Band-Aids in Bali
I’m walking to the chemist to purchase waterproof Band-Aids.
Gravel crunches under my sneakers as I tread past flocks of sunburnt tourists flying by on their rickety scooters. The backpack I’m wearing sticks to the small of my back, sweat gluing my clothes to perpetually damp skin. When I get back to my room, I’m planning on cutting myself, and I need the Band-Aids to cover the incisions.
I decided on my plan over dinner with friends.
As I listened to their stories and chewed thoughtfully on my jaffle, my mind went over the logistics of the act.
I did a quick itinerary of my belongings – items I can use to cover the marks. Long shirts in Bali would generate too much unwanted attention – and sweat. I have a watch: if I can keep the cut clean and concise, I could create a bandage that would sit neatly under my timepiece. That could work.
It would appear that today’s cure to a restless mind is to seek out an absence of security – to travel, to absorb experiences like oxygen. Find yourself when you lose yourself and all that. Eat, pray, love. The sum total of your journeys will counterbalance the ingrained nature of your anxiety, your depression. Your deep seeded habits. You’ll find solace in the mishaps; trials and tribulations will force you to overcome your hereditary flaws. You’ll be cured. You’ll now possess the skills to not just circumnavigate, but to navigate the turbulent seas of social situations; you’ll no longer sink below the surface of the pool of depression, instead — you’ll float.
It’s this kind of shit I pondered as I trod through Canggu, hungover and exhausted, tasting the stale food and poorly mixed alcohol from the night before. The heavy shadow of depression hitched a ride on my footprints, snatching and grabbing at my ankles, reminding me of the lows I have endured before, the months and years hidden under its wet blanket.
I stumble across the broken footpath as a man calls to me, asking if I need a ride.
“Tidak, jalan jalan,” I reply (no, I’m walking).
I watch as a group of Balinese men attempt to quash a fire that smokes profusely inside the guardhouse of a hotel. Plumes of smoke billow across the road, thick and opaque.
A stagnant fog sits in my head, numb and apathetic; blurring the peripherals of my vision, and admittedly, clouding my judgment… But I’m beyond that now. Somewhere in the ethos of my mind, a switch has been flicked and I submit to the fact that I am reverting back to my old ways. Ways in which dealing with the insistent babble of anxious voices in my mind could only be silenced with something sharp.
In the distance I see the orange glow of a Guardian chemist spilling onto the road.
Guardian. I laugh. Stepping through the patchwork footpath, I push open the doors and breathe in the sterile scent.
“Hello,” the shop assistant beams at me, her hair pulled back into a slick bun, hands folded politely across her front. She asks if I need any help; I tell her I need Band-Aids. She takes me to the furthest aisle and gestures to the array of bandages, sweeping her arm along the shelf like a game show host.
“Terima kasih,” I mumble (thank you).
How many do I need? I’m not sure… How shit do you feel? I interview my inner monologue, testing and probing, How shitty is this? Is this as bad as last time?
I settle on two large Band-Aids and a roll of gauze, adding some antiseptic wipes for good measure.
I pay, and I leave.
A dull haze mutes the brilliance of the Balinese sunset; scooters zip past with eager foreigners heading out for a night of debauchery. I pause for a moment, taking in the scene and trying to understand my place in it all.
Taking a tentative step off the sidewalk and onto the road, I plonk my foot into a fresh pile of dog shit. It’s not solid either; this dog was clearly feeling the same queasiness my stomach had endured earlier. So I can relate. But fuck me. Not now, I think.
I sigh, and stare at my shoe. In my hands I hold the antiseptic wipes; in my backpack I have enough cash to get me a ride home, but nothing more.
I’m placed at a crossroads that heeds to the OCD part of my brain. Do I use the wipes for their intended purpose? Or do I get this goddamn dogshit off my sneakers?
Bending down, I peel away the plastic packaging from the roll of gauze, knees close to my chest as I kick off the offending shoe. I scrunch up my face as the smell hits me, my left hand trying hard to scrap up the mess without touching any of it. I open a Band-Aid, and then another, using up my supplies to clean up the wrong mess.
I hear the sound of someone walking towards me as another pair of shoes enters my vision. I look up at the sunburnt face staring down; a man, maybe in his early 50s, is grinning as he takes in the scene.
“Did a number on you, did he?”
He points at the dog I hadn’t seen sitting casually by the Guardian doors. I turn and glare at the animal; it looks over, panting and completely nonchalant. Fuck you, I think.
“Yeah, I wasn’t looking where I was going… so, here we are.” The man shrugs and mumbles something about Bali and its over-crowded dog situation. He turns to leave, then thinks better of it.
“Anyway,” he says matter of fact-ly, “dog shit’s still dog shit, no matter where you are. Good luck with that.”
When I moved out of home (for the second time) at the age of 19, my father said to me the immortal words of Crowded House: “Always take the weather with you.” At the time I scoffed at him. Shut up dad, I would have said.
Now, as I teeter on the edge of my mid-20s, those words lend themselves to the greater circumstance of my psyche – your shit will always follow you.
I finish cleaning my shoe and slide my foot back in, gathering my rubbish and binning it quickly. There are no Band-Aids left, nor are there any antiseptic wipes or gauze. I brush the dust off my palms and begin walking away from the chemist, thinking about the weather, and about dog shit. Two constants – no matter where you are.
Global Hobo does not wish to encourage self-harm, and we strongly urge anyone struggling to deal with difficult or painful feelings to consider alternative coping methods – tell someone you trust or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.