I decided to write this comic for the simplest of reason. I was trying to find a way to communicate the concept of intellectual property, specifically copyright, in a less intimidating way. People doze off on a lecture, especially a lecture about law. So I thought, let’s make a comic. We are visual creatures after all. Bonni supported the idea, and voila! Now I’m writing my first comic ever!
I don’t want to give away too much yet, because it’s still early in the writing process. Things may change down the road. But the main characters are pretty much fixed.
Arman, the comic artist
Eliana, the lawyer
It’s the early designs of Arman and Eliana. They’ve gone through slight changes now. Our illustrator is the amazing Aruni Irinta. She has never officially debuted anything yet, so this comic will be her first. Her illustrations are amazing. It’s also fascinating to see your script gets turned into drawings. It’s like magic.
A picture of my process. I colour-coded my notes, arranged and rearranged them into a coherent story. It took a lot of energy just to write these Post-Its.
Bonni is our resident project manager. He’s extraordinary. None of this would have any significant progress without his constant reminder and gentle nagging. And he knows what he’s doing! I spent only three meetings with him to finish the above outline. It’s pretty much done, the general plot. I still have to write the treatment for everything, revise, then get into writing each chapter.
Right now I’m distancing myself a bit from the comic as I recharge my writing energy. Other than that, I also have to finish pending tasks so I can write in peace. I’ve been sacrificing some social time as well to focus on this. Turns out they’re not kidding. You really do have to leave other stuff to get some actual writing done.
I have finished washing the dishes, mopping the floor, and hanging the laundry to dry, but he’s still stuck in front of his laptop, watching Star Trek and whatnot. After the stroke, he’s forgot everything, lost the ability to talk–to do everything–really, but he still occasionally laughs at Two and A Half Man. Those shows are the only thing that makes him alive these days and I don’t have the heart to take it away from him, even though I need the laptop for school. I guess I can manage.
Once my morning chore is complete, I leave the house after I make sure the food is somewhere he can see and easily reach. I take my usual route to campus, where I meet this old woman who looks so helpless, I carry her groceries for her. She insists I stay for tea, but I’m almost late for class.
“Surely you can’t leave empty handed,” she says.
“I’m fine. Please don’t think about it.”
The senior lady smiles like she knows something I don’t.
“Who are you to tell me what I should or shouldn’t think about.”
“I’m sorry. But it’ll make life easier, won’t it? Knowing what others think?” I say, picturing him alone at home. I can’t remember the last time we had a meaningful conversation with each other.
Next thing I know, the woman takes my head between her hands and bestows me her gratitude. She says I can read minds now.
“I’m really late for class,” I say. I take off before she makes me stay with more nonsense.
I get to class in time. The room is louder than usual. Everyone fusses over the 10-page essay due today. I slide easily into an empty seat beside this boy I’ve been smiling at for the past semester. He’s cute, but not always the most diligent when it comes to assignments. He’s furiously typing down words on his MacBook Air. I give him some pointers so he’ll finish his essay before the class starts. His smile always brightens up my morning.
“Thank you,” I tell him.
“For calling me smart.”
He stops typing and frowns at me. “I didn’t say anything.”
I roll my eyes and turn my attention the lecturer.
“He has a bad case of hangover,” I tell him, pointing at the lecturer.
“How do you know?”
That’s a good question. I thought I heard the lecturer screaming for Panadol and wanting to throw up. A new thought pops in my head.
“Are you hungry?” I ask him again. “You’re thinking about spaghetti.”
He stops typing entirely.
“How the hell did you know that?”
Amused, I concentrate on the lecturer again. He’s silently collecting our essays on his desk, thinking about getting home early. I can hear his thought loud and clear as if he’s talking in my ear.
“Pick a number. Any numbers. Don’t tell me,” I say, trying my newfound talent once again. He looks at me like I’ve grown a third eye. “One thousand three hundred fifty seven.”
“No way!” he shrieks, essay forgotten.
That grandma wasn’t kidding. I focus on my classmates and I realize that the noise I’ve been hearing is all in my head. I easily eavesdrop on their inner monologue and I’m not sure whether I should be excited or overwhelmed.
“That guy is thinking of skipping class. She wants a new lipstick. That couple are cheating on each other and don’t know exactly how to break up.”
“That’s too much information.”
I think so too.
“Can you hear my thought?” I ask, mentally yelling at him that I want to jump him right here, right now. He shakes his head. Looks like this only works one way.
I fidget through the whole class. I’ve decided to go home immediately after this. I don’t even know what topic we’re discussing right now, because I can’t help getting into my friends’ heads. The same thing happens on my way home. I find strangers silently complaining at life and planning affairs. Fascinated at the fact that my thoughts are safe in my head but theirs aren’t.
“Dad, I’m home!” I announce. He’s still in bed, watching an episode of Star Trek he’s watched many times before. His cracked lips are frozen in a smile. I hug him and ask him what he wants for lunch today. I can get him exactly what he wants.
“Do you want to go somewhere?” I try a new strategy. I hear nothing. “Dad?”
His attention is back to the laptop and I’m not sure he heard me. I focus harder on him but this time I hear nothing. Maybe I’m not doing this right.
“Can you hear me?”
Nothing. I turn him around and look straight into his eyes, desperately attempting to figure out what he’s thinking about. I can’t even be certain he’s looking back at me.
“Do you know who I am?”
He leaves my gaze and returns to the Voyager. A sudden wave of hopelessness hits over me. I have expected so much out of this. Why should his mind be any different to the others? Is he even aware of my presence?
I call him again but his eyes are glued to the screen. It takes all the patience in me not to hurl the fucking laptop out of the window. He looks so peaceful and I’d give anything just to hear him say my name, even if it’s only in his head.
Feeling defeated, I feed him lunch. Not once he glances at me. And there’s so many things I want to ask him. Does he remember mom? Does he remember our late night X-Files marathon? Does he miss me like I miss him?
I collect his utensils and start my way to the sink when he makes that grunt he usually does to catch my attention. The laptop is closed and he weakly pushes the gadget towards me.
For you, he thinks.
I wrote this on 26 November 2015. It was a prompt an anonymous on AskFM gave me. The story was inspired by a personal experience. It’s been two years since I wrote it, and I still find it personally relevant. I don’t know how to feel about it.
Cinta sudah bisa diukur. Kasih tidak paham bagaimana caranya, tapi dia tahu alatnya mahal. Amorisio adalah ciptaan penentu zaman yang tidak terjangkau oleh orang-orang sepertinya. Kasih cukup mengepel lantai markas Amorisio saja.
Siang itu, Kasih sedang mengelap potret pencipta Amorisio, Ibu Ananda. Lama Ibu Ananda sudah tiada, tetapi wajahnya masih menjadi duta Amorisio. Sepasang matanya menatap tajam para calon pembeli Amorisio, bibirnya merekah mungil merah. Rambutnya mengabu-abu, seperti rambut Kasih.
Semua orang sudah dengar sejarahnya. Ibu Ananda mendedikasikan hidupnya untuk menciptakan Amorisio. Ia mengasingkan diri di rumahnya yang berpagar tinggi layaknya benteng. Keluar-keluar ia membawa sebuah alat raksasa dengan kabel-kabel untuk dicolok di kepala, dada, dan tangan. Mesin Amorisio yang pertama.
Ibu Ananda kaya raya seketika. Sekian banyak korban wafat akibat setruman Amorisio dikesampingkan begitu saja, sebab terobosan ini terlalu luar biasa. Tidak ada lagi manusia yang perlu patah hati, karena sekarang cinta sudah bisa ditimbang. Sejak saat itu, Ibu Ananda tidak pernah lagi kelihatan. Kata orang, dia menikmati hartanya sendirian.
“Sekarang Amorisio sudah bisa masuk kantong, mas. Waktu scan-nya juga lebih singkat,” bual agen penjual kepada seorang pelanggan. Amorisio sudah lama meninggalkan kursi listriknya. Sekarang cinta bisa dipetakan dengan sekali pindai.
“Hati-hati, jeng, sama mas-mas kayak gitu,” bisik seorang ibu-ibu berias wajah tebal kepada temannya. “Mas-mas kayak gini ganteng, tapi mata duitan.”
“Mereka duit dari mana beli Amorisio, jeng?” tanya temannya.
“Ya dari nipu tante-tante kayak kita ini. Buat mereka, Amorisio itu investasi. Senjata utama untuk cari sugar mama.”
Kasih sudah hapal percakapan macam itu. Dia bahkan bisa menebak siapa yang membeli Amorisio untuk mencari mangsa atau menguji kesetiaan pasangan. Baru tadi pagi Kasih menguping rapat tim pusat data. Diketahui 63% pembelian Amorisio diikuti oleh perceraian dan 8% menunjukkan anak-anak diusir dari rumah. Ternyata banyak yang tak bisa menerima pasangannya sudah tidak mencintainya lagi atau buah hatinya tidak tahu terima kasih. Angka ini membuat tim pemasaran khawatir penjualan Amorisio akan menurun.
Kasih melipat lap dan memperhatikan hasil kerjanya. Ibu Ananda masih tersenyum kaku dari balik bingkainya. Kadang Kasih bertanya, siapakah subyek ujian Amorisio yang paling pertama? Selamatkah dia?
Kasih mengganti seragam kerjanya dan izin pulang lebih cepat. Kereta magnet sepi karena belum jam bubar karyawan. Kasih membeli setangkai bunga, lalu bergegas menuju rumah. Dari jendela yang terbuka ia mencium aroma kue yang dipanggang Rahma. Kasih membuka pintu dan kaki-kaki kecil bergegas menyambutnya.
“Ibu pulang!” mulut kecil itu mengumumkan kehadiran Kasih. Ia mengambil tangan Kasih dan memimpinnya ke dapur.
“Aku bantu Ibu bikin kue,” ceritanya pada Kasih. Rahma geleng-geleng mendengar celoteh anak mereka.
“Ibu, cepetan, aku mau tiup lilin,” lanjut si kecil.
Rahma meletakkan kue di pinggir meja dan menyalakan lima lilinnya. Kasih melengkapinya dengan bunga. Mereka meniup lilin bersama-sama dan mengabadikan momentumnya dalam sebuah gambar. Kasih tidak pernah merasa senyum-senyum ini perlu untuk diukurnya.