One Saturday afternoon in Indonesia I went for a joy ride on my motorbike. I’d been working as a governess in Bali for the last month, and this was one of my first days off. It was a beautiful day in late June, and I wore a sundress, and flip-flops. Katye Perry was blasting on my ipod, and a smile was on my lips as I shot up into the mountains. In a word, I was being an asshole. A lazy, day-dreamer of an asshole, coasting through the beautiful landscape. One second I was rounding a bend at 50 km an hour, humming into the sunlight. The next second, the motorbike was launching into orbit, over a garganteun pothole.
I had a moment of clarity before hitting the ground. I thought to myself: ‘keep it straight. Keep it even. You can land this shit.’
Surprisingly, it turns out that I am not actually a BMX biker. Katye Perry continued to sing, as the bike crashed, and ground me into the pavement. My first thought was that my top had come down, and that there were scrapes all over my tits. My second thought, was that an entire village of onlookers were racing towards me, and could see my tits. My third thought, was that the front wheel of my bike seemed to still be turning . . . on my foot. I pulled up my top, and gasped in pain.
“Okay? You okay?”
One man spoke English, and began to lecture me on how much I’d fucked up my scooter. “Dude, it’s still running. Get it off of me,” I begged.
The villagers pulled the bike off, and carried me to my feet. I turned this way and that, searching for my flip flops. Then I shrugged and hobbled barefoot across the road, leaving a glistening trail of blood in my wake. The men ushered me into their compound, then motioned for me to stand on the steps of their family temple. An old woman came forward with a cup of coffee. I sipped the coffee, as I watched blood pour from my foot. I was bewildered that there was so much fluid inside of me.
Meanwhile, the resident English speaker was going on and on about his art business. I wanted to tell him ‘Buddy, now is NOT the time. You’ve gotta up your game somewhere else.’ But instead he continued to prattle on about genres of art, and a recent exhibition. As he spoke, another woman came by, this one bearing a bucket of water. “Hot,” she murmured, and poured it on my foot.
Pain went everywhere. My mind went black.
I dreamt briefly that I was in a hospital, laying in a comfortable bed. When I came to, I was depressed to discover otherwise. I was crumpled on the steps of the temple, with the coffee cup fallen to its side, and its contents mixing with my own blood. The family was looking at me me with fear and concern. Men were conversing, shaking their heads. The English speaker hurried up, and helped me to my feet.
Here is a good place to note: if there is one thing that the Balinese are scared of– it is weird white people. Now, if there is another thing that the Balinese fear– it is possession. As a highly superstitious community they fear contamination from the darker entities of the world. That being said- having a weird white person writhing on their temple steps, exhbiting signs of potential possession was just about as scary as it get’s for the Balinese. I was unsurprised when the artist stepped forward and said, “You must go.”
“Umm . . . ” I looked down at my mangled foot, then back at him. “Where?”
“Hospital. 6 kilometer from here.”
“How?” I asked. Taking a single step was daunting, and traveling 6 km downright impossible.
“Drive,” came the succinct answer.
“Sorry, I don’t think that’s gonna work,” I said, then blacked out again.
I came to on the back of my own motorbike, with my arms clutched around the waist of a stranger. Blood splattered onto the ground racing beneath me.
We pulled up outside of an office of some sort, and the man helped me inside of the thatched bamboo building. He lifted me onto a padded table, then handed me the key to my scooter. “Thank you,” I said and the stranger left. In his wake came an old man in a polo shirt, who had a doctor vibe. “Thank God,” I moaned and stretched. Pain coursed through my body.
“Still. Be still,” the doctor purred. His voice was soothing. He scrutinized my wounds, then withdrew a small, dark brown bottle. He regarded me with a sad expression as he uncorked it. “This may hurt,” he said, pouring its contents over my foot.
The pain I’d experience earlier that day paled in comparison. Actually, scratch that. All the pain I’d ever felt was dwarfed by the feeling that enveloped my flesh. I felt as if my foot was being consumed with flame, submerged in ice, and ravaged by wild dogs, all at once. The doctor opened a package, and withdrew a sterilized scrap of gauze. He began rubbing it in the gaping hole that was my left foot. I bit into my arm, to keep from screaming.
“Kuat,” the man looked at me with a surprised smile. “That is Indonesian for ‘strong.’”
I nodded, my teeth still wrapped around my arm.
Half an hour later, my foot was wrapped in gauze. “Can you put a big bandage around it?” I asked, pointing towards the ugly monster, that was the terminal point of my leg.
“No bandage,” the doctor said, shaking his head.
“You don’t have bandages?!?” I asked in shock. “What kind of doctor are you?”
The man laughed. “I am not doctor. I am acupuncturist,” he said proudly.
“Oohh,” I considered biting my arm again.