“I can’t find it.”
My flight departs to Bali from JFK airport at 9:05AM. It is 6:45AM. I am still in the driveway of what I used to call my home, over an hour away from JFK. My family and I hopped around central New Jersey like nomads for most of my life. It wasn’t until I was 20 that we found a place that finally felt like it was ours. After my first full year by myself in Australia, I decided to come back home to New Jersey for Christmas. I had just ended my relationship with my partner in Australia. It ended terribly, but we still agreed to be adults and go on our booked holiday to Thailand together. That ended even worse. I ended our relationship because somewhere along the line, I lost a major part of who I was as a person and I couldn’t find that again if I stayed with him. I decided that if I came back to America for a little bit while I organised my next visa, then I might be able to find that spark that made me…me. No spark was ignited. I couldn’t find it.
I also cannot find my passport. I cannot find it in any of my three bags, so carefully packed to move to Australia for a third time. My bags now look like the Watergate office break in – completely and randomly ravaged. I am hysterical. My friend Reid was kind enough to wake up and drive me to the airport to send me off. I have really enjoyed my time with Reid while being home and have spent most of my time back home with him. Everybody in my life is in love with him. I do love him. He is a good friend to me…but our lives and our circumstances were never in sync with one another. The universe is weird. I am sure there is good reason for that. I know that I would be lucky to have Reid in my life, especially as a partner…but moving back to America is not an option. I am hysterically crying in his car because my passport is gone, and my passport is the only way that I can escape here again.
After a third rummage through all of my bags I finally find my passport, tucked away under an old favourite jumper on my dining room floor I had decided to leave behind. The irony. I am trying to run away from home (again) and old parts of me are still trying to keep me here…even after I’ve already closed the door and locked it behind me. I get in the car and I cry as Reid drives us away, leaving my home to slip into the shadows of the dark winter woods. I cry for almost thirty minutes. I cry because I found my passport. I cry because I am about to experience a new country. I cry because I am going to be reunited with some of the best friends I’ve made in Australia. I cry because Reid just handed me a matching bracelet to wear around my wrist while I am away, and I’ll miss him. I cry because I gained so much weight from my six weeks back in America that the bracelet looks like it’s going to snap off of my pudgy wrists and send the beads flying through the window like bullets. I cry because I am not leaving on good terms with my family. I cry because I don’t know when I will see them again. I cry because this trip back home destroyed whatever was left of me after Thailand. I cry because I don’t know what I am doing with my life. I cry because I did not find what I was looking for back home. I cry because I am so scared of what the next chapter is going to bring.
Spoiler alert: I cry a lot lately.
Reid is doing a good job of consoling me. He is promising to visit Australia and to meet me in Hawaii in a few months.
Spoiler alert: he breaks his promises.
I think I am so emotional because even though I am physically boarding a flight to Bali, I’m not so sure my sanity is coming with me. I don’t even think it’s in the car with me right now. I don’t really stop these random outbursts of laughter and tears until we pull up to the terminal and Reid and I say goodbye. I didn’t know that was going to be the last time we really spoke to one another. He pulls away and, despite how late I am arriving to the airport, I take my time walking to the security line while I play with the beads that don’t feel as cold as they should feel around my wrists.
My friend Alice is living in Bali for a few weeks and invited me to meet her there before I arrived back in Australia. Without thinking, I said yes. The new Joey is bold and jumps before looking, which are great new qualities to have after not having them for 26 years, but he still misses the old Joey that tried bringing a little sunshine with him wherever he went. I am bold but jaded now. It takes me 24 hours to get to Bali from New York. Emotionally exhausted, I slept for 20 of them. I eventually make my way through a weird security system and try my best to get an Uber as I barely have enough cash to get me through half of this trip. I have no business being on this holiday. It takes me an hour winding through the parking garage floors of this airport to find the Uber I’ve booked…but he wants cash.
“I don’t have cash…I only have enough to pay for my room in Ubud.”
The group of Indonesian Uber drivers laugh at me for not realising that this is the norm here. I cry again. Culture shock can kill you when you’re already dead.
“So what are you gonna eat if you have no money?” they question.
“Bananas? Cheap market vegetables?” I say. I really mean that – I know I’m on a budget and I’ll eat whatever I need to eat to get back to Australia.
“HAHA like a monkey!” they holler. I walk away and burst into tears.
A strange man follows me because I won’t use his taxi services. I probably look like easy prey with my hopelessness and my red eyes. It’s 4:23AM. I am completely alone in a country I know nearly nothing about. A taxi driver sees that I am upset and offers me half of what everybody else is offering to drive me all the way to Ubud. There are angels among us. There are angels everywhere. He buys me a bottle of water without me even asking and escorts me through the pouring rain to his taxi. We discuss his family, his son, food, and cultural norms of Bali. When we finally get to Ubud, I pay him nearly as much of what everybody else was asking. It’s the right thing to do for everything he has done.
I open the gate to my homestay. The metal door screeches over the pavement in the still of the night. I meet the owner and his dog with an underbite greets me by licking the dried tears on my cheek. I feel at peace instantly. I retire to my room and I fall asleep easier than I have in months. I dream in colour that night. I dream an aura that seemed all too familiar. It felt nice to be reunited. Bali might be exactly what I need to find what has been lost. The sound of roosters wakes me up and I don’t think twice about putting on a tank top and my old baseball cap. I pack my old flannelette backpack that has been to every country that I have. We are ready for our next adventure. I step outside and I feel the warm Indonesian sunshine touch my face. For the first time in a long time, I don’t feel like crying. Everything is going to be OK.
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