Gone with the Wind She Was

My late cousin, on the right with both of her parents and 3 siblings

“Gone with the Wind” is the novel my uncle bought in England during his stay. He was selected to be one of the 2-year short course participants. Maybe it was a scholarship but I didn’t know for sure anyway. He was a shrewd young man with a thick moustache. He gave me the idea of how cool it was to spend some of my life time abroad. That explains also why I always wanted to be a fluent speaker of English. If I someday acquired such skills, I knew my chances were a lot higher to live or travel there. That was the outset. As I recall, I had been an avid English learner since elementary school years, just right after my uncle married one of my maternal aunts. It had become an obsession for the younger me to follow his path. I am still thinking of any possible opportunities of living or going abroad, but not as a student. I feel a bit too old and tired for another academic pursuit. I love learning but in a formal institution, things don’t go the way I want and need. So I ditched completely the idea of going to university once again to pursue another degree. Enough is enough. Rather, if I can have the chances, I want to be a temporary resident. But so far, I have been a tourist abroad 3 times in 3 different countries: in South Korea, Singapore, and China (Hong Kong, Macau, and Shenzhen). I wish my next destination would be one of English-speaking countries.

The novel was written by Margaret Mitchell, an American novelist whose biography I didn’t even read. It is the novel I picked as the object my undergraduate project research. It was thick as hell and I was not done reading it all. I only picked several parts of the dialogs of the two main characters: Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara.

Until now, I have no idea why Mitchell titled her novel that. But I have the idea why I associate the novel to my uncle and his family: because her daughter, my ill-fated amputee cousin, was ‘gone with the wind’ last night. After two-week struggle and a series of amputation surgeries, she knew she simply had to rest. This time, the rest will last forever. Our eyes are drained yet the heart is torn and a huge hole is there.

As I got the horrible news this very wet morning before early breakfast, I was still in utter disbelief. While the amputation news was very hard to chew, now I have to come to terms with the fact that she may be losing her life, which she really did eventually. I was praying the amputation was a mere nightmare. It would go away the next morning I wake up and continue living with the (false) hope that things are not as horrid as I might conceive. I was wrong. God knows what is best for her. He took her away. At least she is free of all the pain now.

On my way to the train this cloudy morning, I ran into a couple of spouses. They might be as old as my parents. Yet, what caught my attention was the husband was sitting on the stairs, fixing his prosthetic. It was such a struggle for the amputee to walk up and down the stairs and very long hallway at Pasar Senen Train Station.

He lost his left leg (with the upper thigh intact) in 2009, as I later found out. We sat down 30 minutes before the Menoreh train heading to Semarang, Central Java, departed at 7.45 am and at a bench the conversation sparked. They happened to get into the same coach which I did, too.

I told them the same thing happened to my late cousin. That could be due to a species of bacteria causing gas inside the wound, exacerbating the infection and finally leading to the wider spreading of such bacteria to the upper vital organs. The situation was simple, he said, he either chose losing his life at the risk of keeping the leg intact or amputating the decaying leg as fast as possible to blockade the bacteria invasion. He chose losing his leg. And he survived.

The train stopped in front of us. We stopped chatting. So I thought, “This is a divine plot.” I followed both of them like I did my parents to the seventh coach. The man stepped on the entrance of the coach with great care in fear of falling. That was apparently how my cousin would have lived her life on daily basis if she had survived the process. I patiently waited for him, staring without blinking at his prosthetic which seemed to be shorter than his right leg. I don’t know which one is better: losing her completely or losing her legs only. Both are just as heartbreaking.

I stared at the grey sky of Jakarta to look for His answer. I only saw tops of buildings right in front of me and one of them was a top of a mosque. That answered. I was content, sighed, and let it all go.

Till we meet again, sister…

“To her I bid farewell
All is unwell
Still my eyes swell
He rings the bell
“Her time is over”, He yells
Nay, it is neither Hell
Nor Apocalypse
Though as if the sky fell
Down upon you…”

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