May 2017, 8 PM, PBAKL

I sat by myself at the cashier. My fingers wielded a pen, a pen which shed blood from its scratchings of the notepad I mindlessly scribbled on. It was accompanied by a PRE-ORDER LIST, and occasionally I would look up to remind myself I was not in a world of my own. I was writing love letters to people who pre-ordered my book.

The crowd was significantly less than that in the morning, and I noticed a middle-aged man watching me. I took no notice – he was just observing the crowd, and he looked like someone important. Someone “important” in this context means that he looked like he could use the data he got from watching the whole scene for something.

Our gaze met. He approached me, cautious, knowing that he was going to break my train of thoughts, but also curious enough to break it anyway. Curiosity killed the cat.

“Excuse me, may I know what you’re doing?”

I was caught off-guard. I didn’t think anybody was wondering what I was doing. Why would they wonder? He remained to be the only man to ask me personally what I was doing at that moment.

I’m writing love letters,” I told him, and showed him my pre-order list, “to people who pre-ordered my book.”
“Ah, that’s a nice touch,” he gave it a moment of thought, and said, “I’m stealing your idea.”

I gave him a half-smile and a raised eyebrow. What was this to him? A marketing idea?

“I’m stealing your idea,” he repeated, before walking away. Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.

I shrugged it off. Was my earnest yet painful, unique, handwritten letters to over 80 people by hand a marketing idea or an act of love?


Later that week someone who had received a love letter from me remarked,

Your surat cinta is acah-acah cinta!

I watched him circle the space in front of me, eager to get his message across.

“It’s not acah-acah cinta. It is surat cinta. Have you finished reading my book?”

He nodded, still pacing. Pacing, he did that a lot.

Then you’ve read my chapter on Love?

“I did, but I disagree, there are many kinds of Love. Love for parents is one, love for God, love for friends, love for your boyfriend or girlfriend. They cannot be the same kind of love,” he insisted.

Ah, that means my chapter on Love didn’t open up to him. I believe in things revealing itself to people when they’re ready. Which means if your mind is occupied with things contrary with what I’m saying, you won’t get what I’m saying until your mind keeps quiet. At that moment of noise: crowd from the outside and his own thoughts speaking to him on the inside, nothing I say was going to change anything. I chose to keep quiet and just listened.

He did not have anything more to say, happy he got his point across.

It’s been over a month since PBAKL 2017, so right now I’m going to skim through my chapter on Love in A Nobody’s Observations, with the analogy of an onion:

You take an onion and you peel the first layer of outer skin effortlessly. It takes not much effort to remove the dirt and you will get a beautiful fruit. Your admiration for it is similar to the lowest level of love you may have: for possession or materials, in which to achieve it, money and sweat are considered effortless to me because they are tangible.

To peel off the second outer layer of the onion skin you know you’re at risk of tears in your eyes, but you know it won’t be so bad. That would be your love for other people, the mutual kind of love. I’m your friend because you’re my friend. I belanja you, you belanja me.

To peel off the third or beyond, you know you’re going to cry because that kind of love actually stings: love for parents, siblings, husband, wife, etc. They require sacrifice and is loaded with hope. You don’t mind working hard right now for your children because you hope they will have a better future. You give money to your parents because they worked hard for you. This kind of love still requires a response, a reciprocal.

You get where I’m going now?

Then there’s the core of the onion: The Core of The Love.

When you see this core, you cease to put labels because you understand, an onion is an onion no matter at what layer, and Love is Love.

In this kind of love, you work hard for your children because you want to.
You give money to your parents because you want to.
Which opens another room: you help other people, even those unrelated to you, because you want to.

What-ifs never crossed your mind when you’re at this core of Love. You love everyone and everything because you are The Love.

You can only see it this way when you look at an onion for its core, its ability to regrow and give taste to our lauk-pauk essentially from one core onion. When you see the onion for its core and you realise its potential to create so much more, you only want the core. You understand everything else will come on its own once you attain the core, and nourish it properly.

The Core of The Love is what I mean when I speak of The Love. I no longer hassle myself with the labels and guises Love has.

This kind of love expects nothing in return, it Loves for the sake of loving. It exists because it just is.

But like peeling of an onion, it stings. Being only human, of course we expect something in return. We want to be appreciated, recognition for our work; we just want to be ‘loved’ back. That’s why it stings and not many can truthfully say that they do because they want to.
Ikhlas, is the heart of Love.

What about me? What do I want to achieve from painstakingly handwriting love letters to my readers?

Sales, of course!


Acah-Acah Cinta or not, it’s up to you. I’m not here to change your mind. Some of the letters I wrote in exhaustion, some I wrote immediately when I woke up from a good dream. Either way, I wanted to write to you because I wanted to.

Image Credits: yours truly and Google Images

Penerbit. Pemilik #KABO (Kafe Buku Oakheart).