“I am the one and only generation who got this rule”.
Gesturing with his left index finger while holding the car steering with his other hand. The window was wide opened to a drive-thru speaker machine. The operator repeated my friend’s order after thirty seconds with her distinct Australian accent.
“You know, this take-away system is not that popular in my country.” The air conditioner breeze interfering our conversation, obstructing the clarity of my voice.
I remember plenty of Indonesian teenagers who enjoy staying for a long time in the fast food restaurants and cafes. They either hang out chattering till midnight or spend time alone on their devices taking advantage of the free wifi.
My friend did not respond, he was more focused on positioning the car in queue. The restaurant’s employee was busy filling the boxes and cups behind the soundproof glass. There was a distinctive bright burger logo on her black uniform. I broke the silence.
“How long has this rule being applied?”
“Twenty or thirty years, I think.”
One-child policy. Once upon a time, to handle its rapid population growth, China applied the policy. It forced its families to have one, and only, kid. This rule would make them appreciate the fate if they had a son, because the boy would keep the family name alive to the next generations. Thirty years is enough to sweep one generation.
I feel lucky to be born in the time window. I could hear and ask my friends who witnessed the history. Between my no-more-than-thirty-classmates, almost half of them are Chineses. All of them are single children. Isn’t that cool?
A few weeks later, on the round dinner table, I was sitting beside one of them. Three other people were talking about the party in our supervisor’s house when I asked him in a private conversation.
“How does it feel?”
“It is okay.” He said, briefly.
It was definitely more than ‘okay’. Every rule was created to be broken, I do believe that. Moreover, a rule that breaks babies’ status into two conditions regarding their birth timing. Legal or not, accepted or not. What if, only after one missed pill, the wife is pregnant for the second child? What if the baby’s gender is not what they desire?
Abortion. Unloved kids. Endless fightings at home. Inevitable pain. Any other peaceful answer?
“What if they go against the policy?” I found a more polite question.
“They must pay a fine”, he drank his beer bottle, his glass was bouncing, “a really expensive fine. But the rule has changed. Starting this year we can have more.”
Afterwards, he mentioned the year when the policy was introduced, many years before he was born. Later it was not a private conversation anymore. The other person commented about the decreasing working-age population in China. Another one nodded and said how dangerous the country’s economy is when the old people are becoming the majority. I barely remember the remaining words. Only one question which I asked to myself that was still in my memory,
“Don’t they feel lonely?”
I sat alone across a big Christmas tree in Northbridge. There is almost no night life in Perth. I was still checking the city’s quiet pictures in my camera folder when a family filled its frame. A mom and her two kids are playing roller skates around Forrest Chase. I could not find any wet pavings that night. The warm spring has evaporated the fountain’s trace.
The daughter, of kindergarten age in my opinion, fell in the middle of the park. Her mom did not realize, she was helping her younger son who was trying to join the family with his otopet. Under the bright city lights, the sister stood up like the fall never happened.
That strong girl reminded me of the lunch conversation a couple of months ago. Between the rendang (coconut milk meat) and the spicy fried rice, I asked that same question to a different Chinese.
“How does it feel?”
“It was all right. So, I could get more love from my parents.”
Even though those words were said by a girl, but that answer was still too feminine for someone who has a future as a geologist. Then she talked about her friends who also do not have any siblings. They endured the loneliness together.
My brother and I often laugh at our aunts who like to gossip. In the earlier stages of our lives, we had smashed bedroom’s lamps, our parents’ clock, everything with the soccer ball. My sister and I used to sing together before bedtime. It makes me thing how dull and mundane my friends’ lives are like without siblings.
But, maybe loneliness is only about the feeling.
“So, how many children do you want to have?” I asked eventually.
“Two. A girl and a boy.” She answered while showing me her two lean fingers. Those slim eyes became smaller when she smiled.
Maybe, deep inside, that loneliness exists. And she does not want her children to feel the sadness their mother has suffered.