Black Night by WhispersWW

Bali. October 7th 2005. Six days after the second bombings.

I arrived at Denpasar airport from Singapore in the late evening at a time when the airport is usually buzzing. How very different this night. The usual thirty-minute queue at Immigration was just a memory. Instead I
walked straight through, the customary jovial banter and laughter with the officials replaced with intense words about the bombings and gratitude for still visiting their beautiful island. 

The baggage hall echoed with emptiness. Maybe two dozen people disembarked from my Melbourne-bound plane. Lonely bags circled on a single baggage carousel. Heightened security was evident everywhere. Hardly surprising but against such terrorism, not of much use. Comforting, though.

Made’, a fellow therapist and singing bowl practitioner, met me on the other side of Customs. Young enough to be my son, beautifully Balinese and normally so reserved. On this most emotive of nights he walked up to me, took me in his arms and pulled me tight to his chest. A heart to heart greeting: soul to soul. Sorrow radiated out from his being, woven with happiness to see his friend. He walked very close to me as we
made our way to the car in silence, me with tears in my eyes.

As we drove we talked about the bombs. His limited English and my non-existent Balinese but we managed, fluent in what we needed to say.  He said he wanted to take me to see the site of the Kuta bomb. To feel it.
His words, not mine. I thought I might feel like a voyeur going to this place of carnage. How wrong that thought turned out to be.

We drove from the airport along roads crowded with coconut, palm leaf and bamboo shrines, totally deserted of people, with every shop and bar closed. An eerie silence threaded the darkness. No barking dogs; no hooting of horns. No laughter.

Police surrounded the bomb site but parted to let us through. We walked the few metres from the main street to the restaurant and bar that had been hit. It was a black night, in more than just the colour of the sky.
The buildings either side stood unscathed. A Haagen Dazs sign glinted in the glare of spotlights. A mangy street dog picked its way through the litter lying in the gutter, its daily struggle for life unchanged by the madness of the previous Saturday. Shattered glass crunched underfoot despite the fact the street had been swept.

And so we stood, young Made’ and I, in silent communion in front of the wooden hoardings that separated the bombed and blackened world within from the neon-lit world without. Pink and peach rose petals lay in a thick, deep carpet across the pavement. A restless stillness filled the air as a single candle flickered in the warm night breeze. A flame of remembrance. A flame of hope. An ephemeral reminder of the eternal
circle of death, and of life.


© Jacqueline Le Sueur, 2010. All Rights Reserved
 
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The Best American Short Stories 2010 (The Best American Series (R)) Edgar Allan Poe: The Complete Short Story Collection The Art of the Short Story