LAST TRAIN TO O’HARE
by : Heru Susetyo
Arya always love boarding the train to O’Hare Airport from downtown Chicago. The trip is only forty five minutes by CTA blue line train where he can board anywhere along the blue line either in the loop right in downtown Chicago or near downtown.
The second thing he loves much is O’Hare Airport. A vast airport named after O’Hare, a legend hero of US Air Force who had survived along the dog fight during the Pacific War in World War II and contributed immensely to US and alliance’s victory.
O’Hare, instead the biggest airport in Chicago, not to mention in the US, is also the busiest airport in the world, with almost 80 million passenger landing and taking off its runways each year. It has twelve runways that mean twelve big planes may land or take off concurrently without being ran down each other.
However, irrespective O’Hare’s magnificent features, Arya loves this place much because the place left a bunch of memories. He firstly met Dessy, an attractive Indonesian girl, right in Terminal 2 when Arya mistakenly called Dessy, eight years ago. Arya judged Dessy as Dini, his old buddy who live in Dallas, Texas and want to spend her spring break in Chicago. However, this Dini was sharply different. She had just landed directly from Surabaya to start her new life as an incoming student at Undergraduate program University of Illinois at Chicago. A couple of minutes of chitchatting had lapsed until Arya realized that Dessy was not his old buddy. However, since they found that no more Indonesian guys appear in O’Hare, they soon got in touch.
“I beg you pardon, Miss, are you from Indonesia?” Arya asked carefully. “I am. Do I happen to know you before?” Dessy calmly replied. “I guess so. You’re Dini, right?” You spent your high school with me in Arlington Heights, Dallas. We were the only Indonesian students at that nice school.” “Oh gitu ya? kalau gitu kamu orang Indonesia dong. Kenapa kita gak ngomong Indonesia aja ?”. “I got a problem Miss… . “Panggil aku Dessy, Mas,” Dessy replied abruptly.
“I have spent almost twenty years in the US since I was born. I met American guys everyday. Not a single Indonesian I met within the first three years in Texas except Dini, whose face pretty similar with you. I have missed her for ten years until suddenly she appears right in front of me now,” Arya said calmly. “Enak aja Mas, aku bukan Dini lagi. Aku Dessy. D-E-S-S-Y. Ingat ya, dan jangan ngomong Inggris di depan aku!” Dessy interrupted fiercely. “I’m so sorry Miss Dini eh Dessy, but I indeed can’t speak Indonesian properly. I completely understand Bahasa Indonesia but I just can’t speak properly that make me doubt to express my Indonesian. “Terserah elo deh Mas, yang penting sekarang tolong temani aku keluar dari airport ini, dan tolong jangan panggil aku Miss Dessy, tapi Dessy saja,” again, Dessy replied fiercely. Subsequently, they walked across terminal 2 and headed downstairs to CTA blue train. They took the first train to downtown and spend forty five minutes of chitchatting. Dessy spoke Indonesian, Arya spoke English.
Eight years later. Arya is smiling to himself. He is recalling his first encounter with Dessy. It was eight years ago. At present, Dessy has earned her bachelor degree in accounting and master degree in Computer Science. Arya holds double master degree in law and criminology from University of Chicago and a PhD, also in criminology, from University of Wisconsin at Madison. Arya was admitted to American bar three years ago, that enabled him to practice law either in a law firm or in any US government bodies. American bar usually declines a prospective candidate who is not American. Fortunately, Arya was born in New York twenty nine years ago. His only touch with Indonesia is when he spent his six years elementary school in Semarang, Central Java. After graduation, he returned to US until now His middle and high school was in Dallas, Texas. His undergraduate study was in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His master degree was in Chicago, Illinois, and his Doctoral degree in Madison, Wisconsin. Therefore, he is unquestionably an American yuppie but with brown skin.
Isn’t he? He does not think so. Frankly speaking, Arya is an American yuppie with Indonesian’s heart and soul. He has spent more than half of his lifetime in America. However, he still pays much concern to Indonesia. He cries occasionally when he heard the disasters, riots, or political unrest occurred respectively in Indonesia. He reads Indonesian online newspapers almost everyday. He is eager to return to Indonesia but he just doesn’t know the right and appropriate job for him in Indonesia.
And Dessy is his ‘bridge’ to Indonesia. Although they live separately and having a little bit different attitudes, they do have something in common. That they are Indonesian and love Indonesia very much. Dessy and Arya hang around Chicago either by bus or CTA train frequently. Among the journey they like most is CTA blue line train to O’Hare from Downtown Chicago. They greatly admires the scenery of Chicago’s skyscrapers from blue line train, with The Sears Tower, the second highest building in the world, and John Hancock Building stretching along the side of Lake Michigan in the distance. “I love this blue train,” Arya talked to himself. “Sorry Mas, kamu ngomong sama siapa?” Dessy interrupted abruptly. “I talked to myself, I always love this blue train,” Arya said calmly. “Suka sama blue train atau suka sama aku,” Dessy teased him. “I don’t know, no further comment,” Arya replied, and his face turns into red immediately. Honestly, Arya always treats Dessy as a mate. Not a special one. Therefore, he was not ready for the answers.
One thick letter with the words “Indonesian General Consulate in Chicago’ at its letterhead arrived to Arya’s apartment the next day, and it changed his life overwhelmingly. The consulate had forwarded an official letter from Indonesian’s House of Representatives (DPR) who had nominated Arya as a candidate for vice chairman position at Indonesian Anti Corruption Commission. “Me? Vice chairman Candidate? How come? I can’t speak Indonesian properly and I don’t even know Indonesian criminal justice system. Why me?” Arya just couldn’t believe his eyes.
The answer of his question arrived the next day. Indonesian ambassador in WashingtonDC cordially invited him to an informal meeting in the embassy. So, Arya took the earliest American Airlines flight to DC, landed at NationalReaganAirport and preceded to Massachusetts Avenue. The ambassador warmly welcome him and talk straightly: “Pak Arya, I have the honor on behalf of Indonesian government to convey you the message from House of Representatives that they had unanimously nominated you to be the vice chairman of Indonesian Anti Corruption Commission. It was a final decision. They need only one last approval, from the President. You may doubt with this nomination, but Indonesian government has been observing and envisaging you for quite a long time until they ended it up with DPR approval to nominate you.”
“Mr. Ambassador, I’m so flattered and honored with this nomination, I just can’t believe my ears. Why me? Let me mention my weaknesses. I’ve been living in US for twenty three years. I earned my undergraduate and graduate degree from US universities. I hold American bar license to practice law in US not in Indonesia. Last but not least, I can’t speak Indonesian fluently. So, why me?” Arya asked anxiously.
“Honestly, Pak Arya, you’ve just mentioned the strong points of you instead of your weaknesses. The house unanonimously voted in favor of you because you fulfill such requirements they love much, such as understanding of US law, fluently in English, has ever been practicing law in US, young and intelligent, earning doctoral degree in US Criminal Justice system, and fortunately, only you among Indonesian citizen all over the world who damned eligible to such requirements. This commission is partly funded by US government, so they are eager to see an Indonesian fellow with excellent knowledge and skills of US law chairs the commission. Moreover, we have a bunch of US law school graduate, but none of them have American bar license. So, I have to boldly underscore Pak Arya, We appoint you to be the vice chairman of the commission, not offering you. I bet that you have no better choice. Indonesia damned need you. We need you back to Indonesia. We’re not worried with your language. You’re a hundred percent Indonesian descent, so we believe within a month you can retrieve your Bahasa Indonesia back. Trust me!” Mr. Ambassador said firmly as a commander gave an order to a rookie.
During his returning flight to Chicago, Arya had a serious daydream. He had just approved the nomination. The ambassador shook his hand firmly and told him to get pack and prepare everything for his immediate departure.
He just can’t believe this situation. He is an American lawyer with a fast track to be a wealthy partner within years at his law firm yesterday but suddenly he has to go back to be another ‘Indonesian Hero’ and chair a commission he has not known before. Why life can change drastically?
Dessy picks Arya up at O’Hare right on time. They head to CTA train and as usual take the blue train to downtown Chicago. Arya keeps silent. Dessy stares curiously to Arya. “Kenapa Mas, kamu sakit?” Kita mampir dulu ya di Wal Greens beli obat flu. Kayaknya kamu kena angin dingin di DC deh,” Dessy seemed to be worry. “No, thanks Dessy. I’m OK. I’m just wondering that this will be my last trip by blue train.” “Oh my goodness. What’s wrong with you Mas?” Dessy shouted frantically. “Next Monday I’ve to fly to Jakarta. I’m going to live over there at least for five years. Indonesian government had appointed me to chair the Anti Corruption commission as a vice chairman. “You must be kidding Mas,” Dessy laughed. “You can’t speak Indonesian fluently and you don’t even understand Indonesian law, you must be sick, Mas. Let me purchase a flu medicine for you.”
“I’m not kidding. I’m damned serious Dessy. I told the same excuses as you did to Pak Djoko, Indonesian ambassador in DC, but they were worthless. I argued him until eventually he said that this was an order from Indonesian government. We appointed you, not offered you. I have no more words. He gave me a week to resign from my firm, get pack and prepare anything to my sudden departure to Jakarta,” Arya said.
“They must be joking Mas. They gave you no alternatives and simply ordered you to return to Indonesia within a week. You’ve been working in US law firm for three years and earned almost a hundred thousand bucks a year. They have violated your civil rights, Mas Arya, why don’t you argue them? How much do they pay your monthly salary?” Dessy said anxiously.
“Honestly, Dessy. I’ve never thought that far. My monthly salary will be twelve million rupiahs a month or less than twenty percent of my salary in Chicago law firm. However, I need it, indeed. I want to go back to Indonesia, our lovely country, and contribute to its development. I’ve never thought that I’m qualified to that job or not but it’s really a challenging one. Can you imagine we work hand in hand to fight against corruption?” Arya said proudly.
“You’re nut, Mas. I’m sorry to say. You’re going to leave your fast track to wealthy and prosperity life to pursue another fuzzy job. Unbelievable. If I were you, I prefer to earn much money and simply donate them as a zakat or infaq to Indonesia and I strongly believe it will work any better. “It’s not that simple, Dessy. I love Indonesia more than any country in the world.” “All right, Mas, but the most important thing is… what about our relationship? Should you leave me and say me goodbye forever?” Dessy kept this ‘bullet’ for the last. Her eyes were watered.
Arya gave no comments when Dessy came to this sensitive part. Honestly, He never mentioned that the last reason of his departure to Indonesia is to evade and escape from Dessy. He likes Dessy as a friend and sister but he has been seriously thinking that their relationship is a dangerous one. A sort of grave violation to Islamic teaching. They often hang around together and walking side by side like a husband and wife. Rihan, his Pakistani buddy, often reminds Arya that his relationship with Dessy is improper and dangerous, Arya agreed a hundred percent with this buddy.
A week later. Arya left downtown Chicago by blue train, heading to O’Hare. His flight to Jakarta by Northwest Airlines due to take off three hours ahead. He doesn’t take a cab even though he afforded to ride one. Arya just want to enjoy his last blue line trip to O’Hare. Little bit unusual, Dessy didn’t accompany him. She has been depressed with Arya’s sudden departure. What a poor girl. Arya completely understood this situation, therefore, he didn’t wave goodbye to Dessy. Instead, he had asked some sisters at Chicago Islamic Center to get in touch with Dessy frequently and guide her to complete understanding of Islamic teaching.
The train is about to reach international terminal no. 5 shortly. Arya unfolded Dessy’s letter reluctantly. Dessy wrote: Goodbye Mas Arya, I completely understand that Indonesia is damned need you more than me. I’m just wondering that Allah SWT will be so kind to send you back to Chicago someday….
“You’re right sister. Let’s rely on Allah,” Arya whispered softly.
Duren Tiga, 14 Januari 2004
 CTA : : Chicago Transit Authority
Loop : Istilah untuk jalur kereta yang melingkari pusat kota (downtown) Chicago
 Dog Fight : Pertempuran di udara
 American Bar : Asosiasi Pengacara Amerika Serikat
 Yuppie : istilah untuk kelompok professional muda
 Rookie : prajurit baru
 Partner : posisi tertinggi dalam suatu kantor hukum (law firm)
 Bucks : istilah slank untuk US $ Dollar