As she bade farewell to family and friends, she thought of her baby back home in his crib unaware that his mother would not be around when he wakes up. She prayed that her mother would be in good health to look after her only child and that her father would be able to take care of both of them, though he was an asthmatic. Would her son remember her or understand why she had to leave? Would he still long for her or cry for her when she is away? These thoughts flashed across her mind as she sat in the departure lounge of the airport.
Ummi heard the drool of the engine of the planes flying in and leaving the airport. She had half the mind to turn back to cradle her baby in her arms once more. But the thought of his future kept her from doing so. Her good for nothing, philandering husband, was not in the habit of supporting her and her baby. She must struggle through to make a life for herself and her only child. No doubt she would not be able to help herself without cooperation from her aging parents. Her parents were prepared to go all out to see that their only daughter’s wishes could be granted. Thus she couldn’t let them down by admitting defeat and giving up hope of being independent.
As she walked the steps leading to the cabin of the plane, she wiped a tear as it flowed down her chiselled face, which was full once upon a time. Stress and a loveless life had robbed her off her youth and vitality. She hoped too that life in a foreign country would help her forget her miserable past and probably pave the way for better relations with friends who had encouraged her to take the giant step into the unknown.
The flight to Malaysia from Indonesia was roughly 3 hours, but Ummi felt as if it were 3 days. At the Penang Airport, a group of her friends from her village in Jakarta were eagerly awaiting her arrival. All of them were well dressed and appeared happy and contented. She looked at her attire and compared it with theirs. She hoped that she too would be sharing the same benefits.
The drive by taxi from the airport to the apartment where her friends lived was short but it was a drive with many hairpin bends. By the time they reached the destination, Ummi was feeling nauseated and uncomfortable. She had a quick wash, had a simple dinner and went to bed to the disappointment of her friends.
The next morning she woke up with a headache. Noone was around to even make her breakfast. She observed that the apartment was well furnished and clean. She also read a note scribbled on a piece of paper on the coffee table informing her that all her friends were at work and that they would be back late in the evening. In the meantime, she could grab whatever there was in the kitchen to feed herself. She was reluctant to raid the kitchen but her hunger pangs got the better of her and soon she was tucking away at some buns and bananas.
The next day, the gullible and unsuspecting Ummi, followed her friends to their workplace. Her boss was a young man, who seemed to examine her through x-ray eyes. Ummi felt shy but she had to put on a brave front. The man asked casually if she was ready for work. She replied in the affirmative. He called her closer and put his arms around her. She was taken by surprise and tried pushing his arms away. He advised her not to resist because all her friends were in the same trade. How else could they afford such lovely clothes, good food and a comfortable apartment to live in?
Ummi felt cheated. She felt that her friends had betrayed her trust. She had left her decent dwelling and home to come to a strange place only to fall into a trap. Who could she turn to for help? What is she going to tell her parents? How is she going to face her only child? Answers to those questions can only be given by those who share the same fate as Ummi.