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My name is Nagari. Thirty years of age. No need to explain; I already understand. That evening, after my bath, my hair still wet, I heard a pounding on the door of my rented room. Three men with a polite look in their eye had come to pick me up. From the sight of the jeep waiting out front; from the low hum of its engine; and from the tone of their voices, at once soft but firm, as light as the evening air, I knew, with no need for explanation, what was happening. 


The three of them, the three men, took me to a house. One with cold and slippery floors. Floors that formed a long corridor, separating tens of doors that faced each other. The ceiling was so high that when walking down the hallway or even whispering to myself, the walls threw back the sound along with a strange buzzing assonance. The house resembled an old hotel no longer in use. The air inside moved feebly. 


I came to a room. Without speaking, the three men motioned with their hands for me to enter. As I passed through the doorway, while trying to guess what kind of room I was in, I instinctively sensed something odd about it. 


A table made from ironwood – not too large but not too small either. Two chairs on either side, facing each other. A wall clock broadcasting the sound of passing moments, causing my heart to shrink. Not to mention the mote-filled air which, when entering my nostrils, immediately caused a stinging sensation in my throat. 


The door behind me closed automatically. The rush of wind as it closed made me feel as if I were being pushed toward a pool of quicksand. My neck stiffened; my head felt heavy. The constant ticking of the wall clock caused my pores to dilate, forming cold holes. 


At that moment, I needed no explanation; instinctively I understood why they, the three men, had brought me to this room. 


Whether by coincidence or not, just one week earlier a friend had warned me that this kind of thing might happen. But I had dismissed my friend’s warning: it was too hard to believe. Certainly, I’d often heard about strange things happening to others – like, for instance, when a friend had been blindfolded and taken away in the middle of night by a group of men. 


Where they had taken her, she didn’t know. All she knew was that they had kept driving around, never stopping at all. And during that whole period of time, not one of the men had said a single word to her. The only thing my friend heard was the sound of heavy shoes or boots tapping in time with the cock and release of an empty pistol, creating a rhythm that chilled the depths of her heart. What kind of thing was that? Terror? Intimidation? A bad trip? I didn’t know. 


In the end, my friend reported, she was taken back to her house and dropped off as if nothing had happened. Since that time, she has been living normally, with no outward sign to mark that strange occurrence. The only telling sign is a look in her eyes which, when we exchange glances, makes me feel as if I am being drawn into a whirlwind. Or, in my conceited fashion, I might say that I could grow inside her pupils a large tree with extremely strong roots of fear. 


There is indeed a vast difference between hearing about something happening and experiencing the same thing yourself; between what hap­pened that night to my friend, which before had been little more than a story to digest with a cup of coffee, and having it transformed into reality – something that might have happened to anyone else but would never happen to me, or so I firmly believed. 


As it turned out, however, I did undergo the experience. That said, I felt more fortunate than she. At the very least, I understood that something had been planned for me and I was ready to experience it. That is why I needed no explanation. This room gave me more information than a sheet full of explanations might provide. 


My name is Nagari. Job? Sometimes I write, sometimes I sing – if what I’ve been doing all this time can be called work. Yeah, that is what I do. In short, I entertain people! 




 ‘You already know that, don’t you?’ I tried to calm myself, tried to look into the eyes of the man before me who never blinked. (Like a snake’s eyes. They say a snake never blinks throughout its lifetime!) 


‘Just procedure,’ he said, calmly. ‘Your address?’ he asked again. 


‘Boarding house number 2212.’ 


The man pressed his lips together. He was wearing a white shirt and a leather jacket, the cuffs of which were scuffed and dirty. His lips were black from too much nicotine; his fingers, chunky and coarse. But his face, in the light of what I guessed to be a twenty-five-watt bulb, gleamed with deter­mination. 


‘I am hoping for your cooperation so that you can go home soon. I am tired. You’re tired, too. So let’s work together on this. . . .’ 


For some reason, the sound of the man’s voice, the statements he made, were to my ears like jokes slipped by friends into desultory conversation at a café. His tone seemed intentionally polite – the light-hearted sound of a bureaucrat’s voice while being interviewed by a television reporter. 


‘You do understand what I mean?’ the man asked suddenly. 


‘No, I don’t!’ Reflex had prompted my answer and my spontaneous reply made his eyebrows rise. Then, suddenly, a smile – a nice enough smile – bloomed on his face and, as if in an automatic response, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes. ‘Do you smoke?’


‘On occasion. . . .’ 


‘Modern women usually do. . . .’ he muttered, his nostrils flaring. ‘I’m sure you understand. I’m being honest here. I realise that you are an educated woman. Many people admire your writings. And to hear you sing. . . .’ His voice now resembled that of a television presenter. ‘Well, I, too, am one of the millions of people who feel lost if, in the morning, I don’t see your byline in the paper!’ 


The man then exhaled, blowing cigarette smoke toward the light, giving it a chance to form abstract shapes, resembling clouds, animals, sometimes abstract signs. 


‘As a friend . . . I’m sorry, as a fan, I would very much like to know whether there was anything behind the hysterectomy you underwent on December 22?’ 


Huh? I tried to get my mind around the man’s question. Then, when I finally did understand it, I was amazed. So this was the reason. Well, damn it to hell, I spontaneously swore to myself. Frankly, at first I thought I had been shown the honour of being invited to this place because of an article I’d written for a newspaper the week before. Now, as it turns out, I was completely wrong. I don’t know why but, suddenly, I felt disappointed: it hadn’t been for my thoughts, my ideas, or my criticisms at all that I was here, but because of what had happened on December 22! 


Disappointed by my own confusion, I asked, ‘What do you mean? Hysterectomy? Are you asking about the operation I had last year?’ 


‘Yes, the one you underwent on December 22 at 11.30 Western Indonesian Time, at a private hospital. . . .’ The weight in the man’s voice made me feel nervous. 


‘I don’t understand, sir....’ 


‘And I understand that you might not understand. You probably aren’t aware or, let us say, that at one time you might have thought that what you did was perfectly normal. A basic right. And I understand that, too. Very much understand it!’ 


The man stopped, suddenly attacked by a coughing spell. His brow furrowed. 


When he continued, his cough stopped immediately. ‘The only thing we want to know is the reason behind your actions!’ 


Silence suddenly surrounded us. I looked at the man’s face. In the light of the twenty-five-watt bulb, his skin seemed bright to my eyes, causing my temples to throb in pain. 


While trying to forget the pain, I repeated my question to the man: ‘You’re asking me about my hysterectomy?’ 


‘Yes. . . .’ His voice was steady, his eyes black dots. 


Seeing his resolve, I felt disappointed. Deep in my heart, I had often imagined that one day I would undergo this kind of thing. Papers would be full of the news, a topic of intense discussion. Rumours would fly without cease until it was all over. Yes, in my deepest of hearts, I had often imagined myself being tortured and that the drops of my blood would serve as proof that I had struggled for something and had moved people’s minds. 


But now, here I was being questioned about a decayed womb, one whose state deprived me of my pride and even caused me to doubt my own standing as a woman. 


I spoke, releasing some of my disappointment. ‘In fact, I’m surprised....’ 


‘I know you’re surprised . . .’ he said, cutting me off. He looked at me sharply, as if conscious of my anxiety. ‘. . . surprised that it’s only now we’re asking you about it. and not, for example, after you had checked out of the hospital.’ 


‘I had an operation because there was a cyst on my womb. It was medical necessity. I find it strange that you would be interested in that.’ I forced myself to speak calmly as I attempted to explain something that should have needed no explanation, something whose elucidation would be certain to make me feel all the more disappointed. 


The man smiled broadly. Just as his mouth stretched to its widest point, a house-lizard let out a shrill cry, and its echo bounced around the room. 


‘OK then, just as I said before, let’s work together on this! We’re in this thing together. You know what it is we want to know. You can be frank. We’ve been in this business since 1971!’ 


I tried not to shake but my trembling tongue betrayed me. ‘I don’t understand. In complete truthfulness, to have had a hysterectomy is, for me, something very sad.’ 


‘Sad? Are you saying that you were forced into an operation?’ 


I felt hot under the man’s harsh gaze. 


‘Of course I was forced. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise,’ I answered slowly. ‘Would a woman ever willingly have her womb removed!’ 


‘And who was it that forced you?’ 


‘Excuse me?’ 


‘Please, there’s no need for you to be afraid. We are on your side. We feel guilty for not having been able to save you. . . .’ 


‘What do you mean?’ My temples were throbbing. 


‘Who was it that forced you to undertake the operation?’ 


‘No one forced me, sir!’ 


‘But you just said that you had been forced.... Just tell us who it was that forced you.’ 


The man’s brow furrowed again. The light shining off his face seemed to be reflected everywhere. I was nimble-minded; my brain, adroit. But what was this? What did this man want? I was at a dead-end, in utter incomprehen­sion. I had begun to feel feverish. And the ticking of the clock on the wall made me suddenly think of my rented room. I hadn’t latched the window! I thought of the rice that was waiting to be warmed. 


My stomach was starting to turn from the reeling of my mind. Why did they want to know about my hysterectomy? Why? 


 ‘The indicators that we studied . . . the facts that we gathered . . . have pointed us in the right direction. You know that this hysterectomy movement has become the modus of a new terrorist movement whose goal it is to obstruct reform. It is part of a political movement being engineered by outside forces. That is why we are asking you for your help – to find out who is behind it.’ 


The man’s voice resounded loudly in my head. 


How odd! How very odd indeed to draw links between my routine hysterectomy and things that are, in my opinion, exceedingly extraordinary. Forced links are possible, of course; something can always be found – a coincidental link, for example. But was a decaying womb reason enough to be suspected of having links with those extraordinary events? 


Could the act of saving one’s life – a hysterectomy – which was something normal and ordinary, somehow be seen as a threat to public life, similar to such widely discussed issues as terrorist bombs or the stockpiling of staple goods? Extraordinary! The links created in the imagination of the man in front of me were truly extraordinary. 


I coaxed my mind to explore the motives. What was actually going on in the mind of the man? Was this an act of loyalty? Was the safety of the state his only concern? Or was this a case of confusion, caused by a paltry salary? Or, as my mind played devil’s advocate, could there possibly be any truth in what the man had said? What if there were a movement to stockpile wombs – a movement of women, stockpiling them in a warehouse, instituting an embargo against the millions and millions of male sperm out there, a kind of pregnancy and birth strike. An incredible thought! If such a thing were truly happening, perhaps then I could understand his suspicion about my hysterectomy. But.... 


‘In our investigation, we have detected a group that wants women to remove their wombs as a means of negating any opportunity for the birth of a new generation! We have been looking into this. For a long time, now. For years, we’ve been collecting information. We have analysed it. We have crunched the numbers.... And do you know what their argument is?’ 


He immediately answered his own question, so enthusiastically that spittle burst from his blackened lips: ‘That rather than giving birth to children who will neither be cared for nor protected by proper regulations, it is better to have one’s womb removed! You must know that, don’t you?’ 


Good God! I was truly thunderstruck. I tried to imagine myself being able to think such a thing. What an incredibly amazing thought – all women removing their wombs. Clack! No more new births. Clack! All the old people dying! Clack! No more need to think about staple foods or about this or that because life would end too. Just imagine someone thinking that a woman having her womb removed was a political act? A public threat. You can see them asking, ‘Who was it behind this idea of yours?’ 


Strange! They keep talking about politics, about people in power with the ability to influence me. Such incredible imaginations! 


However, that clear thought settled firmly in my mind, bringing the bouncing of my thoughts to a halt. 


I stared at the man, trying to compose my words in the calmest and clearest manner. ‘To be completely honest, I had the operation because there was a tumour in my womb. It was to save my life, sir. Truly, I don’t understand why you are asking me about it. It’s not something out of the ordinary. In terms of medicine, it’s quite natural, sir!’ 


The man smiled slightly and inhaled. For the first time, his eyes seemed to blink, catching me by surprise. And at that moment I heard, in the distance, approaching footsteps. Moments later, the door behind me opened and I felt a rush of wind. The three men who had escorted me here had returned. Without a word, with just a gesture, they motioned for me to leave the room. Then to leave the house. 


That morning, I looked at the calendar, then at the hands of the clock. From outside came the thunderous sound of cries and applause. I opened the window of my room and looked outside to see banners which bore the words, ‘Save Women’s Wombs for the Future of the World!’ 


Good God! 


Suddenly I felt a pain in my stomach. Then, again, I heard a knocking on the door. I didn’t want to open it. I could sense that there were three men coming towards my room. 


‘We can see the consequences of your actions. Tell them now that you did not intentionally have your womb removed. Tell them that what you did was not a show of sympathy that could be linked with the high price of food! And tell them they need not worry, that the future generation will not be born as idiots because of poor prenatal nutrition. Tell them! They do not have to remove their wombs as you have done!’ 


My stomach tensed. I felt an incredible pain. Everything turned to black. Distantly, I heard the voice of the man in that room giving a speech! The sound of his words and the ticking of the clock pained my heart. 


‘Calm down. I ask you to calm down. Nagari will be conscious in a moment. I ask that you give our team the opportunity to carry out its task


– for the safety of Nagari. . . .’ 


I tried with all my will to open my eyes. I knew the light: a twenty-five-watt bulb. I knew the wall clock. I even remembered the lizard. I saw a face, a face I knew well. 


I understood. No need for an explanation. Just like what several friends had reported. In this era, no explanation is necessary; no need for elucidation. Explanations do nothing but reduce clarity. 


Then, faintly, I heard a strange voice. . . . My name is Nagari. Thirty years of age. Jack of all writing trades. Gender: female! Room number 2212. Note: criminal victim. Stabbed in the womb by the movement against a new generation. 


I was dumbstruck. It felt like it was just yesterday that I had been sitting in my rented room. Nothing extraordinary had happened. Was it true my womb had been ripped out with a dagger? How very strange! Why could they say something like that? All my friends, everyone, knew that I had a hysterectomy because of a tumour inside my womb. 


For God’s sake. Who was I to ask why the news about my decayed womb had become such a spectacular story? Television, newspapers, and radio were all giving it coverage. Hundreds of new commentators on politics of the womb had been born in just a week. 


From within my room I heard cheers mixed with screams. I shut my eyes while struggling to recall whether I might once have seen that decayed womb. But I failed to imagine it. Even though it was once a part of own body, perhaps I never will know what that decayed womb looked like. I felt my stomach. It felt empty. Suddenly I felt an incredible loss. 


I turned on the television to see the news of long queues at all the large hospitals in the large cities. My heart shrank as I asked myself, ‘What are they in line for?’ No answer came. They looked weary, as if waiting for their name to be called and take their turn to enter the operating theatre.


Nagari! Thirty years old. . . . On television, I saw my own face! So strange. So very strange. 

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