A short sketch about settling down on the island of the Gods
It’s always the light, a glow surrounding the island; the moon that falls on the water in elongated drops, like a broken, silver dark veil that slowly reaches for the coast and then moves back again with the vanishing waves. It’s in the whispering of floating trees and the shadows of the campfires that die with the last light of day; the mysterious dance of the bats and everything that lives and dies within the confines of the forest; our hut made of boards and giant palm leaves; the flames of the candles you light, when everything else melts back into the night.
The bus stops at some invisible sign. People get on board, while a few old women and young girls get off, to pick herbs along the side of the road. They smoke their thin, hand-rolled cigarettes; they talk and laugh and then they get back on the bus again. The chickens in their wired cages on the floor talk amongst themselves, subdued but obsessed – like soft-spoken professors who secretly watch and yearn for the flesh of young students. The goats at the back of the bus moan like the wind that is caught in the branches of tall trees, like the creaking doors of old churches that have stood empty for too long. The bus rides on, stops, stutters, moves on, till it comes to the beach, where we get off. You carry two chickens; I try and lead a stubborn goat. A hut, two chickens and a goat: we are slowly settling down.
The fishermen carry their nets, filled with early morning light, to their ships, while they sing their songs of Gods and wine that wait for them to return. Later, on the beach, fires are lit under large gridirons, sprinkled with oil. The smell of shrimps and fish, the many herbs and spices now rises up to Heaven, weaves its way through the clouds and the stars. Everything is now a dance of hungry scents. I watch you slowly peel and eat a shrimp. The oil trickles down from your lips, over your chin. When I kiss you I can taste the waiting sea. You feed me another shrimp; now you taste the salt on me. We walk on, hand in hand.
(I tell you how in Cuba, long ago, I saw from my hotel balcony the young hookers walk along the beach; their bodies a prayer, the rum a church; their clients fat and greedy and eminently forgettable. The drums, the fires, the naked breasts and the sweat, the rum, the sea. You laugh. We walk on. Cuba - my whole life; what made me and what brought me here: a balcony from where old shades of me now watch the two of us move on, away from all that came before our time began.)
We walk along the flood line and we talk, like slow-reaching waves, of old and secret places, of mountains and forests, of the old, stone hearts of London, Paris, Prague. We stop and look out over the ocean: a self-portrait in waves, with a ghostly, Rembrandt touch. All is quiet now. Smudges of seagulls move through the air like stars, like shadowy ships - like the centuries that pass so swiftly and so silently, leaving no imprints on water or sand. This is where we find ourselves, where we’ve decided to be for now, perhaps forever.
Much more important though, now and always: you. The fires and the shells and the call of the dark and the leaves of the deeply bent trees in your hair; the laughter and warmth of your hunger and waiting; the salt on your breasts, the moist on your lips and your opening flesh. In between all that I ever was, all I ever saw or did or thought or wrote, between everything and the sea, the sand and all that I may yet become, you wait for me, forever.
This island, this forgetting, this evening sky is nothing without your shadow, your thirst on my lips; my hunger and your body; your flesh now waiting and the world that now enfolds me, making me your own, your story. When I enter, when you take me in, it’s like the dimmed but sacred footsteps of priests in silver stone cathedrals, like the light of the moon on the waves that lazily await the tides, like the wind that softly touches the leaves and smells of all tomorrows. When I come, come home in you, your warmth, I am all that I could ever hope to be.
Bali, where the old Gods walk the beach and move through the forest in their enormous silence, far removed from the people and their hunger and their prayers, where the sand and the stars, the wind and the water are free of time: here is where I write you. Here is where I wait and breathe. Here I cast these images: the bats that dance in the net of a full moon, the smell of the sea, the slow, majestic turning of the earth, the songs of the fishermen now going homewards, our hut with its candles, two chickens and a goat – but these are images bereft of meaning without your presence, without your touch.
Bali bound, this is where I go and where I come to pray: to walk within your sight, to live and die and rise again; to be with you, my love.