So I was kind of surprised the next night when--after he'd made me dinner at his house and after we'd sprawled on his couch for several hours and discussed all manner of subjects and after he'd unexpectedly leaned into me for a moment and sunk his face toward my armpit and pronounced how much he loved the marvelous dirty stink of me-- Felipe finally put his palm against my cheek and said, "That's enough, darling. Come to my bed now," and I did.
Yes, I did come to his bed with him, in that bedroom with its big open windows looking out over the nighttime and the quiet Balinese rice fields. He parted the sheer, white curtain of mosquito netting that surrounded his bed and guided me in there. Then he helped me out of my dress with the tender competence of a man who had obviously spent many comfortable years getting his children ready for bathtime, and he explained to me his terms--that he wanted absolutely nothing from me whatsoever except permission to adore me for as long as I wanted him to. Were those terms acceptable to me?
Having lost my voice somewhere between the couch and the bed, I only nodded. There was nothing left to say. It had been a long, austere season of solitude. I had done well for myself. But Felipe was right--that was enough.
"OK," he replied, smiling as he moved some pillows out of our way and rolled my body under his. "Let's get ourselves organized here."
Which was actually pretty funny because that moment marked an end to all my efforts at organization.
Later, Felipe would tell me how he had seen me that night. He said that I seemed so young, not in the least bit resembling the self-assured woman he'd come to know in the daylight world. He said I seemed terribly young but also open and excited and relieved to be recognized and so tired of being brave. He said it was obvious I hadn't been touched in such a long time. He found me teeming with need but also grateful to be allowed to express that need. And while I can't say that I remember all that, I do take his word for it because he seemed to be paying awfully close attention to me.
What I mostly remember about that night is the billowy white mosquito netting that surrounded us. How it looked to me like a parachute. And how I felt like I was now deploying this parachute to escort me out the side exit of the solid, disciplined airplane which had been flying me during these few years out of A Very Hard Time in My Life. But now my sturdy flying machine had become obsolete right there in midair, so I stepped out of that single-minded single-engine airplane and let this fluttering white parachute swing me down through the strange empty atmosphere between my past and my future, and land me safely on this small, bed-shaped island, inhabited only by this handsome shipwrecked Brazilian sailor, who (having been alone himself for far too long) was so happy and so surprised to see me coming that he suddenly forgot all his English and could only manage to repeat these five words every time he looked at my face: beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful and beautiful.