The trouble is with falling in love with Yogyakarta is that it is a little bit like falling in love with a very famous person. There’s a very good chance that several thousand people (give or take) have fallen in love with the city just like you. Adding insult to injury (that wounded singular ego), chances are, they’ve upped and moved to Yogyakarta, learned the language, started an NGO or an arts organization of some kind and more or less assimilated into the daily rhythms of life there. Or they plan to. So you feel even worse – you’re in love, but you haven’t demonstrated the full extent of this love. You talk a lot, but will you act? How can it be that something so entirely personal, intimate and profound, can just be a commonly experienced symptom, an effect of a place upon people in general? So you go from in love to love sick. You avoid people, you learn the language by spending hours on an online translation website which has a 90% accuracy rate. You test this out on your new friends from that city and discover they respond to you with affection and smiley faces. You convince yourself this means you are communicating with them. You start creating parallel, imaginary realms, pretending that that street is much like this one, that tree is definitely native to the region and therefore, likely growing in the woods over here. You can’t find the candis you miss so much, so you fixate on the granite quarries and recall the lessons you learned on the geo-heritage trail trip you took, in which you learned about subduction and plate tectonics, how to identify limestone and feldspar; how to read the age of a rock by picking it up and looking at the lines, etchings and imprints on its surface.
The core of this island consists of a granite complex which was crystallised from magma underground roughly 200 million years ago. You therefore conclude that this is the geographical contiguity you were looking for – the tales of Sundaland when this island was a part of that snaking, sliver-like one. So the granite cliffs, you surmise, are unbuilt candis. Every good carver or sculptor always does say: the face, the waist, the breast, the trunk was already there. I just brought it out. Here, it hasn’t been brought out, but it can be imagined. This is how you cope. You walk, walk, walk, you sweat and you dig your feet in a little deeper where the mud gives way on a trail or path in the jungle, because you want to come home with it caked into the grooves of your hiking sandals. You want mud stains on your pants and you want grains stuck under your fingernails. You are grateful for the afternoon thunderstorms, the wild clattering sound, the sudden rush of grey like the murky water into which stained paintbrushes are dunked, the heat, the oppressive humidity. These things are, more or less, the same. You would not survive in a cold, wintry place because it would be too different, too alien and it would remind you, cruelly, of just how far you have gone from the place you love. And in chats, the Javanese and Indonesian words keep appearing – learning a language in micro-conversations, in 120 characters or less. You never tell anyone exactly what you loved about the place, and how you are still very much in love with it, because you are afraid they will tell you, “Me too!” before they talk about an app they are downloading on their phone, or their job, or their lover, or what they’re doing this week. It isn’t a passing topic of conversation, you think to yourself seriously. It is love. The storm has started again and it is 3.19pm. You go back to dreaming.