When we return to Ubud, I go straight back to Felipe's house and don't leave his bedroom for approximately another month. This is only the faintest of exaggerations. I have never been loved and adored like this before by anyone, never with such pleasure and single- minded concentration. Never have I been so unpeeled, revealed, unfurled and hurled through the event of lovemaking.
One thing I do know about intimacy is that there are certain natural laws which govern the sexual experience of two people, and that these laws cannot be budged any more than gravity can be negotiated with. To feel physically comfortable with someone else's body is not a decision you can make. It has very little to do with how two people think or act or talk or even look. The mysterious magnet is either there, buried somewhere deep behind the sternum, or it is not. When it isn't there (as I have learned in the past, with heartbreaking clarity) you can no more force it to exist than a surgeon can force a patient's body to accept a kidney from the wrong donor. My friend Annie says it all comes down to one simple question: "Do you want your belly pressed against this person's belly forever--or not?"
Felipe and I, as we discover to our delight, are a perfectly matched, genetically engineered belly-to-belly success story. There are no parts of our bodies which are in any way allergic to any parts of the other's body. Nothing is dangerous, nothing is difficult, nothing is refused. Everything in our sensual universe is--simply and thoroughly-- complemented. And, also . . . complimented.
"Look at you," Felipe says, taking me to the mirror after we've made love again, showing me my nude body and my hair that looks like I just came through a NASA space-training centrifuge. He says, "Look how beautiful you are . . . every line of you is a curve . . . you look like sand dunes . . ."
(Indeed, I do not think my body has looked or felt this relaxed in its life, not since I was maybe six months old and my mother took snapshots of me all blissed-out on a towel on the kitchen counter after a nice bath in the kitchen sink.)
And then he leads me back to the bed, saying, in Portuguese, "Vem, gostosa."
Come here, my delicious one.
Felipe is also the endearment master. In bed he slips into adoring me in Portuguese, so I have graduated from being his "lovely little darling" to being his queridinha. (Literal translation: "lovely little darling.") I've been too lazy here in Bali to try to learn Indonesian or Balinese, but suddenly Portuguese is coming easily to me. Of course I'm only learning the pillow talk, but that's a fine use of Portuguese. He says, "Darling, you're going to get sick of it. You're going to get bored of how much I touch you, and how many times a day
I tell you how beautiful you are."
Try me, mister.
I'm losing days here, disappearing under his sheets, under his hands. I like the feeling of not knowing what the date is. My nice organized schedule has been blown away by the breeze. I finally do stop by to see my medicine man one afternoon after a long hiatus of no visiting. Ketut sees the truth on my face before I say a word.
"You found boyfriend in Bali," he says. "Yes, Ketut."
"Good. Be careful not get pregnant." "I will."
"He good man?"
"You tell me, Ketut," I said. "You read his palm. You promised that he was a good man. You said it about seven times."
"I did? When?"
"Back in June. I brought him here. He was the Brazilian man, older than me. You told me you liked him."
"Never did," he insisted, and there was nothing I could do to convince him otherwise. Sometimes Ketut loses things from his recollection, as you would, too, if you were somewhere between sixty-five and a hundred and twelve years old. Most of the time he's keen and sharp, but other times I feel like I've disturbed him out of some other plane of consciousness, out of some other universe. (A few weeks ago he said to me, completely out of nowhere, "You good friend to me, Liss. Loyal friend. Loving friend." Then he sighed, stared off into space and added mournfully, "Not like Sharon." Who the hell is Sharon? What did she do to him? When I tried asking him about it, he would give me no
answer. Acted suddenly like he didn't know who I was even referring to. As if I were the one who'd brought up that thieving hussy Sharon in the first place.)
"Why you never bring boyfriend here to meet me?" he asked now. "I did, Ketut. Really I did. And you told me you liked him."
"Don't remember. He a rich man, your boyfriend?"
"No, Ketut. He's not a rich man. But he has enough money." "Medium rich?" The medicine man wants details, spreadsheets. "He has enough money."
My answer seemed to irritate Ketut. "You ask this man for money, he can give to you, or not?"
"Ketut, I don't want money from him. I've never taken money from a man."
"You spend every night with him?" "Yes."
"Good. He spoil you?" "Very much."
"Good. You still meditate?"
Yes, I do still meditate every day of the week, slithering out of Felipe's bed and over to the couch, where I can sit in silence and offer up some gratitude for all of this. Outside his porch, the ducks quack their way through the rice paddies, gossiping and splashing all over the place. (Felipe says that these flocks of busy Balinese ducks have always reminded him of Brazilian women strutting down the beaches in Rio; chatting loudly and interrupting each other constantly and waggling their bottoms with such pride.) I am so relaxed now that I kind of slide into meditation like it's a bath prepared by my lover. Naked in the morning sun, with nothing but a light blanket wrapped over my shoulders,
I disappear into grace, hovering over the void like a tiny seashell balanced on a teaspoon.
Why did life ever seem difficult?
I call my friend Susan back in New York City one day, and listen as she confides to me, over the typical urban police sirens wailing in the background, the latest details of her latest broken heart. My voice comes out in the cool, smooth tones of a late-nite, jazz-radio DJ, as I tell her how she just has to let go, man, how she's gotta learn that everything is just perfect as it is already, that the universe provides, baby, that it's all peace and harmony out there . . .
I can almost hear her rolling her eyes as she says over the sirens, "Spoken like a woman who already had four orgasms today."