Wandering Thoughts

June 1, 2009

A Holiday to Remember

Filed under: Going Places,Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 10:55 am
Tags: , ,

an old blog post reworked…

I’ve been in a bar fight in Bali. I remember it well. We’d been drinking arak from jam jars in a pub shaped like a pirate ship. Steve and I had almost two excuses for this. The first was the six weeks we’d spent in a tiny Catholic village on an island in the Timor Sea. Surfing all day, going to bed at dusk and waking with the roosters before dawn. We’d earned it. The second excuse was Trish, a friend of Steve’s from Wellington, in Bali on her way home from Europe. Part Malaysian, with gentle brown skin and a body that ebbed and curved pleasantly, like waves on a good day. She was keen to party too.

Steve had wandered off and Trish and I were dancing. Silly dancing to be exact – exaggerated motions, extravagant moves. To be honest, it’s the only way I can dance: I grew up in Lower Hutt. I’m sure Trish could dance properly but she was indulging me. With our spirals and twirls we cleared ourselves a corner of the dance floor. Except for a local guy with blow-dried hair that swum over his shoulders and muscles that tugged at his just-too-tight shirt. Slowly, he triangulated the dance floor so it was him dancing with Trish, not me.

It was ok for a while, all part of the joke. Trish rolled her eyes. Eventually though, it needed to stop. Trish wasn’t interested and I was going to run out of dance floor if he kept it up. And so, following the advice of the Lonely Planet, I told him we were married: “Sorry mate – kita karwin”

If he understood my slurred Indonesian he didn’t listen. Trish tried next. She spoke Indonesian better than me. Unfortunately, she hadn’t read the guidebook: “Not interested friend. I like girls and he likes boys.”

That was a mistake. Not because he actually believed her. But more because it showed he wasn’t being taken seriously. He puffed up, turned away from Trish and – whap! – punched me in the throat. I can still remember my shock, my rising adrenaline, the gasp as my airway closed for a moment.

It wasn’t much of a fight. Like I said, I grew up in Lower Hutt – I know a thing or two about fights. In
particular, how to avoid them. I started talking, mollifying. Trish did the same, Steve turned up and things were eventually smoothed over.

And that’s the end of the story.

Funny thing is there’s another tale from that night. One I heard Steve tell years later at a barbeque in Manly. Almost every detail was the same, except in his retelling, Steve was the guy getting punched. I didn’t say anything; I didn’t know what to say. But I’ve wondered about it ever since.

Steve must have believed what he was saying was true. Why make something up in front of someone who was there. He even started the story by turning to me and saying, “remember that time in Bali?”

So I have a theory. Stories are currency on the road, exchanged to ease boredom while waiting for planes, shared on overnight buses, told to gob-smacked strangers around campfires. And, as far as surfers’ tales go, that bar fight’s ok. At least if you’re the guy who got hit. But if you weren’t, you hardly have a story. So I figure Steve must have begun retelling the story, with him on the receiving end. A small lie, all fair when you’re spinning a yarn. But told and re-told, stories take on a life of their own. And this one, I suspect, eventually ejected his real memories from the nest. By the time we were both sitting at that barbeque,

Steve was telling the truth as he remembered it.

Of course, there’s a competing theory. As you may have noticed I like story telling too. And, lord knows, there have been enough overnight buses and delayed planes in my life. So, it’s possible that I’m the culprit, maybe. But I don’t know. That punch, that choke, that shock, they all still feel awfully real.


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