Archive for August, 2020

cta blue train2


by Heru Susetyo

Arya always loves 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 in the loop, right in downtown Chicago or near the centre.

The second thing he loves much is O’Hare Airport. A vast airport named after O’Hare, a legend hero of U.S. Air Force who had survived along with the dog fight during the Pacific War in World War II and contributed immensely to the U.S. and alliance’s victory.

O’Hare, instead of the biggest airport in Chicago, not to mention in the U.S., 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 run down each other.

However, irrespective of O’Hare’s great features, Arya loves this place much because the site 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 lives in Dallas, Texas, and who wants 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 the 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 your 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 lovely 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 U.S. since I was born.  I met American guys every day.  Not a single Indonesian I met within the first three years in Texas except Dini, whose face is pretty similar to yours.  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 bahasa properly, which makes 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 recalls his first encounter with Dessy.  It was eight years ago.  Currently, Dessy has earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in Computer Science. Arya holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Texas in Austin, a J.D. in law and a master’s degree in criminology both from the University of Chicago.  He also earned a PhD in Criminology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Arya was admitted to the Bar Association three years ago, which enabled him to practice law either in a law firm or in any U.S. government entities.  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 of the elementary school in Semarang, Central Java. After graduation, he returned to the U.S. until now  His middle and high school was in Dallas, Texas.  His undergraduate study was in Austin, Texas.  His J.D and master study was in Chicago, Illinois, and his Doctoral research was in Carbondale, Illinois. 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 life in America.  However, he still pays much concern to Indonesia.  He occasionally cries when he heard the disasters, riots, or political unrest occurred respectively in Indonesia. He reads Indonesian online newspapers almost every day. He is eager to return to Indonesia, but he just doesn’t know the appropriate job for him in Indonesia.

And Dessy is his ‘bridge’ to Indonesia.  Although they live separately and having a few different attitudes, they do have something in common.  That they are Indonesian, and they love Indonesia very much.  Dessy and Arya hang around Chicago either by bus or CTA train frequently.  Among the journey they like most is the CTA blue line train to O’Hare from Downtown Chicago.  They admire 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 at 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). They have nominated Arya as a candidate for the vice chairman position at the Indonesian Anti Corruption Commission. “Me?  Vice-chairman Candidate?  How come?  I can’t speak Indonesian properly, and I don’t even know the Indonesian criminal justice system. Why me?”  Arya just couldn’t believe his eyes.

The answer to his question arrived the next day.  Indonesian ambassador in Washington DC kindly invited him to an informal meeting in the embassy.  So, Arya took the earliest American Airlines flight to D.C., landed at National Reagan Airport, and preceded to Massachusetts Avenue.  The ambassador warmly welcomes him and talks straightly:  “Pak Arya, I have the honour on behalf of the Indonesian government to convey you a very important message.   Indonesian Parliament unanimously nominated you to be the vice-chairman of Indonesian Anti Corruption Commission a week ago.  It was the final decision. They need only one last approval from the President.  You may doubt this nomination, but the Indonesian government has been observing and envisaging you for quite a long time until they ended up with DPR approval to nominate you.”

“Mr Ambassador, I’m so flattered and honoured with this nomination, I just can’t believe my ears. Why me?  Let me mention my weaknesses.  I’ve been living in the U.S. for twenty-three years. I earned my undergraduate and a graduate degree from U.S. universities. I hold an American bar license to practice law in the U.S., 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 instead of your weaknesses.  The Parliament unanimously voted in favour of you because you fulfil such requirements they love much.  You have a deep understanding of U.S. law, excellent in English, eligible to practice law in the U.S., young and intelligent, earning a doctoral degree in U.S. Criminal Justice System,  and fortunately,  only you among Indonesian citizens worldwide really meet the expectations.  The U.S. government partly funds this commission, so they are eager to see an Indonesian fellow with excellent knowledge and skills of U.S. law chairs the commission. Moreover, we have a bunch of U.S. law school graduates, but none have an American bar license.  I have to underscore Pak Arya boldly, We appoint you to be the vice-chairman of the commission, not offering you. I bet that you have no better choice. Indonesia damned needs you. We need you to go back to Indonesia. We’re not worried about your language. You’re a hundred per cent Indonesian descent, so we believe in few months h 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 complicated daydream.  He has just approved the nomination.  The ambassador shook his hand firmly and told him to get a 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 being a wealthy partner in upcoming years at his law firm yesterday.  But, suddenly, he has to go back to be another ‘Indonesian Hero’ and chair a commission he doesn’t even know. Why can life 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 at Arya.  “Kenapa Mas, kamu sakit?”  Kita mampir dulu ya di Wal Greens beli obat flu. Kayaknya kamu kena angin dingin di D.C. deh,” Dessy seemed to be a worry.  “No, thanks, Dessy.  I’m OK.  I’m just wondering that this will be my last trip with the 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 there for at least five years. The Indonesian government had appointed me to co-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 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 D.C., but they were worthless.  I argued to him until, eventually, he said that this was an order from the Indonesian government.  We appointed you, not offered you.  I have no more words. He gave me a week to resign from my firm, get a pack and prepare anything to my 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 a U.S. 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 per cent 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 for that job or not, but it’s challenging.   Can you imagine we work hand in hand to fight against corruption?”  Arya said proudly.

“You’re a nut, Mas.  I’m sorry to say.  You’re going to leave your fast track to wealth and prosperity life to pursue another fuzzy job. Unbelievable. If I were you, I prefer to earn a lot of 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 and tell me goodbye forever?”  Dessy kept this ‘bullet’ for the last. Her eyes are watered.

Arya gave no comments when Dessy came to this sensitive part.  Honestly, He never mentioned that the last reason for his departure to Indonesia is to evade and escape from Dessy. He likes Dessy as a friend, but he has been seriously thinking that their relationship is dangerous. A sort of grave violation of Islamic teaching. They frequently hang around together and walking sides by the 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 per cent with this buddy.

A week later.  Arya left downtown Chicago by blue train, heading to O’Hare.  His flight to Jakarta by Japan Airlines due to take off three hours ahead.  He doesn’t take a cab even though he afforded to ride one.   Arya just wants to enjoy his last blue line trip to O’Hare.  A 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 an understanding of Islamic teaching.

The train is about to reach the international terminal no five shortly.  Arya unfolded Dessy’s letter reluctantly.  Dessy wrote: Goodbye Mas Arya, I understand entirely that Indonesia damned needs you more than me. I’m just wondering that Allah SWT will be so kind as to send you back to Chicago someday….

“You’re right, sister.  Let’s rely on Allah,” Arya whispered.

Duren Tiga, 14 January 2004

cta blue train







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