For a long time I am unbalanced, clumsy with distress. I can’t ride. Beastie waits patiently.
I rent a large empty villa with a leaking roof, and practise smiling. It’s not so hard. Laughing is not so hard either. The hard part is that the despair doesn’t go away when you don’t express it. It just waits for the laughter to stop, and floods into the gaps.
Everyone says that it will fade away, but I wait for a long time, and it doesn’t seem to lose its strength.
* * *
I feel flayed; raw nerve endings open to the air. I am not the person I want to be. I am not kind, or equanimous, or emotionally generous anymore. I am not in control. I am not strong and gentle. I am damaged, hanging on by my fingertips, and the longer I exist like this the more I despise myself.
* * *
One morning I wake feeling rested and calm. It feels revelatory. The room is filled with apricot light. I take a photograph of it.
Each day, a local man comes and lights incense sticks and leaves offerings on the Hindu shrine beside my door. The smell tickles my nostrils, rich and raspy.
* * *
My friends launch their dive shop. There are prayers, ceremonies, and babi guling. Bounty.
We dive. Kadek cooks for us.
I become a better diver, spend more time under the water, eye to eye with the fishes. The more challenging the conditions, the more I like it. It takes your mind off things.
* * *
People are uncomfortable around suffering. They fear its contagion. This is normal. Eventually they must get sick of you being a miserable fuck, too. This is also normal.
If you can’t contain your suffering, you must take it elsewhere.
But first you must clean your air filter, do your valve clearances, change your oil, bleed your brakes and check your rocker arms.
Then you must put put your bike back together in the dark, because you’ve run out of electricity credit.
But the next day is beautiful. And the next.
I’ve been here for so long that I don’t remember how to pack everything on the bike again. It takes me two days.
By the time Georgina arrives to hug me goodbye, the heavens have opened. I give her my polka dot poncho. I go to take one last look at the volcano, towering over this place, but it’s lost in the clouds. Too late.
I leave in the rain.