Jumat, 04 November 2011

Young In Bali

Bali was my preferred overseas destination during the early 90s. Working seven days a week at the diamond exchange during the Christmas season provided enough money for six months in Asia. My yearly bonus paid for the around-the-world flight. Two weeks after January 1, 1993 I bid Richie Boy and his father good-bye for the third time in a row. Richie gave me a hug. His father had a different demeanor for Bon Voyage."Don't expect your job, when you get back." Manny was serious. February was dead. March and April were zombie months for diamonds. Business didn't start until May. Young people got married in the summer. "I'll see you in May." No one sold more wedding bands than me. I turned to Richie Boy. He was a die-hard surfer. Snowflakes were swirling in front of our window. "Come meet me in Bali.""I'll see you in March." The waves in Ulu Watu were double overhead. Out of my league, but Richie Boy could handle the swell."He's going nowhere.""Manny, sie gesund." These were three on the last words he would hear from me in six months."You take care of yourself." He got up from his desk and pressed a hundred dollar bill in my hand. "Have a few drinks on me."The flight from NY to Bali took about 30 hours. A cab drove me up into the mountains.Poste Restante Ubud served as my address for most of the winter. A simple house overlooking a ravine had been my winter residence for the past three years. The balcony overlooked the river gulch.Villagers bathed in the stream in the evening. The sun soon set between two distant volcanoes. The music of the Legong band practicing for the evening performance warbled across the verdant rice paddies. Ubud was paradise and backpackers swarmed to the tiny village hoping to find a shred of Bali gone.The town was also very family friendly and I met many of clans staying at the hotel up the path from my house. It had a swimming pool and served a tasty nasi goreng. One family came from Boston. A couple with two teenage kids. The older girl looked about 16. Her name was Dawn or Kakatu in Bahasa Indonesian. Either way she was pretty.Dawn had long brown hair and she would sneak peeks at me when her parents weren’t looking our way. I had a good idea what she was thinking and avoided her. She was young and young girls are trouble for men in their late-30s.One evening I was watching the Legong girls at the temple. Their lithe movements were a pleasure to the eye. The music was acoustic. The lighting by candles. I ignored the rumble of traffic beyond the red brick wall and imagined myself in the 18th century. After the end of the show I donated $5 or 10,000 rupiah. Enough to buy the girls a meal at the market.Nights was dark. The streetlights wavered with the dying surge of distant electricity and failed with a flash. The blackness was complete, until I flicked on my flashlight. Dawn stood in front of me.“Hi.” She was wearing a red shirt. No bra. She pushed back her hair.“Where are your parents?” Kerosene lamps illuminated the small warungs. The Baliese were no strangers to black-outs. Car headlights blinded me and I pulled Dawn from the road.“They went to the hotel before me.” Dawn licked at her lips. They shone with the stars.“Then I guess I have to walk you home.” There were no taxis in Ubud, at least none that could navigate the dirt paths through the rice fields. “You’re not scared of the dark, are you?”“Not with you.” She reached out to hold my hand.“Just follow me.” I skirted her grasp and proceeded down a small lane between several Balinese family compounds. The high walls created a narrow chasm giving way to the rice paddies. The silhouette of hotel rose from the black at our feet. It was good 5-minute walk. "We're almost there.""Where?" her voice was a reverent whisper."Back to the hotel." I felt a little like Orpheus leading his wife from Hades, except Dawn was no Eurydice and Bali was more heaven than hell.“Can we stop for a second?” Dawn sounded a little winded. “I want to look at the stars.”“Okay.” I sat in a rice shack. Thousands of fireflies hovered over the golden husks of rice. Overhead the cosmos glowered with an equatorial intensity heightened by the lack of electric light. Dawn lay down on the bamboo pallet. Her shirt was undone. The stars painted her skin silver.“Do you think I’m beautiful?” She touched my thigh.“Anyone young as you is beautiful to a man my age.” My resolve weakened and then I leaned over for a kiss. She tasted of bubble gum and I pushed myself back from the brink. “How old are you?’“15, but my friends say I look older.”No court in the USA would agree with her opinion and I stood up with difficulty, because Bali wasn’t America.“Let’s go. Your parents must be worried.”"We don't have to leave." She was ready for anything"And we can't stay." I was a bad man to disappoint Dawn and even a worse man to disappoint myself.We arrived at the hotel. Dawn’s mother was waiting at the door. Worry was not the word to describe her expression and I pushed the teenager forward, saying, “I brought back your daughter intact.”“I’m not intact.” Dawn pouted with vengeance. “I’m not a virgin. I’m a woman.”"That might eb true, but it has nothing to do with me. Good night ladies."“Young girl, get to your room.” Her mother nodded her thanks and the next day the family was gone from Ubud. I can still see her in the starlight. A dream on bamboo. Regrets I have none, but then the best lies we tell are the ones we tell ourselves.

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