At my table, I had a view of the sea. I could see palm trees, white sand, half-dressed bathers and, according to Miss M’s later report, a Christmas tree with presents under it.
I missed the Christmas tree. Christmas was passed anyway. At that table, at that moment, I was simply glad to be seeing, finally, some of the Bali of the postcards. The Bali my friends of frostier climes had all sighed about when they’d heard I was going there. The Bali of romance, sunsets and ice-cold Bintangs.
I am not made for Bali. I melt, inside and out, when placed in hot and humid climates. And a tune had begun to play in my head – a desperate whining melody in a minor key. My thoughts needed interrupting.
And then they were. The tune changing to a bright, optimistic ‘show tune’ in the Key of M.
Miss M, one of my Bali holiday companions – one of a familial set with whom I was not yet familiar – broke through my thoughts and sat right down next to me on an adjacent sun lounger. She, with all the bubbly optimism of her seven years on this earth.
She interrupted my thoughts by making mention of a song that kept interrupting her thoughts. I asked her what the song was (because clearly she wanted me to).
‘It’s called “Arietta” and I think it’s by Mozart.’ She liked the tune, but she wasn’t glad that it interrupted her thoughts.
As I sat there, adjusting my thoughts, sitting position and dress straps, wiping perspiration from my face, I was glad of Miss M and her interruptions about interruptions. She was a delightful, attentive companion. When she saw I wasn’t doing so well, she brought her colouring book. She drew pictures of me and my dreams – dreams she knew little of – and yet intuited so beautifully.
I needed those thoughts of fading dreams interrupted. So I asked her what she loved most about the previous day?
‘Touching all the animals,’ she said. ‘I loved those turtles, the bat, the toucan, and that frilly, soft, chameleon-type-lizard thing. I also liked the bird that sat on my shoulder – an eagle, I think – except it looked like a seagull.’
She continued, ‘Going on the boat ride and stopping to look at the fish and feeding them. Riding in the glass boat and not having to wear a life-jacket! Collecting shells and having a nice lunch at the Beach Cafe. Then in the afternoon we went swimming and I taught you how to do ‘the helicopter’!
She was a girl who noticed things, remembered things, anticipated what others might need or want – offering you one of her hot chips just in case you might have regretted not ordering some yourself. Entering cafes, her bright, dark eyes would seek, and find, every eye in the room – capturing smiles from friends and strangers alike.
In the persistent heat, I enjoyed a homemade Ginger and Lime Cordial with soda – but not as much the company of Miss M – a bubbly, little spritzy drink for the soul, sent from God when my thirst for companionship was greatest.
This rare treasure entered my life.
Then left it.
All in a matter of weeks.