I have twelve minutes to make it through Bintang picking up whatever it was I wrote on the list and left in the kitchen and get back across town to pick Alula up at the library. I slide the car into a sweet spot in the shade, jump out and am heading, keys in hand, across the carpark when I hear,
I almost jump out my skin. There sitting on the steps of the supermarket is the woman I’ve been avoiding since, well, since our return to Bali. Since we arrived just over a year ago we’ve only met maybe two Balinese people we’ve really not liked. But this woman plain gives me the heebee geebees. She sends my psycho compass spinning. She makes me want to reach for a bottle of holy water. If this was Sunnydale, you’d know she’d stepped right out of the hellmouth. If I were Buffy I’d slay her without asking any questions.
‘Hi,’ I say. It comes out kind of strangled.
‘You need visa?’ she asks.
‘Er,’ I say, fumbling for an answer. This lady is just trying to part me from my cash. That’s her job. She organizes visas for ex-pats. But I’m sure she also curses them with black magic when they say no. ‘No, I’m good right now,’ I say nervously.
‘I get you visa,’ she says.
‘No, I’m good thanks,’ I say. ‘Visa sorted.’ Please don’t curse me.
I’m about to move off, aware that time is ticking when this white dude next to her with a straggly beard and a cap, stands up. He looks like an extra from Winter’s Bone, like he just spent the last week camped out in a shack in the hinterlands of Minnesota cooking up some meth.
And when he opens his mouth I think I must have the gift of clairvoyancy. Because the man is clearly high on something meth-like.
‘You must come on Sunday,’ he says to me.
I stare at him. I stare at the heebee geebee woman wondering how these two know each other.
‘Um, I must come where?’ I ask, thinking he’s about to ask me to some cookathon.
‘This woman she’s amazing she saved my life you know Anna she knows Kali who came here six years ago she saved so many people and she’s having a Tantra workshop and you must come and ….’
I know my mouth has fallen slightly open and I’m kind of gaping, whilst also looking over the top of my sunglasses at him wondering how he managed to make the verbal leap from ‘visa’ to ‘tantra’. Talk about non-sequitur.
I am rendered speechless. He rambles on some more about tantra. In my head this is what I’m thinking:
What the fuck is this guy saying? Think of some excuse. What are you doing on Sunday? Tell him you’re going to Singapore. No, don’t do that because scary lady might ask questions about my visa. Tantra? With this dude? I feel sick. And how does evil lady know this crazy lunatic? And god what are the odds of running into two totally mental crazy people outside Bintang and just when I’m in a hurry? Actually don’t answer that. The odds are pretty high in this town of bumping into a crazy person outside the supermarket. Shit, he’s staring at me again. Pull your sunglasses up. Make an excuse. Is it rude to interrupt him? If you don’t interrupt him he’s going to talk until your ears bleed. Don’t make eye contact, back away slowly, slowly now. Smile brightly. Now say it.
‘Thanks, but I have to run. I have to pick up Alula.’
There I said it. I run. He’s still talking about Sunday and tantra and this woman called Jo or whatever to my departing back.
When I come out two minutes later he’s still there. He’s still talking. I dash across the car park with my trolley avoiding eye contact.
I might have to start avoiding the supermarket. It’s getting too stressful dodging the lunatics in this town.