Grade: 12th

What It’s Like a World Away

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12th Grade
Grand Prize Winner
Angela N.

All of you are so dumb, I bet none of you even know what the capital of Malaysia is. Fine‚–maybe Cinta knows, but Frog Legs, Annisa, and Harta definitely don’t. Anyways, I’m moving there to get away from you ignorant fools. 1,500 kilometers should be enough to escape the dirty air you all breathe out.

Rudi sighed deeply, his pencil hovering over the paper. His words were harsher than he intended; the crude graphite scratched out the meanest words he could muster and laced them with venom three times over. Cinta and the others would live with these words forever shadowing their image of him, but the best defense was a strong offense. He had to attack first–shove them before they could shun him.

Rudi looked over his shoulder to see his younger brother, Dian, squirming about with an old comic book. Their room felt small in the sticky heat of the darkness. They stayed silent, waiting for the signal. Only 30 minutes ago were they in a furious rush, sending the dust in each room swirling about. Their father’s urgent call had woken them, spurring them to stuff their essentials into school bags and cardboard boxes so that their cold beds and half-empty dressers would seem normal to everyone else.

My father found a new job there. The boss is giving him a lot of money, basically begging us to move. More money than what Annisa‚Äôs miner daddy makes. We’ll live in a capital you guys’ll never know, and a place you’ll never belong. My home will be on the twenty-third floor of a thirty-story building with thousands of blue-lit windows, like the ones you see in those American Batman comics. We’ll each have our own rooms with wide mattresses and giant tables. There’ll be clean carpet beneath our feet and comfortable sofas in the living room. My home will be so high up that I’ll be living amongst the clouds and you’ll all be tiny swings to me, rocking back and forth, calling out my name as you reach each peak. But I won’t hear you.

Rudi put his pencil down and rubbed his eyes. He remembered all the fun they had had at the local park, daring each other to do the unthinkable. Whenever the sun was out, Rudi, Frog Legs, and Harta would race around the park during recess, the radiant glow cheering them on. They’d weave through the red and yellow swings, jump over the sprinklers’ jets of water, and tumble down the hill to the finish line, where Annisa and Cinta would be waiting, feigning impatience.

The five of them would hurry over to Cinta’s house after school, leaving a trail of high-pitched laughter in their wake. Cinta’s grandmother would look after them until their parents came home from work. She was the best cook in town and would treat the children to food she knew they would never forget, so long as they helped her prepare the dishes. Rudi’s personal favorite was the pork sate. Cinta would pull out the marinated pork cubes from the refrigerator and Rudi would immediately start an assembly line, ready to work under the dim lights dangling above their heads.

The kitchen table would shake from their laughter and excited feet. Their shadows would grow and shrink under the warm lighting, breathing a dark life into the cinnamon-colored walls. Cinta would carry the finished trays to her grandma, who would, like magic, shape the crooked skewers into a savory kind of love. Everyone would watch as the honey dripped off the meat and hit the fire blazing beneath it, leaving a wisp of fragrant smoke in the air.

They say that Malaysia’s sate is even better than what your grandmother makes. The coriander there makes hers taste like soap. I’ll never crave her sate ponorogo. The peanut sauce was always too salty. Besides, I won’t have to work to eat. I’ll have enough money to buy it whenever I like.

Rudi could hear his mother anxiously pacing about in her room. Her husband’s follow-up call wouldn’t come soon enough. All of their packed belongings lay on their bed; they could only afford to keep the memories that would fit within those two square meters. Rudi had begged his mother to allow him to take his superhero drawings with them, but she wouldn’t let him; they were a waste of mind and space.

We’ll be rich in Malaysia, so my parents told me not to bring everything with me. I’ll have to leave you guys with some of my things. To Frog Legs I leave my wooden jacks set, because I know your brother stole yours. To Annisa I leave my deck of cards, so you can learn to do the basic shuffles like the rest of us. To Harta I leave my silver jump rope. Hopefully you’ll grow taller so that you’ll have a chance against Frog Legs on field day. To Cinta I give the superhero drawings in my room. Some of them look angry, but that’s to ward off villains from your weak soul. The rest of my things are up for anybody. I’ll replace them easily once I arrive in Malaysia. Have fun looking through them.

Rudi heard the rumbling of a truck approach the house. Dian looked up from his spot on the floor. “Is it time?” The loud shriek from the window in their parent’s room answered him. The car stopped by the side of their house, and the faint growl of the engine echoed through the streets. The heavy thuds of falling objects began to vibrate across Rudi’s body. Dian flew out of the room like the undercover superhero he thought his father was. Rudi wrote down a final message before letting go of the paper, watching it sway back and forth in the air until it landed beneath the window. They wouldn’t find it for a few days. He ran after Dian, as quietly as possible.

I will not miss you.