Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lovina, Bali, 1990

There was only one bar then. The bar was called Bali Bintang. Bintang means star. The bar was on the mosquito-buzzing river that trickled down from the mountains, wound through the rice paddies, crossed Bhina Ria beach, and then emptied into the Java Sea. Lucy and Eka had brought the stereo and speakers from London.

I wasn't sure I was going to go out that night. I had spent the day snorkelling amidst schools of fish darting between orange and red coral. Piranhas stared at me with their teeth. I was tired and still felt weak from two weeks of dysentery and remembered that I had left Ding in Chiang Mai, even though he had laced lotus flower necklaces on me on my twenty-third birthday.

I lay on my bed wondering if it were better to go back to Hong Kong or Taipei or whether I should consider returning to the States, since I had been away over a year.

But there was a recession in the U.S., and my friends were working sixty hours a week at entry-level jobs. I had just come from Hong Kong, and I could get work paying cash in Taipei as soon as I got back. The noodles were cheap and hot and good there, and I knew my way around the alleys of Wen Jou Jie. After the seventh month, I was no longer homesick. I could recognize the street names. I ate duck tongue with ginger. I set off firewalks from my building's rooftop at the new year, and every day I walked past the mangy dogs humping behind discarded bathroom sinks and mountains of pink plastic garbage bags.

I take a deep breath and I smell the frangipani of Bali and the stink of the ditch running by the window of my hotel room, and I decide to go out.