We’re not going to talk about what happened in Bali.
If you’ve been following this blog attentively, you might have noticed that the timeline seems skewed. It is. Some months lost; draw a line under them, forget them.
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[No, it wasn’t some nefarious act by the local Balinese or Indonesian people. Far from it.]
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Sometimes you find yourself in a million pieces. It can take a long time to glue them back together, and they don’t always go back together in the right order.
The wet season hit, and for weeks I watched the rain fall. Torrential rain, pouring from the sky, mesmerising. I covered my bike with my tent. There was a tiled area, under cover, but for a long time I didn’t feel physically strong or balanced enough to push the bike up over the small step. I couldn’t sleep; eyes pinned open in a state of relentless hyperarousal; adrenaline, cortisol, amygdala in overdrive. No capacity to focus the mind; unable to follow a twenty-minute television show, mind batting desperately to get out (get where?) like a bird against a window. Able to read, the same sentence, innumerable times, without ever knowing what it said.
When you speak with people, you have to remember to move the muscles in your face to make the right configurations: smile (mouth up at the corners), laugh (make the noise, crinkle the eyes). But gravity is very heavy, and like a fish caught yesterday, your eyes feel dead. (Focus the eyes, focus the eyes, or they’ll notice.)
You know that you’re safe, but your mind is locked in a state of mute distress a long way away and you don’t know if it will ever come back. In a way you wish that, like an ageing space probe, it will eventually lose energy in its far-off galaxy and power down; all the alarming signals will fade away and stop, the echoes moving further and further away in space. But somehow your body stubbornly continues to exist, anchoring your broken parts to no purpose.
So I watched the rain fall.
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I have much to be grateful for. The beautiful Georgina and Wayan, who rescued me more than once, as they set up their new dive shop in Amed. They made me their ‘guinea pig’ student – we pretended that I was doing them a favour by learning to scuba dive as the inaugural student of Bali Dive Cove, but in reality we all knew that they were saving me from myself. Thank you for insisting that I learn my pressure tables when I thought I could barely remember my own name; making me eat when I wanted to fade; making sure that I was on my feet at 5am to dive the wreck of the USS Liberty as the sun came up.
Thank you to Josh for putting a roof over my head for those first few weeks while I watched the rain fall in solitude; and later on, for keeping me fed and plied with beer when I was far from my best.
Thank you Simone for reminding me how much I love my bike, simply by the smile that was on your face when you brought her back after hooning through town that evening.
Thank you Mount Agung for towering over it all, and leaving a layer of ash over my bike some mornings. You reminded me, always, that I, and my sufferings, are very very small.