Stan wanted to get closer to the sink hole. “Under that crust you are standing on is mud. No one can save you once you start sinking.” He really didn’t care. “And I’m responsible for you, so get back off that sink hole you fucker.” I can imagine him sinking, East Javanese mud drawing him into Mother Earth.
I’m sure the rescue team would be informed and a ladder placed out on the mud to seeking to save him. Come to think of it, no ladders in sight.. Luckily it never came to that. Stan gingerly walked back onto the safe path. His time wasn’t just yet. He was playing with me. ’.
We’d met at a backpacker in Australia. I got him some roady work. He had recently had a motorbike accident in Thailand and was limping. But he assured me, he could work. Work he did and he eventually got everyone work at the backpackers. Stan taught me physical limitations could easily be overcome.
I took that year off. I lost a lot of money that season by not working. I’d missed my first flight back to Australia when Stan called me. “Hey Flight Misser!” He told me he was flying to Bali. He’d be flying back to Paris in a week. He’d been a dive master on Koh Tao in Thailand and wanted to bring his diving gear out to his new home. Things were working out for Stan in Oz. He was going to get working visa sponsorship. He was 32, the cut off year. I’d miss another three flights before this trip was over.
In Bali, I picked Stan up in Kuta. He was wearing his roady shirt. He showed me his new MacAir. Stan loved his new toy. He was always on Facebook texting his sweetheart in Australia. He was in love and about to open up a new chapter in his life. Australia. He was excited and very upbeat, but nervous at the same time. It was a big move for him. He was making that leap of faith. So far it was smooth sailing.
He wasn’t feeling well. He needed a fix. A dark cloud descended on his existence. He had a prescription for valium but the chemist wouldn’t sell him any over the counter. Beer, that’s what you need. First stop was Chicken Beach. It was a passing wave of gloom. He was in Bali after all, and he would just have to do without a fix, for now.
A few beers later, what fix? He had totally forgot about it. He was too wrapped up in the moment.Come on, let’s get out of here, I said, now it’s time to see the real Indonesia. Sana rented a car. “I’ll show you my world.” He was up for an adventure. Actually he had no choice in the matter. Me and Sana kidnapped him. Kuta has too many temptations for the likes of my French friend. Kuta induces madness.
I had about four days on my visa. It would be a mad dash across Bali. A ferry to Java, then a drive through the night to Surabaya, where I had another flight booked. Sana was up to the task. He’d need lots of soft drinks, but he’s always up for a trip to East Java, where I’m sure his Hindu roots originate.
Crossing over to Java, Stan just relaxed. He’d had enough of the shadows and the Bintangs. The sea was placid, a cool breeze and a volcano loomed in the distance. He told his story. His history was a familiar story of man against his elements. He survived the Thailand Tsunami. He was out on a boat when the big wave rolled into Ko Phi Phi. “My friends were killed. There was nothing I could do for them.” He told me of his addictions. He’d kicked most of them now.
But I did get the upper hand on that day at the mud flats on the way to Surabaya. I refused to pay entry free for the three of us. I would pay on the way out. I knew I had flustered the ticket boys. They came up to me demanding their entrance fee. I played dumb. Then they harassed Sana. A bit of pushing and shoving. How much, asked Stan who paid up immediately.
I laughed. I let out a demonic laugh. It was a slow day, and I needed my absurd fix. Stan got it. He wasn’t the only crazy one out there. There’s a legion of us out there. If only Stan had the moral fortitude to hold on. Things always get better, I told him.
The night before I flew out to Singapore from Surabaya I wanted to save money. I told Sana to sleep on the couch. Stan took him in. Sana and Stan shared a double bed. I caught my flight. Sana took Stan back to Bali and dropped him at the hot springs near Lovina. A week later Sana picked him up. Stan had found his paradise. I can still imagine him sitting in the sulphur waters, infused with minerals and a sense of well-being. Five weeks later, he landed back on Australia’s fatal shore.
Fast forward two years,and I hadn’t seen him since our Bali trip. “It’s time to face my demons,” he messaged me. He wrestled hard with them. Thailand was calling again. He’d followed his demons to Thailand. I said I couldn’t meet him there. Come to Bali, I suggested. He knew help was just a flight away.
The other day I got another message. Stan’s girlfriend wanted me to fly to Bangkok. “We’re cremating him.” That day I had a panic attack. I checked my pulse. No, it can’t be a heart attack yet I’m sweating profusely. Stan was up to his old tricks and letting me know that he was somewhere else.
Perhaps he had learned to fly.