“Damn you, stupid boy! Where are your eyes? Moron!” shouted the truck driver angrily to a skinny boy with dark brown skin.
Bejo looked at the huge vehicle with frightened eyes. His body froze. He almost got killed!
The truck, fortunately, had stopped right away, just several inches before hitting him. A crowd of people in the vicinity watched the scene for a moment, then continued on their hustle-bustle way.
As usual, nobody paid much attention to a pathetic street urchin like him.
Shaking, Bejo stepped back onto the curb, deciding not to cross the street. It was his fault for not noticing the traffic light.
Burdened with a feeling of guilt, Bejo slipped away into a secluded area in the backyard of an abandoned, murky building.
He sat on the ground and tried to calm his trembling heart.
My name is Bejo. I am about nine or maybe ten years old. Maybe. I don’t know my real age for sure.
I live with my mother in a kampong not far from those tall buildings.
My mother said that Bejo means ‘lucky’ in Javanese.
She told me I was born in the night when a big flood submerged a large part of the city, including the slum where my mother lived.
Soon the flood turned the slum into an instant pond. When the rest of the people there were panicking and rescuing themselves and their belongings, my mother gave birth without any help.
I was born safely. Like a miracle, she said, considering that the little wooden house where she stayed was only about a hundred meters from the overflowing river.
Although water ran swiftly into the house, my mother was safe because she had moved to the tiny upper room. Luckily, the house was not swept away by the flood.
That’s why she named me Bejo.
My name isn’t only about how lucky I was in being born safely without any help in the middle of such disaster, but it also contains my mother’s hope in me-that luck will follow me for all my life.
She believes that a good name will bring fortune to its bearer. She really believes it.
So far, my name hasn’t brought any luck, except that I was born safely in the middle of that terrible flood.
The first unlucky thing I know of is that I don’t have a father. I don’t even know what he looks like. Does he have dark-brown skin like me? Is he a good man like Ujang’s father?
Ujang is my best friend. His father is a pedicab driver. He’s so happy whenever his father takes him for a ride in the pedicab. Sometimes, he even invites me to join them.
That makes me happy, too, but at the end of the ride, I end up feeling blue.
I asked my mother about my father many times, but she says nothing, only cries. That made me even more sad, to see her cry, so one day I decided not to ask her about him anymore.
The other unlucky thing is that we are poor.
I can’t go to shool, although I want to so badly. My mother can’t afford it. We never have enough money to live our lives properly. It’s always minus this, minus that. Minus a lot.
That’s why I go out to the streets every day yo earn some money. I’ll be a singing beggar or, when it rains, an umbrella boy. Sometimes I work as a porter at a traditional market near the kampong.
I wish I could find my father.
I wish I could go to school.
I wish that someday, I would become a really lucky person.
Just like my name.
The sun moved slowly to the west. The afternoon wind blew as a lazy breeze.
Little Bejo still sat there, alone in the backyard of an abandoned, murky building.
His eyes stared somewhere up into the sky, dreaming.
There, he saw himself walking cheerfully, wearing a school uniform. Behind him, his mother walked side by side with a man with dark-brown skin and a friendly, warm face. they were smiling.
My father, he thought excitedly.
Up there, in the afternoon sky, he was so happy. So lucky.
Penulis : Octaviana Dina
Dimuat dalam The Jakarta Post Sunday edition, 2 Oktober 2005