The Comet Train
The train that transports us to Ubud is called Comet. I see the name listed in our itinerary after selecting my seat. That’s odd, I think, since this is Bali. I see Bernie board, the solo British fellow on our tour. He’s a lawyer, a little overly groomed. Nails with clear polish, daily reading glasses that match certain starched shirts. Is he gay, I wondered. Probably would be in America. He chooses the vacant seat next to me.
“Good breakfast,” he says, referring to our earlier buffet at the Westin.
“You think so?” I ask. Decide I don’t want to sound so cynical. “Yes, it was.”
Bernie settles in, switches sunglasses to tortoise-shell readers. I notice how they pair nicely his chocolate Izod shirt. He smells clean, an Aveda pomade scent.
“Don’t you think it’s odd that we’re on a train called Comet?” I ask. Point to our itinerary sheet.
“Funny, I never read mine,” Bernie says. He pauses for a long time. The train starts moving slowly from the station. It’s as if I’d asked him the meaning of life. “I find,” he finally says, “that every aspect of this trip has been unusual.”
“Really? How so? Can you think of another example?”
“Well, those dancers we saw last evening in Benoa? The ones doing the traditional dance, the sang hyang dedari?”
I nod. “Yes, they were amazing.” I lied, they’d haunted me, and when we’d returned to the Westin I couldn’t sleep. I decided to walk the beaches of Kuta, despite warnings against doing so in my Lonely Planet guidebook.
“Indeed, and many of the dancers were men.” Bernie waits for my reaction.
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, I asked our guide.” Ravindranat, is an Indian who lives in Nusa Dua. He prefers to be called Gusti Agung which roughly translates to Great Leader. Says a lot about him. He’s another odd bird, in fact, the whole tour has a sickeningly strange pallor.
Bernie retrieves a magazine from his man bag, the cover article reads “Relationships: Take Them or Leave Them.”
I’d travelled over 10,000 miles to get away from mine. My all-knowing yoga teacher recommends a country halfway around the world, purported to be over-the-top exotic, fascinating. No shopping, a place to get healthy. Take a break. Sounds like just the ticket I crave.
But here, every Bali moment I miss him, more and more. With each spectacular sunrise I think, what’s he doing? I re-play the tapes in my mind, those arguments where I had to be right, had to press my point. For what? I hate myself for it, way more than I can hate him.
I glance out the train window at the neon green latticed landscape, the rice paddies strewn between forest groves with tall trees that remind me of the eucalyptus trees back home.
“I’m homesick,” I say aloud, not expecting anyone to hear.
Bernie pats my knee, nods. “Hang in there mate,” he says. “There’s a nice spot in Ubud called Fly Cafe. How about you and I ditch the next tour. We’ll sit in the café, enjoy a nice meal with some local Bintang beer?”
I smile. “Okay, Bernie, Bintang it is.”