And so it finally comes time to write about a few short days that left me in an eighteen-month standoff with writer’s block. No matter how many different configurations of words I use, or the countless coffee shops, empty rooms, and trans-Atlantic plane flights that I find myself within, I cannot reach far enough into the creative depths to extract the beauty of my last days in Bali.
The last days began with saying goodbye to Franzi. She helped me carry my misshapen red duffle bag out of the narrow alleyway in front of her house. A taxi driver was waiting.
“Good-bye, little one. Come home to Bali again,” Franzi hugged me. I surrendered into her comforting embrace for a moment more, and then climbed into the car.
Ubud receded past me with an explosion of colorful umbrellas and motorcycles, winding grey streets and jewel-toned storefronts. A bittersweet feeling enveloped me as the grey road convoluted into the unmarked jungles and fields outside of Ubud. I felt the gravity of the transformation I had undergone in the past few weeks. As the familiar crossed the boundary of the unknown, Ubud procured one last otherworldly salute – a lone shack with a graffitied grey eye. The enormous pupil watched me solemnly as the taxi carried me out of rice paddies and open skies into the depths of the jungle.
I arrived at Green School and found Suzi, a friend of my mother’s who had invited me to spend my last few nights in Bali at her house near the beach. She greeted me with a strong European accent and welcomed me to lunch on a nearby compound of residential bamboo huts. I ate a bowl of coconut soup while somewhat self-consciously watching Suzi pop a blister on one of her friend’s back. Suzi carried on dual conversations with me and the supine woman who stared calmly into the distance as her blister burst open. I swallowed the soup as quietly as possible.
Back at Green School, Suzi gave me a tour of a weekly farmers’ market held on the school premises. I rummaged through used clothes, neon pink strips of dried dragonfruit, and all kinds of soaps and body scrubs. Eventually, Suzi and I made our way towards the bamboo entrance, wading through circles of sweating people. Near the gate, a magnetic sensation to shuddered down my back. I turned around and caught the eyes of a blond boy for one motionless second.
“Miro!” Suzi shouted, and the boy’s face melted into surprise. As he walked towards us, the dappled sunlight turned his hair into fluid gold. I vaguely remembered my mom telling me that Suzi had a son close to my age. Although Suzi introduced us excitedly, the boy and I avoided as much eye contact as possible. The intensity of the moment when we locked eyes disrupted all the mundane, formal gestures of greeting. When Suzi asked if I wanted to stay at the farmer’s market with him for a while longer, I politely declined.
Suzi dropped me off at their house in Sanur, a quiet part of Bali close to the beach. After showing me around the open kitchen, swimming pool, and gorgeous guest wing of the house, she left for another function. Alone in the peace and solitude of my new bedroom, I undressed, staring at the mirror as I put on a new silk robe.
“Hello?” A voice called from the courtyard. “Is anyone there?” The voice belonged to Suzi’s son.
I froze, my mind racing. I wondered if I was supposed to be in this room, or if there was some misunderstanding. I stepped out of the doorway and nearly collided with Miro. He glanced down at the flimsy robe and staggered slightly backward.
“I was just wondering if you were here.”
“Oh, okay. Yeah,” I winced at my own response. We attempted and rapidly failed at small talk. He was the first one to retreat across the courtyard and into his side of the house.
I laid on the white linen of the guest bedroom, staring at the ceiling and messaging my mom over Facebook. When the sky morphed into pink dusk, Miro tentatively knocked on the door and invited me to make dinner with him. We could finally carry on a conversation as we chopped up spicy red peppers and gathered wild basil that grew in the garden. After coming home and eating the overly seasoned curry that Miro and I made, Suzi suggested that he and I should go to the beach.
We fastened on motorcycle helmets in the dark. Miro climbed onto the bike first, elegantly shuffling his feet to find the right balance. The engine flared and I climbed on, careful to hold onto the back of the seat instead of his shoulders. I couldn’t prevent my helmet from clinking against his at every sharp angle in the winding, sandy streets. He talked to me sometimes, although his voice was muffled by the wind and the helmets.
We left our shoes with the motorcycle at the edge of the beach. The slow, melodious sea glistened, white sand crumbled under our feet, and we returned to the magnetic moment earlier in the day, before we had known each other’s names or vague identities. I learned of his life, his dreams, and the mesmerizing connection he had to his home in Bali. A veil lifted and we talked for hours, every word falling into harmony. It was as if we had always known one another.
Miro and I stayed by the sea until the tide began to return in the early hours of the morning, sharing an unspoken bewitchment with the husky rhythm of the waves.