I finally sat down with Wayan and told her about the money I'd raised for her house. I explained about my birthday wish, showed her the list of all my friends' names, and then told her the final amount which had been raised: Eighteen thousand American dollars. At first she was shocked to such an extent that her face looked like a mask of grief. It is strange and true that sometimes intense emotion can cause us to respond to cataclysmic news in exactly the opposite manner logic might dictate. This is the absolute value of human emotion--joyful events can sometimes register on the Richter scale as pure trauma; dreadful grief makes us sometimes burst out laughing. This news I had just handed to Wayan was too much for her to take in, she almost received it as a cause for sorrow, so I sat there with her for a few hours, telling her the story repeatedly and showing her the numbers again and again, until the reality began to sink in.
Her first really articulate response (I mean, even before she burst into tears because she realized she was going to be able to have a garden) was to urgently say, "Please, Liz, you must explain to everyone who helped raise money that this is not Wayan's house. This is the house of everyone who helped Wayan. If any of these people comes to Bali, they must never stay in a hotel, OK? You tell them they come and stay at my house, OK? Promise to tell them that? We call it Group House . . . the House for Everybody . . ."
Then she realized about the garden, and started to cry.
Slowly, though, happier realizations come to her. It was like she was a pocketbook
shaken upside down and emotions were spilling all over the place. If she had a home, she could have a small library, for all her medical books! And a pharmacy for her traditional remedies! And a proper restaurant with real chairs and tables (because she had to sell all her old good chairs and tables to pay the divorce lawyer). If she had a home, she could finally be listed in Lonely Planet, who keep wanting to mention her services, but never can do so, because she never has a permanent address that they can print. If she had a home, Tutti could have a birthday party someday!
Then she got very sober and serious again. "How can I thank you, Liz? I would give you anything. If I had husband I loved, and you needed a man, I would give you my husband."
"Keep your husband, Wayan. Just make sure Tutti goes to university." "What would I do if you never came here?"
But I was always coming here. I thought about one of my favorite Sufi poems, which says that God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now. I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen. "Where are you going to build your new house, Wayan?" I asked.
Like a Little Leaguer who's had his eye on a certain baseball glove in the shop window for ages, or a romantic girl who's been designing her wedding dress since she was thirteen, it turned out that Wayan already knew exactly the piece of land she would like to buy. It was in the center of a nearby village, was connected to municipal water and electricity, had a good school nearby for Tutti, was nicely located in a central place where her patients and customers could find her on foot. Her brothers could help her build the home, she said. She'd all but picked out the paint chips for the master bedroom already. So we went together to visit a nice French expatriate financial adviser and real estate guy, who was kind enough to suggest the best way to transfer the money. His suggestion was that I keep it easy and just wire the money directly from my bank account into Wayan's bank account and let her buy whatever land or home she wants, so I don't have to mess around with owning property in Indonesia. As long as I didn't wire over amounts bigger than $10,000 at a time, the IRS and CIA wouldn't suspect me of laundering drug money. Then we went to Wayan's little bank, and talked to the manager about how to set up a wire transfer. In neat conclusion, the bank manager said, "So, Wayan. When this wire transfer goes through, in just a few days, you should have about 180 million rupiah in your bank account."
Wayan and I looked at each other and sparked off into a ridiculous riot of laughter. Such an enormous sum! We kept trying to pull ourselves together, since we were in some fancy banker's office, but we couldn't stop laughing. We stumbled out of there like drunks, holding on to each other to not fall over.
She said, "Never have I seen a miracle happen so fast! All this time, I was begging God to please help Wayan. And God was begging Liz to please help Wayan, too."
I added, "And Liz was begging her friends to please help Wayan, too!"
We returned to the shop, found Tutti just home from school. Wayan dropped to her knees, grabbed her girl, and said, "A house! A house! We have a house!" Tutti executed a fabulous fake faint, swooning cartoonishly right to the floor.
While we were all laughing, I noticed the two orphans watching this scene from the background of the kitchen, and I could see them looking at me with something in their faces that resembled . . . fear. As Wayan and Tutti galloped around in joy, I wondered what the orphans were thinking. What were they so afraid of? Being left behind, maybe? Or was I now a scary person to them because I'd produced so much money out of nowhere? (Such an unthinkable amount of money that maybe it's like black magic?) Or maybe when you've had such a fragile life as these kids, any change is a terror.
When there was a lull in the celebration I asked Wayan, just to be sure: "What about Big
Ketut and Little Ketut? Is this good news for them, too?"
Wayan looked over at the girls in the kitchen and must have seen the same uneasiness I had seen, because she floated over to them and herded them into her arms and whispered some reassuring words into the crowns of their heads. They seemed to relax
into her. Then the phone rang, and Wayan tried to pull away from the orphans to answer it, but the skinny arms of the two Ketuts clung on to their unofficial mother relentlessly, and they buried their heads in her belly and armpits, and even after the longest time they refused--with a fierceness I'd never seen in them before--to let her go.
So I answered the phone, instead.
"Balinese Traditional Healing," I said. "Stop by today for our giant close-out moving sale!"