I can't remember the last time I got dressed up, but this evening I dug out my one fancy spaghetti-strap dress from the bottom of my backpack and slithered it on. I even wore lipstick. I can't remember the last time I wore lipstick, but I know it wasn't anywhere near India. I stopped at Armenia's house on the way over to the party, and she draped me in some of her fancy jewelry, let me borrow her fancy perfume, let me store my bicycle in her backyard so I could arrive at the party in her fancy car, like a proper adult woman. The dinner with the expatriates was great fun, and I felt myself revisiting all these long- dormant aspects of my personality. I even got a little bit drunk, which was notable after all the purity of my last few months of praying at the Ashram and sipping tea in my Balinese flower garden. And I was flirting! I hadn't flirted in ages. I'd only been hanging around with monks and medicine men lately, but suddenly I was dusting off the old sexuality again. Though I couldn't really tell who I was flirting with. I was kind of spreading it around everywhere. Was I attracted to the witty Australian former journalist sitting next to me? ("We're all drunks here," he quipped. "We write references for other drunks.") Or was it the quiet intellectual German down the table? (He promised to lend me novels from his personal library.) Or was it the handsome older Brazilian man who had cooked this giant feast for all of us in the first place? (I liked his kind brown eyes and his accent. And his cooking, of course. I said something very provocative to him, out of nowhere. He was making a joke at his own expense, saying, "I'm a full catastrophe of a Brazilian man--I can't dance, I can't play soccer and I can't play any musical instruments." For some reason I replied, "Maybe so. But I have a feeling you could play a very good Casanova." Time stopped solid for a long, long moment, then, as we looked at each other frankly, like, That was an interesting idea to lay on this table. The boldness of my statement hovered in the air around us like a fragrance. He didn't deny it. I looked away first, feeling myself blush.)
His feijoada was amazing, anyway. Decadent, spicy and rich--everything you can't normally get in Balinese food. I ate plate after plate of the pork and decided that it was official: I can never be a vegetarian, not with food like this in the world. And then we went out dancing at this local nightclub, if you can call it a nightclub. It was more like a groovy beach shack, only without the beach. There was a live band of Balinese kids playing good reggae music, and the place was mixed up with revelers of all ages and nationalities, expats and tourists and locals and gorgeous Balinese boys and girls, all dancing freely, unself-consciously. Armenia hadn't come along, claiming she had to work the next day, but the handsome older Brazilian man was my host. He wasn't such a bad dancer as he claimed. Probably he can play soccer, too. I liked having him nearby, opening doors for me, complimenting me, calling me "darling." Then again, I noticed that he called everyone "darling"--even the hairy male bartender. Still, the attention was nice . . .
It had been so long since I'd been in a bar. Even in Italy I didn't go to bars, and I hadn't been out much during the David years, either. I think the last time I'd gone dancing was back when I was married . . . back when I was happily married, come to think of it. Dear God, it had been ages. Out on the dance floor I ran into my friend Stefania, a lively young Italian girl I'd met recently in a meditation class in Ubud, and we danced together, hair flying everywhere, blond and dark, spinning merrily around. Sometime after midnight, the band stopped playing and people mingled.
That's when I met the guy named Ian. Oh, I really liked this guy. Right away I really liked him. He was very good-looking, in a kind of Sting-meets-Ralph-Fiennes's-younger- brother sort of way. He was Welsh, so he had that lovely voice. He was articulate, smart, asked questions, spoke to my friend Stefania in the same baby Italian that I speak. It turned out that he was the drummer in this reggae band, that he played bongos. So I made a joke that he was a "bonga-leer," like those guys in Venice, but with percussion instead of boats, and somehow we hit it off, started laughing and talking.
Felipe came over then--that was the Brazilian's name, Felipe. He invited us all to go out to this funky local restaurant owned by European expatriates, a wildly permissive place that never closes, he promised, where beer and bullshit are served at all hours. I found myself looking to Ian (did he want to go?) and when he said yes, I said yes, also. So we all went to the restaurant and I sat with Ian and we talked and joked all night, and, oh, I really liked this guy. He was the first man I'd met in a long while who I really liked in that way, as they say. He was a few years older than me, had led a most interesting life with all the good resume points (liked The Simpsons, traveled all over the world, lived in an Ashram once, mentioned Tolstoy, seemed to be employed, etc.). He'd started his career in the British Army in Northern Ireland as a bomb squad expert, then became an international mine-field detonation guy. Built refugee camps in Bosnia, was now taking a break in Bali to work on music . . . all very alluring stuff.
I could not believe I was still up at 3:30 AM, and not to meditate, either! I was up in the middle of the night and wearing a dress and talking to an attractive man. How terribly radical. At the end of the evening, Ian and I admitted to each other how nice it had been to meet. He asked if I had a phone number and I told him I didn't, but that I did have e- mail, and he said, "Yeah, but e-mail just feels so . . . ech . . ." So at the end of the night we didn't exchange anything but a hug. He said, "We'll see each other again when they"-- pointing to the gods up in the sky--"say so."
Just before dawn, Felipe the handsome older Brazilian man offered me a ride home. As we rode up the twisting back roads he said, "Darling, you've been talking to the biggest bullshitter in Ubud all night long." My heart sank.
"Is Ian really a bullshitter?" I asked. "Tell me the truth now and save me the trouble later." "Ian?" said Felipe. He laughed. "No, darling! Ian is a serious guy. He's a good man. I meant myself. I'm the biggest bullshitter in Ubud."
We rode along in silence for a while.
"And I'm just teasing, anyway," he added.
Then another long silence and he asked, "You like Ian, don't you?"
"I don't know," I said. My head wasn't clear. I'd been drinking too many Brazilian cocktails. "He's attractive, intelligent. It's been a long time since I thought about liking anybody."
"You're going to have a wonderful few months here in Bali. You wait and see."
"But I don't know how much more socializing I can do, Felipe. I only have the one dress. People will start to notice that I'm wearing the same thing all the time."
"You're young and beautiful, darling. You only need the one dress."