Asiila Kamilia — West Java, 2020

“Up with your turret, aren’t we just terrified?”

I can see your face unnervingly hardens, as you step on the gas a tiny bit too much. You always do that when something about my past comes up and in need of a serious discussion. Your grip on the steering wheel gets tighter, too, but I always try to reach out for your left hand, so you’ll know that I am here.

We share the same kind of trauma. While it is not an excuse, some of our difficult behavior are undeniably coming from the pain, one which we still struggle to heal from. Just like us, every other people has an emotional baggage; from commitment issue, childhood trauma, loss, toxic relationships, to being cheated on. It does not only take courage to claim the baggage, but also extra strength to be open and let yourself be vulnerable with your partner about it. We’ve had our tense moments when we talked about the bruise and its cause and we have been communicating in the most delicate way possible, trying to be as understanding as we could be, while also pouring out about the crippling pain. I am extending my highest appreciation for you — for the trust you have placed in me as letting oneself be vulnerable and opening up about past events are noble.

I used to believe that ideally, it would be better if two people could heal and work on themselves first before committing to a new relationship because it would be unfair to have past trauma and have your partner suffered the consequences for something they never did. However, you managed to convince me that a right companion may speed the healing process. You showed me that we could grow as we go, too, despite the right and wrong turns we might take along the way, but at the end of the day I believe we could figure it out together. Now, it is my time to be the calm should there be any storm. We could even take turns in taking care of each other and grow up side by side. Remember that time when I said, “when I think about what is to come, I will never know the answer but I will leave room for something wonderful”? Let’s hold on to that for the time being.

You already know that the only thing that could fix the trauma is yourself, but let me remind you that I will be here throughout the whole journey. Things could be challenging at times and I’m not a saint here; sometimes what you fear of does not make sense to me and I can get pretty frustrated trying to prove a point. When we need to address the issue, I could get uncomfortable and the situation could put me in deep distress as well. However, none of them is your fault. It hurts me to see you bleed over something that happened years ago, but if that is what you have to go through in order to grow, then I will stay and provide you with all the consolation you need to have. You went through some rough patches and the wounds are still open, but I know you are working out to heal them. It won’t heal in any minute now as it is a constant work in progress, but I will be ok with it until you could pick yourself back up again and recover. Another thing which weighs me down is when you realize that your trauma is not completely resolved. Your voice sounds different; lower, deeper, somehow brittle. You always put on your sad face and you know how much I hate it. God how I wish I could hug the pain away. You need to know, love, that healing process is never linear. Sometimes you go back to square one and it’s okay. We can always find ways to figure it out, can’t we? Healing happens in layers, too, so take your time and be patient of the process, I’m not going anywhere.

Just like you, I have my own trauma as well. I can’t lie that sometimes remnants of the past still haunt me, so I know by heart how it feels to have a lingering pain. There are times when I wish I could fix you, but I guess we both know that I can’t, so I will listen to your stories and love you better instead. When the trauma triggers you, I will try to hold your hand a bit tighter and longer than usual, until you are certain that the bad things are only in your head. Until you can trust me again. You can ask and demand me to do anything that may help you, though, you know that right? Please keep this in mind as I will do everything in my power and to the best of my abilities to hold you up. Tell me anything that may keep you safe and warm and I will try to grant it. You can take a rest and I will keep on paddling along the coast or the boat could float for a few days. We have many days to spend, after all.

On a related note, you’ve realized how much this could affect me and the relationship we are in. Shortly after the triggered moment, your sincere apology always knocks on my door, making sure that it’s not my fault. You always take full responsibility and claim the mess you may have caused. I hope you know that the trauma and all emotional baggage you have do not define who you are and you are not supposed to carry it all yourself. You can share it to me and we can climb it together. I’m no therapist but you can always talk to me, even if it means you have to bring up the past, I will switch role as more of a good friend I used to be rather than a partner and try to be as objective as I possibly could. You can count on my sheer tenacity to sit tight and stick around. “In my arbor ’til my ardor trumped,” Vernon said, but I’ll stay in your arbor this time, like I’ve always did since four years ago (sorry for the hiatus!). I know I may have a strange way of navigating back to you after disappearing for months, but now I am here to stay. To light the night, to nurture the house, to help us grow.

So hey, let’s unpack the bag and knock it out. You have come a long way and been doing a great job. You will heal and we will get there someday, even if you have to take one tiny step at a time. Wherever the road goes, know that I will be here,

in every step of the way.

Ode to every remnant of what once was.