Once Upon a Bali, Later

Once Upon a Kuta Beach in Bali

Heather stopped outside of the Starbucks on Jl. Pantai Kuta once her phone chirped she had a wifi signal. Several messages were waiting, in fact. She stepped a few centimeters to the right, where the large green and familiar font rose rose from cracked pavement and clumps of grass and litter. Despite the sign’s attempt to dominate the sidewalk for a considerable length and width, only her notifications captured her attention.

Each taxi that flowed by in the stream of traffic tapped a horn at the sight of this lone traveling foreigner, which meant a tapped horn every two or three cars. It was just a reflex. Sometimes a driver might spare a few more split-seconds in order to stare, but more often it was just a peek into the larger world beyond the street and, with once there was no reciprocated eye contact, an immediate dip back to the more promising future of the hotel resorts down the road.

A little sun-browned Balinese girl half-skipped, half-stalled when calling out the only English she knew– “Miss! ” and “please one dollars.” Her bracelets and necklaces of various sizes and beadage dripped from her arm and elbow. Her hair was nearly as stringy as the wares she offered, and the white shirt that doubled as a dress was stiff from smudges and weather. Her movements carried the grace of someone who wanted to reach out, with the nonchalance of someone who really didn’t care one way or the other.

Heather noted with a smile that her friend was a “Corgi” according to her results from the Buzzfeed survey, and already 18 people liked her picture of Kuta Beach that she Instagrammed half an hour ago. She tapped and swiped with her middle finger, the others arched in accidental daintiness.

WIth the 2 x 3 world of touchscreen consuming her, she also failed to notice how many in the stream of pedestrians were tourists like her, and how few were local people. Her fellow travelers, nearly all young Australians like herself, were a bit more subtle in staring at her as they passed, checking out her figure in the flowing sarong she purchased without bargaining from a hawker yesterday. The Chinese tourists, actually, were the ones a bit more blatant. And moreso the women, both local and tourist, who took note of her figure with equal mixtures of curiosity and jealousy.

Her sunglasses rested at the top her head so she could see her phone, and they remained there as the afternoon gave way to clouds and dusk. More out of an unconscious sense of timing from standing in one place for too long than for any other agenda, she moved away with her gaze still fixed on the phone, until the lost signal woke her from her reverie.

Later that night, her head finally empty from the kaleidoscope of travel, her body set at the end of the bed. Her face held neither smile nor frown, a satisfied sigh escaped her lips. Until, relaxed and ready for sleep, her body slipped under the cover, transferring easily from the unconsciousness of life into sleep.