Once upon a time in Amsterdam, it was a sunny afternoon in spring when I was inside tram 5. Chattering crowds in multiple languages, buzzing sound of operating (tram) machine, the bell tolls and the station name announcement from the driver formed an orchestra of the day. Bunch of standing people jostled inside, grasping handles hanging on the ceiling. Brushing each other’s shoulder or being bumped by somebody else’s handbag seemed inevitable. Those who managed to find a seat in that kind of situation felt like winning a lottery.
I was one of the 80 per cent of those unlucky passengers because I had to stand inside the cramped tram. In other words, I didn’t (feel like) winning a lottery.
“Dari Indonesia?” (“From Indonesia?”)
I heard someone speaking my language. Was that for me?
The question I heard was indeed from a Caucasian guy with dark blonde hair and blue-green eyes, who stood before me. His look could probably compete that of the character Charming from a twisted fairy tale drama series Once Upon a Time.
“Iya.” I replied yes in Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language). “Kamu dari Belanda, ya?” (You are Dutch, right?)
He said, “Betul, tuh.” (That’s right)
He continued our conversation in Bahasa Indonesia. This guy, let’s call him Prince Charming – or Charming, asked me the purpose of my visit to The Netherlands. The words coming from his mouth made me forget that he was European. The way he articulated every word, performed the accent and intonation accordingly sounded nearly flawless. He had very good diction, too, defining that he didn’t learn the language solely by the book since he nailed all the daily terms and slang.
It reminded me that after several years living in The Netherlands, I was still not able to speak Dutch like the way Charming spoke Bahasa Indonesia and that was a shame on me. Being an international student taking a program conducted in English in the university results in no sense of urgency to learn Dutch. I practiced the language when I ordered some food in restaurants, asked for a road direction, did a part time job in the store, yet I didn’t blend in that much with local (Dutch) students. Perhaps it was the reason why I couldn’t excel it like a pro.
Finally found Charming truly made my day at the moment. I mean, who could refuse a good-looking guy who initiated a conversation with a mundane like me? He got my attention not only by his look, but also with his fluent Bahasa Indonesia. Hearing someone speaking my language overseas somehow felt like home, not to mention it signifies high appreciation in other people’s culture when spoken by a foreigner.
Charming admitted that he often mingled with Indonesian friends in The Netherlands, had been visiting Indonesia before and had a distant family who were Indonesian descendants. Mostly, he picked up words, intonation and slang from his Jakarta friends, something I already had guessed earlier. No wonder why he managed to speak Bahasa Indonesia so well.
There was a chemistry between us, though it wasn’t a defining moment yet to legitimately say I had a crush on him. I got a piece of him in that sense, and I totally bought it. I would love to hear more about him, especially who this Charming was actually.
Age was a bit sensitive to ask, but I believe that he was a few years older than I and no longer a student. So, I wanted to what he did for living.
It came to my surprise that an employee in a private company was not the only answer I got, but also his annual salary. Unlike what some of you may think that he was boasting about a six-digit income or something, he frankly told me that he earned about € 40,000 to € 45,000 per year (I don’t remember exactly).
Whoa. I thought that salary information is more classified than age.
Although he had a decent job in my point of view, Charming had something else to say about it.
“Working in a prestigious company with good salary doesn’t make me loaded. Government takes a lot of money and look how high the income tax is, at least 30 per cent. And where does it go? It’s to fund homeless, jobless people etc. The living course is pretty high, too. Housing, utilities and other bills, too. In the end, you don’t have much savings no matter how hard you work.”
Oh well, may be I had too much daydreaming about one day my prince will come and exclaim that there’s live a happily ever after despite challenges in life. The idea of talking to someone you just met to complain about life and work is not cool at all. It totally turned me off.
Later on, I heard the announcement, “Museumplein. Museumplein.”
That was the name of the station where I had to get off for a transfer. We said goodbye to each other. I was so relieved that I didn’t need to hear more about personal complaints.
Weeks later, I told my housemate about my encounter with Charming. When I mentioned the word salary, she suddenly reacted,
“Oh, so he told you his salary, too?”
I asked her back, expressing my surprise, “He told you that too?? So you know this guy??”
She had met the same Prince Charming before and had the exact experience as mine. We both agreed that he amazed us with his fluent Bahasa Indonesia and attracted us at first with his look, but the rest was two thumbs down, from voluntarily mentioning salary to searching for a sympathy by sharing his reality bites.
Unfortunately, he never knew that he lost his charm every time he did those.
Whatever his name was, Prince Charming was officially dead.