The world I lived in had a soft voice
and no claws. —Lisel Mueller
Curriculum Vitae 2015
1) Three months before he was born the Romanian dictator and his wife were executed before a firing squad. To this day his mother still talks about it.
2) When he was a boy he fell from a tree. Ever since, his earliest memory of his father was himself in school uniform, squatting on the toilet. The roots lay in his first day of school—he was five and right before they set off he told his father he needed to poop.
3) The first thing he learned at school watching all the girls during recess was that there was a girl inside him. He thought when he grew up his penis would dissolve and her breasts would sprout.
4) He didn’t say much and only learned to read when he was finishing second grade. In front of a friend of his mother’s, the mother of one of his friends called him “the stupid one.” His mother’s friend told his mother and when he was grown up his mother told him.
5) He was bad at making friends and spent most of his time reading and playing Nintendo and Sega. The first book he read was a book of Japanese folktales.
6) Some parents in his neighborhood refused to let their children play with him and his brothers because their family was Bataknese and Christian.
7) He had no friends and didn’t realize how sad this was.
8) His father beat him regularly. One day he eavesdropped on his parents—his father was concerned about the way he acted which he said was girly. He looked in the mirror, to the little girl within, and saw it was good.
9) One time his father kicked him and sprained an ankle. His father didn’t go to work. His mother said he was the source of all the problems in their household.
10) One Sunday morning his father took him and his brothers to jog and play soccer on a badminton court nearby. “You faggot,” his father screamed in front of everyone.
11) He accepted that he was a failure. His first suicide attempt occurred the day before he started middle school.
12) He got into the best high school in the city where all the government officials sent their children. His friends from middle school started avoiding him. The bud of loneliness blossomed into first love.
13) Not long after he graduated from college he discovered the rest of the Bataknese community called him “the faggot” behind his back.
14) When he was twenty-two depression hit. One night he lost his memory. His brother found him at a gas station near the shopping mall.
15) He ran away from home and found a book by Herta Müller in a bookstore in Jakarta. Herta wrote about Ceauşescu’s Securitate. It reminded him of his mother. He then read every English translation of Herta’s books and loved them all.
16) As he approached his twenty-third birthday, for reasons he didn’t understand, he felt he was male. And he saw it wasn’t bad.
17) He moved back in with his parents.
18) He went back to work and began writing again. In a novel-writing class he met you, the man who loves him.
19) His father sold the motorbike he was leasing from his workplace to marry his mother. He hoped to use the royalties from his books to marry you.
20) He will grow old. You will grow old. You both will grow old and be wed before the Three-Branched God—the tree-like God—and have a child named Langit. Your descendants will fill the Earth so that whenever anyone is walking in the dark by themself they will hear, from every window on every building on both sides of the street, voices reaching out—“Salam!” “Salam!” “Salam!”
by Norman Erikson Pasaribu
from Asymptote Journal
translated from the Indonesian by Tiffany Tsao