absquatulate. (leave. split.)

Men in blue sarongs bring papaya, jackfruit, and melon to the garden table, already bright with orchids tipping in the tropical breeze.  The banana juice arrives, sweet with date palm syrup, along with a mound of poached eggs, announced by deep warm voices calling me ibu.   Mother, woman. I try to plug my groggy brain into this unfamiliar voltage, halfway around the globe from where I started two days ago.  I’m waking to my first morning in Bali.

It was 3:30 before I crawled under the mosquito netting the night before, so my body buzzes as it re-calibrates time zones, thirty hours of flight, the damp, fragrant air.  I sit and sip as long as the banana frosty holds out, watching barefoot women on the grass weave fronds and blossoms into altar offerings, wondering when the rest of me will show up.

When I find the computer to email home, I am already too late.  A message is waiting for me there, politely waiting through the long funnel of flight, through Detroit, Seoul, Dempassar, Ubud, breakfast – a tender message telling me that my mother-in-law has died while I was slicing through the air over Russia.

My stomach drops.  The thick air spins.  My bare feet touch the cool tile floor; far, far away from the only place I belong at that moment.

There is a fitful surge of calls to airlines and tour operators, the hungering cry to retrace my steps, be home now, lace my arms through my husband’s.  It takes extra brain cells to focus on flight schedules while my heart opens and grieves; while the fresh faces of my traveling companions arrive to begin an adventure I am bent on bailing.

There is not an airline seat leaving Bali, I learn, for eight days.  I will miss the family gathering, the celebration of Phyllis’ life.  My brow is covered in moisture.  Lovely women in sarongs offer me paper napkins and fans to compose myself.  I look down and see that I’ve put on my dress inside out.

So I enter the weaving tour of Timor and Bali.  Divided. I swim at sunrise with monkeys, attend cremation celebrations of other’s people’s mothers, hold the indigo-tipped hands of dyers and weavers.  All the while, my heart is at home.

And isn’t grief, in some ways, just that?  The state of being divided?  While one’s feet move through days, however pleasant the light or kind the people, the heart is underground in a dark, unarticulated place to which we seem to belong for a time.  You cannot focus.  You cannot get things done, in that simple, single-minded way to which you had been accustomed.  When a friend says their heart is broken, I understand they are broken into two pieces.  They are living in two time zones at the same moment.  Both here in this conversation with me, and also far away, in a thicker, silent one. No wonder grief is exhausting.

When I finally got on a flight bound for home, waiting on the tarmac at 2:00 in the morning for take-off — it was cancelled.  Two night later, I got as far as Hong Kong.  On the third day, I was lifted all the way home.  During that long wait of days, I held a beautiful hunger  for home.  For my husband.  For the simple, tender passages we make together.    And now, at last, I am here.  I wake up to breakfast, and the sound of my husband’s voice as he cooks me eggs, as his warm deep voice calls out to  me, as he calls me by my name.


~ by Stephanie on 08/28/2010.

One Response to “absquatulate. (leave. split.)”

  1. I love how you’ve woven a story here, a beautiful narrative with such ease, despite its depth.

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