Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bali Bombing

One of the places I have spent a lot of time in is Bali. The last time I was there I drove up to Jimbaran Beach, where there were several different restaurants grilling fresh-caught fish near the road, and tables down on the sand where families and friends sat and ate. Many guests were tourists eating one more meal before heading to the airport in Kuta.

The tuna at Jimbaran were tender and exquisite; the ginger-soy sauce delicately sweet and zingy. Our hands got sticky, we reminisced about our trip, someone was playing guitar. Waves crashed in a quiet roar. A little boy walked up to where the sea met the sand and peed.

My friend Matt was laughing his bellowing laughter and passing us plates of rice. He told us about the villages with the most talented mask carvers, his wife Desak's stream of pembantus hired and fired, and her encounters with a dukun intended to help create peace in their house in Gianyar. After having two children, they had moved back to her birthplace from San Jose, California, where Matt used to be an emergency manager for Apple.

I was in an Internet cafe in Bamako, Mali, several years later and hadn't checked my email in several weeks. I had just returned from Gao, on the edge of the Sahara, where I encountered one of the last remaining tribes of desert elephants far out in the bush. My feet were dusty. I saw a recent email from Matt and the subject was: Matt Wyatt Cremation.

Always joking, I thought. That Matt. I thought of him laughing at Jimbaran. He wouldn't let me pay for dinner.

I opened the email and it wasn't from Matt, it was from his good friend still living in Bali. Matt had just died of pancreatic cancer. Surgeons in a Bangkok hospital were unable to save his life. There were earlier emails in my inbox from Matt, ailing, optimistic that he was going to make it. And then a last one where he apologizes to everyone he knows about anything bad he ever said about his wife.

A few days ago, a suicide bomber blew up a seaside cafe at Jimbaran, ruining the livelihood of many Balinese grilling the catch-of-the-day to make tourists happy and to support their families. I imagine the the smoke of grilling tuna mixing with the smell of opened flesh. They found the bomber's head and legs but not his middle.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember Matt Wyatt well - my cousin David Trevelyan was a very good friend and partner of his. I spent a lot of time with him in 1999/2000.

I just stumbled across your blog and I think it's great - now I'm going to go back and read more!


4:33 PM  

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