The Fisherman's Son

Tamar Sidi

          The water ripples in the sunset. The wrinkles on its surface vibrate like an old woman’s smile. Children build sand castles and tease each other with cackling laughter while their mothers sit on the side, chatting in low voices. A fisherman brings in his boat. I lie by the sea watching the sky. It is pink, purple, yellow, and orange all at once. 

           Ibu used to tell me not to venture out past sunset: “The roads are hard my sweet, the people are strange.” But she’s stopped her words of warning, just as she’s stopped rinsing my hair, stroking my cheek, kissing my arm. 

           I hear her nagging at tourists who pass along the rocky beach outside our home. “Please buy, please buy.” She shoves t-shirts, rings, sarongs in their faces. “I give you good price, buy two, very cheap. Maybe for girlfriend back home? This is good for you, come, come, buy.” They look at her assortment, entertaining the garments and jewelry with their dainty fingers, mildly interested. “I give you my evening price,” my mother squeaks out in desperation. Then, as usual, they walk away with “No, thank you,” or “Got plenty already,” or “Your price is too high.” They say they’ll come back later. “Promise me you’ll come back,” I hear her say. I can tell by her voice that she’s smiling at them when she speaks. I know her eyes are crinkled and kind even though she watches them leave knowing they’ll never return. “They lie to you, Ibu,” I always tell her, but she doesn’t listen. 

          Tourists. With their cameras and stuffed wallets. With their leather bags and clean shoes. They come to Lovina for the dolphin tour, cramming into boats that take them out early in the morning to see a fin or two, destroying the beauty of it all. They come to our village for the “serene local life.” They take pictures of each other outside my bedroom window because they like the view of the sea from that angle. Couples morph into each other at all hours of the day in the water, on the sand, and they giggle when I pass. But it is me who is embarrassed, never them. They find their peace here, but disrupt ours. And they still won’t buy a damn thing from my mother. 

          Mama used to hold me high above the waves, playing with me by my father’s fishing boat. My Ayahwas the best fisherman in north Bali, all the restaurants came to him for his fish. Always fresh, always the best in the sea. Hehad shown me all the best spots in the water, and he had taught me how to wind a line around a rusty tin can. Rods were expensive — “frivolous inventions,” he called them.  I was five when I caught my first barracuda, I was nine when I found his wrangled body on the reefs. His arms and legs were slashed from being pressed up against the rocks all night. His face was unrecognizable. Ibusaid we should give thanks to God for letting us find him. “Better to know, Wayan. Better to know than guess.” But I never knew if she was right. 

          I continued to take out the boat after his death. It was discolored after years of wear, but still had the faint yellow stripe on its bottom and the tiny etching Ibuand I engraved on my sixth birthday, “Life is good.” I was most myself when I sat on its wooden planks, surrounded only the sea. The water soothed me; Ayah taught me to never be afraid of it. It was powerful like the gods — able to abolish lives and inspire them anew — and gods shouldn’t be feared. They should be worshiped, revered, celebrated. Even after it took him, I regarded it with awe.  

          I knew I was distressing my mother by continuing to fish, but we struggled for stability without my father’s steady income and it came to me naturally. I was making more money than the other boys my age who sold petrol by the street or transported pigs over the island and I took my responsibility to feed my mother and sisters seriously.  Even so, Ibuwould clench up whenever I left to meet the fishermen and wouldn’t let me out the door until she murmured a prayer in my ear. 

         The men were fond of me. After the day had descended and we were all counting our catches — separating what we would bring to our families and what we would sell — they would sit with me and tell me stories about my father. They had all grown up together, learning to fish side by side. “He knew all the girls on the island, that brondong. They would gather by the beach, waiting for him to bring back the boat. One day, he took your mother out with him and when he came back with her, the other women looked on with such envy you would’ve thought he had proposed to her. When they found out later that that was exactly what he did, their screams and shouts could be heard all over the island.” 

           It warmed me to listen to their words. I missed having him in my life. I missed watching his muscles work when he tried to catch a huge fish. I missed him humming along to my voice as I sang American songs for hours on the fishing boat. I would always botch the lyrics but remember the melodies. I missed him opening the door to Ibu, kissing her cheek, and telling her about my successes of the day before even sitting down to eat.  

           A few years ago, I came home with a hook in my eyebrow after an unfortunate encounter with a particularly stubborn tuna. I wasn’t in terrible pain, but I needed someone to yank it out for me. The men sent me directly to my mother, afraid they would make a mistake. Looking back now, I wish I had gritted my teeth and done it myself. After Ibufound me with blood drooling down my face, she screamed and forbade me from fishing. “I can’t afford to have another hurt by the sea, Wayan,” she told me as she stitched me up. I was made to sell the boat. 

           Wade, a friend of mine since birth, offered me a job with him selling chickens and Ibu enthusiastically accepted on my behalf. I earned a fraction of what I had before and came home every day covered in feathers and dust with nothing fresh to put on the table.

            We used to play football with the village boys every evening, but now that we are seventeen we hardly even have time to sleep. My sisters, Made and Koming, would fill the bottom of their skirts with seashells and line them in the sand as goal posts. Wade always played the goalie, wearing a Gianluigi Buffon jersey he found after a tourist left it the beach. I played offense and kept count of the game. Sometimes I wish I could go back to then, when our toothy smiles would radiate joy and our only problems were a boy declaring to have scored a goal when he hadn’t, and our mothers calling us home for dinner when the game wasn’t yet over.  

Ibuwon’t admit how badly we need money, because she doesn’t want me to worry and she knows I’ll try to leave, but the slate of our roof threatens to fall through, and she frowns with concern each time we run out of clean water in the house.

           I must go. Just for a bit. There is no way for us to continue like this. Made and Koming sit out in the sun all day making crafts for Ibuto sell and bottling petrol for the boys by the road. Last week, Made found herself with a broken arm and we didn’t have the funds to pay for her surgery. Luckily, the doctor was a friend of my father’s and covered it for free, but we cannot go on relying on favors and pity. 

            Ibu was upset when I told her; she clung onto my wrist until it turned white. No one in my family has ever left the island of Bali, not even to travel to Java. I was restless, desperate to explore, deeply curious. “Tidak mungkin” she said. There was no way in hell. So, I told her I would stay on the island for now, that I would do the best I could for her and return to her with enough money to live comfortably.

            “Why not stay in Lovina, cyin?” She said to me, stroking my cheek, after she had gotten over her initial shock.

             “There is no change here, no hope, Ibu. Please trust in me.” 

             That evening I ate at a warungthat I’d been going to since I was a little boy. The place was small and damp, with cracked paint and missing tiles, but it still had the best Nasi Gorengin town. I scarfed down the fried rice while the owner, Putu, sat with me and listened to my plan.  

             “Leaving Lovina, eh?” he asked with a chuckle. It was almost unheard of. The fish and the sunsets are of the best here, but although Lovina once boasted a booming economy it now clings onto the wallets of stingy tourists, drowning in order to stay afloat. 

             Putu told me about a cousin of his working at the port in Sanur. “Start in Sanur and get a job on a speedboat, it is a steady pay and I know of an opening,” he said.  

             His cousin was told to expect me the day after tomorrow. I went home that night with a grin slapped on my face, packing all that I needed into a drawstring bag before tidying my room so that it could be rented while I was away. I didn’t own much to bring: a couple spare t-shirts, a watch, a flashlight, my father’s money pouch. I couldn’t tell my mother I would be working on the water again, I was afraid she wouldn’t let me go. I swore Wade to secrecy and promised that I would tell her later. 

             I had never been to Sanur before. It’s all the way in the South and Lovina is in the North. But Putu told me how to travel there by scooter, and I was sure I would find my way. 

             “It’s very different there,” he warned me. “Foreigners swarm the land like the flies in my damn warung!” He winked, and I gave him a lopsided smile, thanking him profusely. 

            My mother and sisters came out to see me go. “Be safe dear Wayan, be clever,” they called out. Made and Koming handed me two bracelets: one, white, for a peaceful spirit, the other, gold, for the god of Wisnu, representing happiness and prosperity. Their eyes were damp with tears, but they centered their hands on their hearts, praying to Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, for my safe journey. 

*    *    *


            Wind slashed against my face as my scooter rushed down the swirling mountain roads. Every so often I would tear my eyes from the path to catch a glimpse of the view: green for miles on end — a tapestry of bright shades almost startling to see. Look down the side of the mountain, see green, look up, see green, look across, see green. Life is so much more than mere humankind. Nature is alive and trying desperately to communicate with us, to soothe us, to remind us that our meagre problems are so much less than what we make of them, we are all alive on Earth together. We are alive. Thank God.

            The roads to the South were mostly downhill with sharp turns and no barriers to prevent slipping off the edge into the green unknown. Other motorbikes and scooters zoomed past me, waving their hands, giving a nod, or a quick smile. Some of the scooters had three people squashed on the seat. The women sat like ladies with their legs pressed together, dangling off to the side. Only a sliver of their bodies was supported by the seat, but they looked relaxed and at ease. There were babies too, clutched tightly by their mothers, and toddlers sitting behind drivers on the backs of scooters, holding on tightly to the back of a shirt or a belt loop. It’s the only way to get around Bali. We all grow up on them; sometimes there are five kids to one scooter. Tourists try to copy us when they visit, bringing their children along with no helmets all in the name of adventure. But they don’t know our roads, nor the quick, careless way we drive. Lane dividers serve as suggestions rather than rules, and indicator lights and caution are replaced with honking. Stray cats, dogs, chickens, and monkeys taunt every vehicle.   

            I kept on for a couple more miles, the view growing less and less magnificent as I advanced down the mountain. I stopped around lunchtime when I saw an elderly man selling banana fritters on the corner of the road. My mother had packed me some food, but I could never quite resist the taste of Pisang Goreng. I asked for a handful, and he handed them to me on a napkin, drizzling them in a thick syrup. The man said his name was Wayan as well. All first-born Balinese children are named Wayan. I parked my scooter next to his stand and he moved over to make room for me in the shade. A dozen monkeys hovered in the street around us, climbing the knotted tree.  He asked where I was going and as I devoured my sweet, crispy snack, I told him about my plans to work on a speedboat. His face was gentle and loving, and his voice was light from his smile. He said he had always loved the water but could never bring himself to leave his father’s shop. He wished me good health, protection from God, and luck. I thanked him before leaving and he touched my shoulder with fragile fingers.


*    *    *


           I arrived in Sanur by nightfall. The streets were congested with people, cars, restaurants, and shopping centers. My eyes were wide with wonder, my heart beating from excitement, nerves, the start of something new. It was hard to comprehend that I was only three hours from home, and even harder to understand why this was my first time on this side of the island.  

           Putu’s cousin, Ketut, was waiting for me outside his home in a crisp white shirt and denim jeans. 

“Wayan! Selamat datan, I hope you had an easy journey.” His face was like a boy’s, bright and hopeful, smiling through closed lips. He took my bag into his home and handed me a wet towel to cool off. “Come, we will meet my friends for dinner.” 

           I was exhausted, but after I had washed my face, had a cup of water and a plate of Nasi Goreng, I had my usual energy back. His friends were loud, funny, unapologetic. I had never been with such boisterous people.

           Each one would make a joke to great howls of laughter. I was mesmerized by them. 

           “Wayan, gan, tell us about Lovina, what’s it like?” 

           “How are the women there? Seksi? Montok?Sederhana?” 

           “Tell us about the craziest party, you must have a good story.” 

           They were well-intentioned and genuinely curious, watching me with laughing eyes. I stayed quiet that night, bouncing conversation back to them. How could I tell them that my “crazy” nights in Lovina consisted of playing guitar at sunset with Wade — the same friend I’ve had my whole life — and drinking just enough beer to tempt us to call our childhood girlfriends and invite them to join? How could I explain that I spent most of my time helping my mother sell cheap knickknacks to insolent tourists and driving around a little truck with a trunk-load of chickens to sell? They were from Sanur, well-adjusted to the busy life. I was from the slow moving, sleepy Lovina. 

           After dinner, when everyone was buzzed on beer and banter, we wandered the streets. Each boy delighted in showing me a different part of their neighborhood.

“This is the best bar.”

“This is the best warung.”

“This is the nicest bum, you should always say hello to him.”

          Some of them stopped to approach Western girls, asking for help with English practice. I was confounded. I usually avoided speaking to tourists—they had always bothered me, intimidated me, made me feel inferior. But the girls they approached seemed harmless. They giggled, flattered, and stopped for a short conversation, tousling their hair or gliding their fingers up their arms before prancing away in miniskirts and laughing amongst themselves. 


           Ketut woke me early the next morning slapping at my thigh with a dish towel. “Selamat pagi,let’s go my friend.” The sun had not yet fully risen. I blinked away the sleep, aching from my night on the wooden floor. He handed me a clean uniform: a white polo shirt with the little logo of a speedboat ironed onto the top right corner, loose blue pants, and a blue cap. I dipped my face under the cold shower drip and stared at it in the battered mirror. “Today is the day,” I thought to myself,“Hari ini adalah hari itu!” I combed back my hair and neatly placed the new cap on my head, pushing it down my forehead so that it covered the hook-shaped scar that ran up my left eyebrow. 

            Ketut sat at the kitchen table, his white shirt unbuttoned and his hair sticking out on all sides. “Eat quickly gan, we’re leaving in five.” I reached for the black coffee as he slid me a plate of fried rice and fruit. “Don’t worry, I’m ready whenever you are.” He laughed at me, scuffling my cap just enough to scare me into combing my hair again.  I turned on the dusty, metal radio that sat just to the side of me and Paradise FM started trickling into the air. More American pop. 

            Ketut started belting the lyrics to Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman,” spraying himself with a funky cologne. I watched him from the kitchen, trying not to laugh when he used his toothbrush as a microphone. He was so comfortable, even with his crooked teeth and flat nose. He was so confident, so likable. 

I got on the back of his scooter and he drove us to the port. A strange film seemed to be placed over the city. It was far too early for all the foreigners of the night before; the streets were made up only of locals. Women walked soundlessly along the streets placing the morning offerings of canang sari in front of their homes. They knelt delicately with their legs placed tightly together, slightly constricted by their long skirts, and recited the appropriate prayer. Smoke from incense wafted through the air, reminding me of my mornings back in Lovina. It comforted me to know that the Hindu tradition is strong here, too. 

           The manager of Speedy, Captain Kadek, was a chubby, congenial man. As soon as he met me, he put away the passenger cards he was sorting and bowed his head slightly. “Ketut has spoken very highly of you, I am very pleased you are with us,” he said before leading me along the beach to introduce me to my coworkers. They were a small, intimate group, chatting and smoking around one rickety bench. I recognized a couple tan faces from the night before, taunting a stray dog with scraps of food. “Nongkrong! Come sit!” They called to me, poking at my fresh uniform and clapping my back. I coughed up a big smile.  

           The tourists came in around nine, great big flocks of them with gobs of sunscreen, beach towels and armfuls of luggage. We weren’t the only speedboat company littering the beach, half a dozen others lined up alongside us sporting names like “Rocky” and “Scoot” and “Fast Water.” 

           “Where do we go for the speedboat?” asked a woman wearing a sunhat that seemed to cover her entire face. 

           “Which company are you booked with madam?” I gave her my best non-Indonesian accent.

           “Speedboat to the Gili Islands.”
           “Yes, they all go to the Gilis, but which company?” Her makeup dripped down her skin, the rouge of her cheeks blending with the black from her lashes. 

           “I really don’t know why it’s so difficult for you to direct me which way to go,” she said, and she squinted at me until I was nothing but a slit in her eye, folding her arms over her purse. Ketut came over and asked for the woman’s booking information before directing her to Rocky.  

            “It’s ok, man, don’t worry about it,” he said when he found me still standing there

confused and agitated. 

            I shadowed Ketut for the morning, watching as he went up to tourists standing in groups waiting to board. He would introduce himself and bow his head, sometimes cracking a joke or complimenting a kid’s shirt before offering to take their suitcases from them. I helped him gather dozens of heavy cases to the edge of the sand and we all stood in the water, hauling them up, passing them over to others at the edge of the speedboat. 

           The August heat hit with full severity and I tried to block the sun with each case I lifted. Our pants were drenched. The bags were so full. Each time I lifted one, I feared it would burst open and spill out. But they were all passed carefully onto the boat with no complications. The cases had little tags on them with the owner’s name, the island they were heading to, and the accommodation they would be staying at written in black ink. There were about seventy people hiding in the scarce bit of shade and waiting for us to give them the okay. 

          “This is the fun part,” said Ketut. “Help them onto the boat, grab their arm and make sure you have good footing.”

          The passengers had to step in the water in order for us to hoist them up. The women complained to each other that their dresses had gotten wet, that it would “spoil the material.” I held my arm out for them and they each grasped me uncertainly, a couple of them wobbled with the waves, but I held the small of their back until they were rightfully on the boat. Each one thanked me profusely. I stayed at the front with Ketut, assisting some children onboard with their fathers, who also seemed to have some trouble.

         “I didn’t realize people needed help with this,” I said. I wasn’t trying to brag, I was genuinely a bit shocked. 

          “You’re used to living by the water, brother. You’re used to seeing the ocean, feeling the waves. For the most part, our passengers are not. You will be a great addition here.”

           I was happy to be wanted, to be useful. I was happy to help the tourists and be thanked and smiled at. In Lovina, they hadn’t even spared me a glance. 

          The boat was first to stop at Nusa Lembongan, then Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno. The surrounding islands of Bali each have their own unique personality (At least that’s what I’ve been told;not that I, nor any of my friends, have been so far from home).

          My job was pretty simple: go up and down the aisles a few times, be polite and courteous, smile and ask if I can help in any way, point passengers to the restroom at the end of the boat, hand out cold towels and sick bags at the start of the journey and mints in the middle. Families sat clustered together. Some of them were jovial, engaging in upbeat conversation, flipping through maps. Others were sour and whined that they were sick, constantly asking me, “How much longer until Gili T?” The children were spoiled, crying to their parents out of boredom, feigning hunger for snacks. Groups of European and American backpackers took up seats near the back, treating their Lonely Planet books like bibles. They used their selfie sticks to capture each other making silly faces or kissing. They howled with laughter and shared inside jokes about all the hostels they had been to. 

          Ketut said we should be friendly to all passengers. If we saw one traveling alone, we were encouraged to approach them and entertain them with conversation. He said it was extremely important to practice our Balinese manners. 

          Only one person sat alone, a girl in the last row. She wore bright pink headphones around her head and had thick, dark eyebrows that arched so high it seemed an expression of shock was frozen on her face. A huge backpack sat next to her, a yoga mat was tied to its top and a pair of sneakers dangled from the strap. I remember how she refused to hand it over to Ketut.

           I used my sleeve to wipe off the sweat on my face and approached her. She smelled like vanilla and coconut oil. The milky glow of her skin reflected in the window. 

“Do you mind if I sit here?” I asked. 

           “Oh, um… no, I guess not.” She seemed frazzled but moved her backpack from the seat beside her. 

           “Are you traveling alone?” 

           “I’m meeting up with friends on the island, they are taking the later boat.” Her eyes fluttered up away from the phone and book in her lap to look at me.

“Gili Trawangan?” 

“Gili Air.” 

“I hear that’s a honeymoon spot.” 

           “Well, all I know is that it’s quieter than Gili T. I can’t stand the packs of tourists.” Her laugh was like the whisper of a wind chime: airy and full of light. I smiled and turned to face her better, she had a full face of freckles and a tiny silver nose ring. Her name was Mia.

           “I mean, just look at them!” She motioned to a couple sitting diagonally to us vigorously attacking the surfaces around them with alcohol wipes. “And a beer at this hour? That’s Australian trash for you,” she pointed to a sunburnt blond gulping a can of Corona. I couldn’t suppress my grin.  

“Where are you from?” I asked. 

           “New York originally, but I’ve been traveling for the past two years. I don’t like to tie myself to a single place. I belong to the world.” 

           I sat with Mia for the rest of the ride, excusing myself only when Ketut motioned for me to hand out the mints or tend to another passenger. Once she got to talking about her travels, she became animated, her hands flailing with expression. She showed me photographs on her digital camera; pictures of Nepal, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore flashed before my eyes. The book in her lap was a journal bound in leather. When she flipped through it to tell me a story about a group of village children she befriended, I caught exquisite drawings she had done of the people she had met and places she had seen. 

“I’ve had a marvelous time, but I miss New York.”

“But why? What’s it like there?”

          “I suppose it’s where people go to be successful. It’s a very serious place, but it’s also the most diverse place you can go. People from all over the world move there. I’ll continue to travel for as long as I can, but it will always be where I return.” She let me swipe through the pictures on her phone of her home so many thousands of miles away, “It’s the Big Apple, that’s all. Anything is possible there.”  


*    *    *

           Life on the speedboat continued somewhat uneventfully. Every day we transported four or six groups, depending on how strong the current was. Once, it was so powerful that it slowed our journey back from four hours to sixteen. Each wave hurled over the windows, creating the illusion of our boat being submerged. Small amounts of water came in through the cracks, dripping onto shaking shoulders. Tourists prayed and cried. They closed their eyes and held onto each other. They glared and cursed. Ketut and the others laughed, “It happens sometimes. No worries my friends, no worries.” We went over to passengers with lemon mist and nausea pills to help revive them. You can imagine the anger when I ran out of sick-bags to hand out.

Mia had made it part of her daily routine to have breakfast at Mowie’s, a shack serving fresh juices and bits of morning food, next to the Gili Air port. Our boat came in around eleven and I always looked over expectantly to catch a glimpse of pink headphones and a light hand raised to wave from a white sunbed. She was always alone, which made me wonder about the friends she had supposedly met up with. 

          Since Gili Air was the last stop on our route, after I helped anchor the boat, carry the suitcases, and get passengers aboard horse carriages to their accommodations, I would sit with Mia while the rest of the crew enjoyed a smoke together before heading back to Bali with the next batch of passengers. The boys would tease me good naturedly, “You flirt! Kamu genit!” I didn’t think of myself as a flirt at all, but Mia brought out a different side of me. I loved to make her laugh, to watch her smile, to hear about her life. I had never met anyone like her, let alone a tourist. When young children stopped by her table to sell their goods, she always bought something from them. She bargained firmly, but never turned any of them away. She wore all the purchases from her travels, her arms were stacked with bangles and bracelets, her neck laden with tangled necklaces, her fingers heavy with rings. I showed her the bracelets my sisters had made for me and told her about my mother’s work while she listened with intent.

           Mia stayed on the island for two weeks, much longer than most. Before she went off to mainland Lombok, she wrote down her number on a damp napkin and told me to keep in touch, drawing a smiley face in the corner. I found myself intensely upset when we said goodbye. 

When Ketut called for me to join the others to start gathering suitcases, I quietly folded the number away in my money pouch and left her sitting by the sea twirling her red locks around her finger. 

*    *    *

            A few months after I started at Speedy, I sat with Ketut on the sofa in the dark little room in Sanur. An onslaught of rain splattered against our windows and the radio static created a soft buzz, enclosing us in a safe space. I stared out into the dark gray sky and closed my eyes. 

            “Don’t worry, Wayan. She’ll come around eventually, it will just take time.” When I first arrived in Sanur, I spoke to Ibuand my sisters regularly. They insisted that they were getting on alright. Wade had found someone to occupy my bedroom and the rent was helping them cope. I still hadn’t told them about my work, they thought that I was switching between jobs, but I had begun to feel extremely guilty for concealing the truth. I called my mother last week to tell her about the speedboat, thinking she might have gained a new perspective. She hasn’t spoken to me since. 

            “Ha. You don’t know my Ibu,” I told him, shaking my head. 

            “Well, in the meantime at least you have Mia to occupy your thoughts,” Ketut smirked andthrew my phone across the room. It flashed with a green light. A new text. I felt my ears turn red. 

            Mia and I had been messaging regularly. She was heading back home after her long trip around the world and had just sent me a new number to contact her with. I never learnt to read or write in English— Ketut said he would try to teach me the little that he knew— but for now we juggled between voice messages and Google-Translated sentences. My heart pounded with each notification.

            New York had always been an abstract place that I knew existed, but never fully grasped. Now, it began to appear everywhere. Snippets of overheard conversation, skyscrapers on television, three letters on sweatshirts. I thought about it often. Was it full of more people like Mia? Or was she an exception? How many places around the world had people like her? She sparked a sense of restlessness within me, a hunger to move and travel and see. 

           Work seemed so much more tedious. The other passengers seemed so simple, so superficial. They spoke loudly without listening andtook photos without looking. They moved place to place according to what they thought would impress others, not from the depths of their own heart. 

           The thought of returning to Lovina suffocated me. I was afraid to be bound there like before, to fall into a routine far too familiar. But I felt that my father’s spirit must be disappointed in me. I remembered how he once took my head in his hands, crouched down in the fishing boat and stared right into my childish eyes to tell me: “Life is about balance, we cannot exist alone. Trees cannot survive without the help of other elements, nor can a family grow strong without each other’s support. Nothing comes before famili, not ever. Understand Wayan?” I couldn’t stay here knowing my mother’s anger, I couldn’t continue to work knowing I had wounded her. I would explain to her why it was so important for me to be with water, I would make her understand. 

 “I have to go back,” I said, shuffling in my seat. 

“What? Where?” Ketut removed the cigarette from his mouth.


“Don’t be crazy, gan. Come, let me make you some coffee.”

“I’m serious. Just to visit. My family relies on me and I’ve upset them.” 

“Isn’t that why you’re here? To make money for them?” He looks at me with disbelief.

           “I’ve offended them, I disobeyed my mother, I did not speak the truth. My sisters are without their elder brother. My Ayahwouldn’t have wanted this.I’ll come back,” I say. “I’m just going to visit, I’ll come back.” 

Ketut grabbed the keys to his scooter and pushed me out the door, we were soaked to our 

skin the second we stepped outside. “Let’s go,” he slapped my back good naturedly. “I’ll make sure we’re there and back before tomorrow night.”