I felt like I was fasting, waking up early to observe Ramadhan. But I wasn’t. I couldn’t really get any sleep worrying over the thought of being at the back of the long queue outside the embassy. I was out of the house before the first sliver of light from the sun slipped through the clouds and, I discovered, Jakarta before six is beautiful. With the absence of the bumper-to-bumper traffic, a sense of tranquility enveloped the darkness that was preparing for the coming of light. That usual throbbing at the back of the head was hushed to almost a gentle lapping of the waves and the tightness in the nape had unknotted. If I had rolled down the window I would have had smelled the sweetness of the dawning of a new day.

The embassy was empty, making feel like the champion of a marathon. I beat the long queue! I could have been first in line but there was something disconcerting about being surrounded by military-clad men toting guns standing guard behind the barricade.

Jalan Sabang was quiet except for the Blue Bird cabs zipping up and down the road. Where was I to while away the time? I missed Alfa Mart by a few buildings and Dunkin Donut up ahead was looking forlorn. The stillness of the morning must have made for clearer communication lines with the universe – 7-11, which was conspicuously scattered around Jakarta but morosely absent in Bekasi, loomed before me. Its brightness was like a beacon to a ship caught in a fog. 7-11 was just waking up. The staffers were groggily setting up for the day as I strutted through the aisles looking for hot Milo or chocolate. Coffee brewing but I was on caffeine detox.  My walking up the aisles led me to the sole tetra pak of Milo in the refrigerator and a turn at the corner to a display of buns for a custard bun. The cashier was half-awake as she punched the numbers, but she flashed a smile when she handed me my change.

Sitting on one of the grey high stools, who would have thought a convenience store could make a good reading place? Or that the quietness of the place was calming? It was a very welcomed solitude before cars, people and aberrations whirl past my way.


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