Cold Water and Sliding Doors
I’m halfway through my month-long escape in Bali and my weeks have begun forming a pattern.
Monday morning, wake up early, yoga, green tea.
Tuesday morning, wake up early, journal, green tea.
By the time Wednesday rolls around, I’m dead out of wholesomeness and ready to party. This week is no different, as I prepare to head and sip on the pulpy vodka and juice concoction everyone else refuses to drink.
While Canggu clubs aren’t entirely dissimilar to those in Brisbane, they do offer one distinct advantage: zero chance of running into him. Call it manifesting, call it bad luck or call it, as I like to, the story of my fucking life, but wherever I go I seem to run into the blue-eyed life ruiner I devoted some of my best boob years to. So, even though I’m dancing sardined against sweaty bodies in a humidity haze, I finally feel like I can breathe.
When the lyric-less music loses its appeal, a small group of us beeline for an air-conditioned bar, crystalising both the salty droplets on the backs of our necks and reluctance to call it a night. Another Bintang later and the conversation drifts to its usual location, him. More specifically, my soul-level fatigue borne from navigating the not-together-but-not-apart wasteland that we now share instead of a bed.
It’s not long before my appetite for this topic of discussion dries up, along with the drinks. As if on cue, the group chat lights up our phones simultaneously.
Who’s still out? We’re at Sandbar!
Verbalisation unnecessary, the decision is made and our group meanders back towards the beach in pursuit of Sandbar.
“What song do you want me to request for you?” tries one guy. No thanks, but he doesn’t take the hint.
“What’s your signature dance move?” asks another. “Mine’s the worm.”
“Let’s see it then,” I say; wrong choice, as he actually begins taking his shoes off and asks his friend to hold his drink. “I’m kidding!” I say desperately. Please don’t do the worm in front of me.
One boy is particularly profound and lets his actions do the talking instead, burning me with his cigarette. I duck and weave away from another who is giving me two options: one, go for a swim with him; or two, kiss him. Generous, really. “He was hot!” say my girlfriends, but while I’m always open to distraction, this sea of underage and overconfident boys holds little appeal.
Throughout this, the rest of the group has slowly dispersed until it’s just myself, my friend and some boys she knows from her hometown. They discuss friends in common and shared histories, of which I have neither, and I’m just about ready to call it a night.
Until the sea of bodies part and he walks through and grabs my hand in an attempt to spin me to a song that was certainly not intended for this kind of dance move. It’s awkward but I look at his face and he doesn’t look 12 and he doesn’t try and use some ridiculous pick-up line and I’m actually not sure if we speak at all until he keeps it simple and asks, “Would you like a drink?”
Two Bintang’s later and I’m shouting “What?” for the third time into his ear because I can’t decipher what he’s saying, equal parts attributed to the thumping music and his thick French accent.
“South Australia,” I finally hear as we head closer towards the water to the emptier and quieter part of the club. “I’m going to South Australia to cage dive with Great White’s this weekend.”
No way, that’s been my dream for years. Sold.
“Watch out,” he says and pulls me forward as a particularly enthusiastic wave engulfs my ankles. He leans in and I discover a French kiss involves far too much tongue, but despite this, I feel oddly at ease. When he suggests walking along the beach I oblige, and we end up at a small carpark where his scooter rests. Purely coincidental, I’m sure. He asks if I’d like to head to his villa for a drink and for the first time here, I’m able to wrap my arms around the driver in front of me.
“Bintang or water?” he gestures towards a cold-water machine as we enter the villa. I’m mesmerised, thanks to two weeks of rationing tropical warm water with the 17 others that share my villa. “You have cold water on tap?” I say. “You could have saved yourself a lot of effort by opening with that.”
We swim, we laugh, we kiss and listen to terrible Spanish-sounding music, before he goes to get us towels. I grab my phone to let my friends know I won’t be home tonight and instead find a new message from him that wrenches me from my Canggu stupor.
“I fell asleep typing this to you,” I read, and suddenly find myself peering through a set of sliding doors that aren’t part of this lavish villa.
We’re not together, this isn’t cheating, but I think, if I leave now I can still choose him. I can come home and he will be waiting at the airport and I will run into his arms and we will kiss. I’ll say, “I didn’t sleep with anyone else!” and it will be a testament to our love and the fact we should be together. And we will live happily ever after. The end. Thanks for listening.
But, maybe that’s not what I want anymore, because I look at the message, I put my phone back down and I crawl into bed. For the first time in a long time, I don’t well up with sadness, and tears don’t roll down my face as I let someone into my life who isn’t him.
Nothing else that followed during that evening was particularly profound or romantic. This isn’t a love story. This isn’t me finding myself while travelling. There are no funny anecdotes about awkward sex.
As I leave the next morning, I Snapchat my best friend “time for the scoot of shame”.
“Did you cry?” she asks, familiar with the recurring pattern of my other recent dalliances.
“No,” I say, as I lock the sliding door behind me.