(1 May 2017)
The alley that served as a shortcut from the rice paddies to the main street of Ubud winded around a sheer drop off, splayed patches of railing, and between two towering buildings. It took somewhere between five to ten minutes to walk, time enough to begin to imagine footsteps behind you and eyes on your back. Though I hated the alley, in the daylight I felt that it was relatively safe, and I had no other way of getting into Ubud without a scooter.
I needed to forage for groceries. After paying a visit to a health food store, a motorcycle taxi pulled up next to me. I should have kept walking then and there, but he offered to take me to a local market for a cheap price. Though I craved fruit, I wanted authenticity even more. So I hoisted myself onto the motorcycle, remembering every turn in the road.
At a market much farther away that I had expected, the motorcycle driver offered to help me bargain. He marched me straight to a fruit vendor towards the back. She looked at me distastefully as I sorted through her fruit, and wouldn’t relent as we bargained. By now I knew what the game was. I looked at the taxi driver, who shrugged and laughed as I handed over too much money for a few meager pieces of fruit. Jaw set in steel, I sat tersely behind him on the way back to my apartment. I had been duped, and, more importantly, I was running out of money.
I had the taxi drop me off somewhere close enough to the apartment so that I could walk, but far enough away that he wouldn’t know exactly where I lived. There were enough upscale villas in the area that The Firefly blended in. With a tight smile I handed him a little bit more than what he asked for. He had outsmarted me once, and I didn’t want to play any more games.
I was starving by the time I got back to my apartment. I opened the bag of fruit to see that one of the avocados I had paid for was missing, the other stunted, no larger than an egg. I cursed. The vendor must have swapped around the fruit in the bag when I looked over at the laughing taxi driver. At least the dragonfruit was still there.
I had never had a dragonfruit before, so when I cut into it and a cloying smell gushed out alongside the dark pink blood, I didn’t know any better. It was only when my spoon hit a mushy, off-color part of the fruit that I realized it was rotten. With disgust I threw it out the window.
The vomiting started fifteen minutes later.
I knew it was food poisoning after the third round of hunching over the toilet and holding back my own hair. The only other soul in my apartment was a giant lizard. Every time I finished vomiting, I always looked up to see him staring at me, his grey eyes flickering. I wanted my mom.
Hours passed like this. When the storm seemed to reside, I would make oatmeal and drink whatever bottled water was left. Then it all began again, and I would find myself on hands and knees in the designer outdoor bathroom, coughing up vomit so pink that even Barbie would have been proud.
It finally ended sometime in the night. I was exhausted, out of water, and dizzy. I barely had enough cash for another motorcycle taxi into town, and I never wanted to barter again. The eighteen-inch lizard stared at me from the rafters. If he ate small pythons, what else would he try?
I slept on the couch that night.