrappers into shapeless stars before we glued them, and although they hadn’t lost their glimmer after all these years, they no longer possessed the magic I thought they’d possessed.

I could hear Kurt Cobain singing, aqua sea foam shame…

His voice sounded like it is on the verge of shattering, but it’s not broken. It’s not broken, and it gives me hope. I had never realized this before, but sometimes growing up doesn’t always mean rising, changing, blossoming. Sometimes it means falling, sinking, taking a plunge and expecting the worst to happen.

I had always known that. And the thought of me needing someone to tell me that was so ridiculous I could not help but laugh out loud. Joanne glanced at me distractedly, but did not make an effort to put down the phone.

“…I’m doing alright, mom. No, I’m about to make dinner in just a minute…, yes, Thea is here. She’s watching Star Wars with me, mom.”

Joanne hung up and looked over at me. She knew I’d been nursing that bottle of Coke for too long, and she knew that I’d gone through heartbreak. Instead of scolding me, she rummaged inside her bag. “I had the chance to look around Aksara this evening, just before I hopped on the MRT.”

She walked over to me, her footsteps going tap tap tap on the floor, and slid the book toward me. “The little mermaid doesn’t have to dissolve into sea foam in this story.”



Latifa Sekarini is a young Indonesian writer whose stories have appeared in The Jakarta Post.


We are looking for contemporary fiction between 1,500 and 2,000 words by established and new authors. Stories must be original and previously unpublished in English. The email for submitting stories is: [email protected]

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