Manhattan (1979) — Woody Allen

The living room was wider than I thought.

On the wall was a medium sized family portrait. In the picture, the parents were both strong jawed, bright eyed, while their two children have all thickly brownish hair with a few feral baby hair swirling over their foreheads. They inherit their mother’s affectionate of a gaze. Him too. He was so young, probably around sixteen or fifteen, cheeky and flourishing.

The frame looked regularly polished along with the other furniture in which no single grain of dust dare to land on. I feel like i was sitting inside a ripened pomegranate, rays of the variants color of red swarming around the room; almost anything that hung, put still or displayed are hinted red. If you look down, the flooring was an overlay of huge burgundy rug that is now tickling my bare feet. Despite the somber ambience this room encapsulate me with, i feel present and familiar. Like i have been in the living room like this a lot of times in my past lives. There was a saying that said you could almost see one’s family merits by merely looking at their living room. It seemed like that’s why they preserved this Moroccan designed room well and meticulous as if it was a family pride. A faint reminder that in this country, we culture other’s people judgement — even if they are complete strangers — towards our family. So yes, a guest’s first impression matters.

My dad used to have a lot of guest came to our house. Friends, relatives, colleagues. People like to come to him for some reason. The six years old me would be thrilled to have guest coming over. Silly kid, I know.

A family maid, a wide eyed hijabi girl probably in her late twenties, appeared from another room inside the house. In her hands was a glistening ceramic tea cup on a pottery little tray. She smiled whilst putting down the cup on a coffee table in front of me. I ushered thankyou before she leaves.

My family hired one too, long time ago. When the guest comes over, I would helped her serving teas and snacks. In this country, it’s a custom that passed down through generation to treat guests with endless hospitality. Once in a while, my dad would introduced me to his guests, friends especially. I remember one guest was a dear friend who’s a music teacher. He then briefly taught me to dummy play the piano and other music instruments. Another guest was my dad’s business partner who brought amazing travelling stories. He packed up with tales of wandering through unopened forest path to glimmering big cities which I curiously over-heard through the walls.

Then the night after my tenth birthday, I noticed that fewer and fewer guest are coming over. Fewer friends and relatives were coming in the holidays which their supposedly favourite season to visit. Then the lesser meetings with colleagues and partners. Until eventually, we only got three people coming regularly to visit us. I was eleven and I filled up my lungs with courage to ask my mom what really happened with those people. Had they forgotten us? Had life getting busier? Had my dad pissed them off so bad? I remember my mom answered in her raspy heavy voice. Saying they stop coming because my dad was not in the same job position as before. It was the first time my middle school brain can rationalize: were those people — some whom my dad treated like a blood related brothers — only came because they wanted to butt-lick my dad in exchange of position or even money? Yes, I was naïve to think that life and people was as innocence as a bird’s sing in the morning.

“Hei, sorry for making you wait. Is the tea okay?”

I was admiring one of the painting that hung by the wall when he made his way to the living room. He’s like usual. Standing in his neatly-ironed flannel shirt and a decent pants, he smiles enthusiastically, I smile back to him and nod.

“Oh that was my mom. She painted long time ago. Sorry, we haven’t had a guest coming in a while. Shall we go now?”

He offered, I nod again. Trying not to look around weirdly although I can’t help it. I like this living room. There’s a sense of homeness and welcoming. This place must’ve been used to filled with chatter, laughs and stories in between sipping teas or coffees. People must’ve been gathered on the rug, leg-crossed laughing over each other’s jokes. Like my family’s living room in the old times. It saddened me that the place once hosted so much merry, is now empty. It’s even more sad to think that my parents used to welcomingly open the door wide, prejudice freely, for those people only for them to take their hospitality for granted.

“You alright?”

He asked. His eyes deepening on me. Like x-raying me thoroughly. I look around. From the family picture, the flowery landscape paintings, to a row of matryoshka collection inside a glass displaying cabinet. I bite my lips. Not sure of what I feel.

“I’m feeling touchy feely today, I think. It’ll pass”

I said. There’s a defeaning silence weighing down on us until he makes a heavy sigh in the effort to break it.

“There, there, what’s happening, really?”

Then I let the avalanche of words slopping down. I told him everything. He of course laughed. He always does. Not in belittling way, though. I don’t mind hearing his laugh. After all, I am quite touchy feely. And it’s ridiculous sometimes. He faintly coughed before he opens his mouth to speak

“Do you realize that human’s heart is also like that?”

“A heart housed so many connection; relationship, friendship, kinship. But then, one day, they’re meeting expiration. It’s not always a bad thing. If anything, it’s a way life showed you who deserved to be there with you taking care of your heart. We don’t need that many people for that, we only need the sincerest and the most caring”

I look at him. Longer. I imagine the way he lived before me. The way he grew to be wiser than any men I have ever met.

“Now, we really gonna be late to the movies, can we go now or you want to stay sad over my mom’s stuffs?”

I laughed as i land him a little punch on his arm, then quickly gulping on my tea that is already gone cold. I like this living room. I promised myself to come back, maybe when his mother around so I can compliment the way she painted the perfect shape of rue petals, or so can I ask his dad who pick the interior color, or so I can chat with his sister, chilling on that rug while munching on afternoon snacks. Some living room, some houses, some hearts meant to be visited, indeed, but let this sink in,

sometimes, more is not always merry. Sometimes, a heart needs to be empty from the people who are not worthy

a tiny bug dangling over the lamp dreaming of becoming wordsmith. Inq📩