I’m neck-deep in this lukewarm bath watching a frog jump repeatedly against a pebblestone wall too high for it to ever clear the top of. This Balinese-style bathroom, constructed to unite humans with the outdoors, successfully bridges the gap between humans, insects, and reptiles. Having arrived at this magical city yesterday, I vacillate on the level of laziness I’ll achieve today after succumbing to heat stroke-like symptoms the day before—I misjudged the distance from my Airbnb to the nearby Monkey Forest. It was 3 miles (one way), but I also mistimed my exit and attempted this adventure (without water) at the hottest time of the day. I’m soaking in this bath, now, in an attempt to externally replenish the water I’d sweat out in buckets 24 hours prior.
Having reached my limit with the reptiles that called themselves men on the various dating apps I’ve been using (in hopes of meeting someone to explore this area with – among other things) and have settled for Ben; it’s what I decided to name the helpless frog currently sharing this outdoor space with me. This trip has been all I wanted for so long. Now that I am here, though, all I can see is how alone I am. Loneliness, as an emotion, continually seeks to drown me with an assist from sorrow. Many of my childhood friends are married and producing their third and fourth four-legged babies. I watch their lives unfold through Facebook, liking each photograph as if it makes up for the emotions that weigh me down on a daily basis. Will I be alone forever? Where is this Prince Charming that everyone keeps insisting I’ll meet? Why do I always have to “find” him anyway?
The wooden staircase to this level of the bungalow is steep; I’m forced to monkey-climb them in both directions. But it’s my own personal Balinese utopia once I’m up here. Elephant decor lines the walls, some of which have been hand-painted portraying a scene from God knows what piece of Hindu history. Islam is the primary faith of the country, but in Bali is a hub for those who practice the Hindu faith. It’s evident in the food, the language, the physical appearance of locals and in the decor; everything is enriched, more colorful.
The air mostly smells of smoke and exhaust, it nauseates me and I hold my breath often or breathe from my mouth when outdoors. The streets are all lined with Penjor, bamboo ornaments meant to mimic the appearance of the mountains of the island, draping over the roadway. I watch from my window as motorbikes overstuffed with people carrying freshly stripped, lengthy bamboo shoots maneuver past cars at terrifying speeds. The flaccid shoots tucked securely under the arm of two passengers bob up and down like a buoy on a disturbed sea surface as the bike navigates the uneven ground.
I watch the sunset over the horizon from my bedroom window from the confines of my queen-sized bed. The mosquito net acting as a barrier to me and anything with wings in this wooden paradise. Shadows undulate as the darkness invades the room casting a sullen vibe on my headspace as it does. My mind wanders toward painful topics…The emptiness in the space serves as a conduit for familiar anxieties. I recall the previous evening out where I found myself in a bar, alone and in tears. My consistent travel companion and adventure enthusiast, my mother, is profoundly missed on this solo exploration. So much so that I’ve spent far too much money on goodies to tote back across the globe just for her. As deeply as I wanted her here with me, this trip was important to complete on my own and graciously she understood that.
I’ve been searching desperately for something to enchant me here in Bali. All of the amazing stories of enlightenment, lush greenery and smiling faces I read before coming have only proven to be half-truths. It takes constant effort to remind myself that my experience is mine and therefore shouldn’t seek to resemble anyone else’s. I am lost in this thought until I’m distracted by a pair of fireflies dancing in the corner of the room, just inside the open window. Tiny beads of light beaming through the blackness of night. I watch them as they appear and disappear, reappearing in different parts of the room as their butts blink on and off. The magic of this moment finds me immediately and I grin in the darkness. This experience is mine, I think to myself, and no one else’s.
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