If the oceans were divided into nations, I surely belonged in the Pacific. I whirled down towards the vortex of death until I went to the Pacific. The Atlantic with its colorful waters and the Indian with its treasures in sunken ships, had not swept me away. My soul reached out to the Pacific after a night of turmoil and savage thoughts of the brutal past that life almost left me. Life felt devoid of love and the thought of loneliness for my sentence of life had soured my heart. I needed an escape to release my angst, and Bali was the destination.
After a long ride from Ngurah Rai International Airport to the Lovina Hotel in Singaraja, a tall and slim fellow with almond eyes and tawny complexion greeted me in his beautiful brown batik sarong and a cream button-down shirt at the entrance of the resort. The three o'clock afternoon sun was glorious as the cool breeze caressed my sweaty forehead.
"A cup of welcome tea, miss," he said, offering me a ceramic cup of jasmine tea and led me to the lobby of the Lovina Resorts. The sweet taste of red ginger and brown sugar refreshed my palate, and I felt the nostalgia of paradise setting into my chest.
"Thank you," I said, as he took my bag and led me through the path towards the back of the garden, as we walked farther down after the swimming pool, passing the small temple shrine. Purple orchids and pink hibiscus lined the path towards the thatched roof bungalow with black gravel and the red earthen soil. The bungalow sat feet away in distance from the ocean, with a veranda at the front facing the shore.
"Here is your room, Miss. Breakfast is free at the main lounge until 11 am, and we have a restaurant near the lobby for lunch and dinner," he said, as I slipped ten thousand rupiah in bills into his hands and we shook hands for goodbyes.
He'll probably be the last person I will meet, I thought because I felt emptiness burrowing into my soul since I almost died.
"Terima kasih, miss," Fajar said, thanking me in Bahasa, the national language of Bali, Indonesia. "We give plenty of privacy for our guests here, but if you need help, please don't be afraid to ask."
"Metta, my name is Metta," I said, as Fajar left and as familiar as any man who entered my microcosm of life. I felt a tinge of pain from the yearning for healing and companionship, as I inhaled deep for air from the humidity.
Two four feet birds of paradise tropical plants were at the corners of the room, with teak windows and large paintings of Batik patterns on each four walls. A queen bed with four pillows arranged in taupe colors with a matching soft cotton blanket was in the middle of the room. The ivory marbled floor cooled my soles and my body.
The bottle of merlot at the kitchenette drew my attention. Whisky brown and Jack Daniels were in small ounces on the kitchen bar, but I opted for merlot and advised on its solace and comfort. I poured a small glass and walked to the back open aired shower with slippery wet rock floorings as I toured this bungalow. I slipped and fell on the ground and was out for a moment before I came out of the nauseating fall. The broken wine glass was underneath me and I cleaned it up before I walked out.
The slow death of loneliness crept in as I wondered outside to the veranda of my bungalow. On the shore further from the veranda in front of me, I heard a couple of fishermen speaking in Bahasa. I was somewhat fluent in Bahasa because of my Balinese mother who spoke to me in Indonesian since I was a child.
"Ada ikan apa tidak? Kenapa net-nya hilang?" said one man. I knew he was asking his companions if there were fishes, and if the net was gone.
I saw from the corner of my eyes to the left, a grey dolphin had flipped on its back onto the shores, singing its own canticle of the ocean paradise. I spotted my weekender inside my bungalow and scavenged for a pair of shorts, a sports bra, and a shirt, then quickly put those on and treaded barefoot towards the beach.
I paced on the sands barefoot, guided by the clouds moving as slowly as my two bare feet. Jogging towards another few yards to the northern part of the hotel, I reached the rock barriers of the resort. Pushing through the sweat, I tried to pick up my pace, but my right ankle was yanked underneath me as I slumped on the sand face first. The grip shook my being as I looked down and saw a hand reached out from a clump of seaweed below me. Closing my mouth with my hands, I heard a murmur of foreign words.
"Tolong saya," said the being inside the clump of seaweed, asking for help in Bahasa.
Another hand reached out from the large clumps of seaweeds, trembling and wet in agony. Reaching out to the shredded seaweed, I scraped the remains of the green leaves over its face, for which those hands belonged, and discovered the face of a man. His face grimaced with all his teeth that were fangs inside his mouth. His slanted eyes accented his skin dark as soil, except…his lower half, was that of a fish. His hair was dark locks of curls flowing down his body.
In front of me was a merman, the fantastical being that existed only in stories, yet, this was my reality. I gasped from the mesmerizing surprise that shook me. "Where did you…?" I tried to ask. Groaning a painful wail, the merman was in distress as I swept the seaweed away from his body or his fins. What being existed in this modern world?
The questions lingered as I saw part of his scales were ripped from the nets that caught him. The twisted netting must have caught his fins, as they were tangled in the sharp twists. Blood trickled down my wrist as I pulled the nets out of his fins and tried to untwist it.
"Scissors, I need scissors…" I said to myself. "This can't possibly be."
I finally unwound the netting and saw torn scales on his pelvic. Neither the blood nor the skepticism inside my mind stopped me from helping him. I felt the urgency of kindness as red blood as human's trickled with each scale being torn off from the netting as I picked it away. "We have to get to my bungalow," I said to him as if he understood me. I took off my shirt and used it to wrap him, pulling him behind me with the shirt tucked under both his arms as he gripped on the cotton. I pulled him out of the shores and away from view.
Reaching my bungalow not far from the shore, with no one in view, the beach was deserted as most north shore beaches often were during off-holidays season in September. The evening sunset greeted me as I hurried to open the door, pulled him inside, and closed the door to lock it.
I took him underneath the shower head and turned on the warm water just enough to warm him. He shivered with blue tinged lips as I fear for his life while the humidity caused me to sweat in drips.
"Cool down for me," I said. I took his right hand and placed it over his heart, or where I thought his heart might be, over his left chest. Pearls of sweat rolled down his forehead as water dripped down from the shower over his taut tawny skin to the sides of his stomach. My tears rolled down from his exasperation and from seeing his body torn apart with his scales ripped and his fins twisted and bloodied. I felt his heart drumming beats of fears and confusion.
"Don't worry," I told him. Underneath the tepid water showering down, his eyes softly closed.
I turned off the shower and dried him, cracked some acetaminophen pills I brought from home, and sprinkled them over his wounds. That and some vitamin C powder I placed over his scales could act as healers. I hope you are okay, I thought.
"Dari mana kamu?" I asked him where he was from.
"Samoedra," he answered, meaning the ocean.
"Nayan, nama saya," he said, as I nodded, acknowledging his name.
"Metta, my name is Metta," I replied.
"Terima kasih, Metta," said Nayan, thanking me in Bahasa. His tongue was the same shape as a human's; only his teeth were small fangs arrayed as if pearly horns in a row.
I continued to dry him off with the towel and let it soak some of the left-over blood, but the medicine had soaked it and stopped the blood from flowing. I pulled him over my shoulder and brought him to the sofa near the bed, placing the pillows underneath his neck and turned off the air conditioner.
"I'm sorry this happened," I said to him. Silently, I asked for forgiveness for the fishermen's netting that caught him, twisted his fins, and ripped off his scales. I felt sin percolating inside my gut, as if I, a human, had caused him pain.
His eyes were moist. "Not your fault, Metta," said Nayan, in Bahasa. He leaned back and closed his eyes again, this time into a deep sleep. As I went to my bed and closed my eyes, thinking that perhaps, tomorrow would come and this would all be a dream.
But it wasn't.
In the morning, Nayan awoke and laid still on the chair, neither in tears nor in anger. He stared at me, perhaps expecting some sort of words from my mouth.
"I am human," I said in Bahasa as I wiped my eyes from an awakening in the morning. I tapped on his stomach and reached down to palpate on the portion of his gut where his scaled fins began on the lower pelvic of his body. His eyes grew wide and I knew I had scared him with my touch. He swiped my hands from his body and said, "Saya putra duyung," telling me he was a merman prince.
I examined the rest of his fins down to his lower side and there was no more blood trickling down. The acetaminophen had acted as medicine for his body.
"I have a daughter," said Nayan in Bahasa. "Help me so she won't be caught by the fishermen." His eyes glistened, but I saw no tears, only sorrow written on his glowing skin. For whatever it's worth, I wanted to help him, as I knew he wasn't a con-artist dressed in a mermaid outfit and this reality may be far-fetched, but it was as real as grapefruits.
He reached behind my ears, and I felt a sharp pain. I shook out and stood up, as I realized that an extra layer of skin grew out of my skin and protruded behind my ears, all the way down to my ear lobes. I touched it and it felt soft and supple with tingles. I inhaled to breathe down to my gut, clearer than ever before.
"I know my daughter is waiting," said Nayan. I realized he must have swum near the snorkeling gardens with his daughter when the net caught him. "You can breathe now."
I didn't understand what he meant by breathe. I was already breathing. I looked to the dresser for a swimsuit and put it on in front of him as he stared at me in disbelief about this human undressing her form. At this moment, all sanity was gone, and I was left with the sense that I needed to act based on kindness, not skepticism.
"I will swim to where we were and look for her," I said to him, not caring if he understood.
I walked towards the northern part of the shore, and kept on walking past the rocky areas and dove into the water to where the sign that said snorkeling areas, no fishing allowed. I swam underneath the waters and held my breath enough to see the garden under the ocean, with the brittle starfishes, puckered puffer fishes and sea urchins down under the sea. The gobi swam by and a jellyfish swam over other invertebrate animals in the ocean expanse.
I looked behind the rocks and felt a rush of waters followed me from behind. Instinctively, I swam upward for some air, but realized my lungs had the capacity to inhale and exhale under water.
You can breathe now…, I thought. I pulled myself out of the water to the surface, realizing that I was miles away from shore and I was breathing under water. It felt as love had swept me deep into the ocean with my lungs and chest whole and complete. I didn't fully understand everything at this point, but I knew something was guiding me. Perhaps it was divination?
I was on my own and here I was, in paradise, helping a merman who needed me. No part of the past in my life mattered. I was looking for Nayan's daughter to save her life from the fishermen who might murder her.
I went back down to the garden under the ocean, and saw farther into the darkness a glimmer of fins, as if a billion stars were captured inside a seashell. I followed the iridescent light, and it swam behind a rock. Swimming fast with whisps of my legs creating a current, I saw trailing long hair nearby, reddish tone but dark and long. Then I saw a face, with round brown eyes, showing its fangs at me, as it pushed towards me and tried to bite my neck.
I pushed away and, gesturing with my hands in front of me, begged her to stop. This little mermaid, with long red mahogany hair and brown eyes, with pearly fangs inside her mouth, was ready to bite me. She scratched my hands and arms with her long fingernails, and tried to pull me to her. Something inside my chest burst, and I said in Bahasa, "Your father begs for you to go home." I breathed and didn't gasp for air, instead I was breathing under water and the moment baffled me. There was no way in a million years humans would be able to breathe as mermaids would, but here I was, speaking to her and breathing in the deep ocean.
"Where is Nayan?" the little mermaid asked me.
"Go home!" I tried to tell her to leave the snorkeling area for fear more nets would catch her. "Nayan is safe. He is with me."
She looked into my eyes, and asked, "What is your name?"
"Metta," I answered, as I felt tears come out of my eyes with prickles in the back of my eye socket, but what came out was a whisp of dark liquid as the octopus poison in front of my face. Legends told that mermaids do not cry, and tears would come out as dark ink under the ocean waters.
In front of me, the little mermaid smiled as her hair lingered about her and her fins scattered the sunlight, producing a bright, iridescent glimmer about her being glowing in the darkness.
"Ena," she said. I nodded, then shooed her away with my hands flailing to tell her to leave as I closed my eyes. When I opened them, she had disappeared.
I swam up to the surface and towards the shore. I knew Ena understood that the shore was dangerous territory and her father would return. Fishermen were not to fish near the snorkeling areas because they would destroy the reefs; yet some irresponsible fishermen would try to do so, to catch exotics marine life and endangering the lives of the ocean.
When I came back to my room, Nayan was still in the chair and it was drenched with fluid, with the most foul scent. I realized he had urinated in the chair that he had slept in. He smiled at me, and apologized in Bahasa, "Maaf," he said. He looked to the floor and moved his tail fins up and down.
I took my towel from the bathroom to wipe the floor and saw the brown colored stain on my bath towels.
There was a knock on the door.
"Ma'am, breakfast is being served and almost out," said the voice that sounded like Fajar's.
"Oh, thank you, I will come there," I replied quickly, not wanting him to come in. I heard footsteps walking away and I turned to Nayan.
"Your daughter is safe. We will have breakfast, wait here," I told him. "Stay quiet."
I walked towards Nayan and caressed his cheeks. He softly smiled.
I stepped outside and locked the door behind me, and prayed no one from the cleaning crew would come as I placed the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door knob.
The main lobby boasted muffins for breakfast, with bread, coffee, teas, cheeses and marmalade. I took some bread, muffins and marmalade with some bags of chamomile teas.
"Ma'am, if you have company, you can ask him to join you," said Fajar, with a smile.
"Oh, I am here alone, Fajar. I intend to enjoy myself," I replied.
"Very well, miss," said Fajar. "Breakfast is the most important meal. You can take as much as you'd like." As he looked towards my loads of foods in my hands, as I walked away. Fajar must have thought I was a freeloader. At the same time, inside my heart were nerves from the thought of whether or not Nayan would eat these delights of a morning meal.
Back in my bungalow, I saw black liquid streaming down Nayan's cheeks. "Ena," he murmured. "I feel her sorrows."
I went to the kitchenette and heated up a cup of water and placed the chamomile in the cup. As I made the tea, I spread the marmalade on the bread and cut up small pieces of the muffin for Nayan. I took a plate and offered it to him.
Nayan looked at the muffin and didn't respond, then I took a small piece and ate one, as I smiled at him, and offered it to him again. "It's okay. Food," I told him.
He ate it and swallowed it, and he must have felt the sweetness as he closed his eyes and inhaled then breathed in.
"Sugar," I told him. "It's wicked."
I gave him the cup of tea. He shoved it back to me, spilling the chamomile. He pointed towards the door, and I understood that he wanted to go home.
I sat on my bed and tears came to my eyes as I have longed for companionship, yet here I was, not meeting a normal man in hope of true love, instead a merman. The desperation and loneliness crept up again as I sobbed. I stared at his chiseled face and high cheek bone with his pointed nose and deep set eyes. Nayan was as handsome as humans were, as he looked embarrassed with a scowl on his face, looking towards the ground.
"I'm sorry," I told him, partly out of shame wishing for his companionship and the other part out of the dangerous misfortune for Nayan of being fished out from the sea.
"What is this coming out of my eyes?" asked Nayan, wiping the black liquid off his face.
"You're crying. Those are tears," I answered. "I'm crying, too."
"Why are there tears?" he asked.
"It's an emotion, from the heart," I replied in Bahasa. "I'm scared to be alone in this world."
His eyes empathized with me as he teared up with the black liquid streaming down, and said, "I am scared for my daughter. That she will be caught. She swims too close to the shores." He sobbed, and touched his own tears. "Mermans don't cry. I never knew this feeling."
The moment sparked a multitude of emotions inside of me, love, joy, surprise, and excitement, as I realized I was bonding with a merman in real life. This felt real. This merman was becoming my friend, the company I never knew I needed.
"Everyone cries," I told him. He nodded, and reached for me with open arms. I kneeled in front of him as he touched my hands.
"You are brave," Nayan said. "Stay alive. You are important."
I kissed his forehead.
"Stay here," I said as I walked out the door, locking Nayan inside. I walked towards the garden and looked for something to roll Nayan onto the shores, because I didn't want to drag him on sand. There was a wheelbarrow near the other side of the garden and it must be for the gardeners to place their plants, but I took it and rolled it towards my bungalow. I took it inside and placed Nayan's slim body upright. I covered him with the inner layer of sheets and told him, "Don't say a word."
I rolled him outside and towards the beach as I saw Fajar running behind me, waving at me.
"Ma'am, if you need help, I am here for you!" he yelled.
"Stay there, Fajar! Don't come close!" I shouted at him as Fajar stood still several feet away from me, and I added, "I just need some time alone, please."
"Understood, Ma'am," he said. He closed his palms together and bowed away.
I continued to roll Nayan out towards the northern part of the resort and finally near the snorkeling area, I picked his body over my shoulder and laid him on the waters. He sighed and exhaled. "Go home, my brother," I said to him.
He laid with his body and uncurled his tail fins and held my hand. "You are good," he said, as he swam further towards the sea, but as I thought he was swimming away, he took my arms and dove inside the waters. I reluctantly followed as his daring dive besieged me. I swam down into the waters with Nayan, through the snorkeling areas into a large open rock underneath the waves. He kept me close to him, holding my waist as he grabbed my arm and held me tight and we swam deeper into Samoedra.
The squids were swimming and glowing in the dark, and I knew we were in depth beyond what swimmers and snorkelers could handle. We were deep down into the ocean water as I couldn't see the ocean floor. I was afraid I might be attracting sharks. Nayan took me into his arms and we swam underneath the ocean water, him close to me, and holding my waist from behind.
In front of us were large open rocks and hills of sea anemones as they moved to the current, and behold in near distance was a cave. He took me into the cave as we swam through the anemones and out of the other side was a village of more rocks and caves. There in the present moment, were other mermans and mermaids, with Ena amongst them.
"You are not alone," whispered Nayan into my ears. He didn't let go of my arms as he held me close. "Keluarga," he uttered in Bahasa, which means family.
The merman closest to him chanted a melody whose noise travelled to me, and it felt forthcoming. "We are with you," said Nayan. "Even when you are up there."
Love had swept low under the ocean and took me into its arms, as I fell forward into the abyss of hope in the waters. My eyes cried as black liquid came out of them, and I gasped as the mermaid furthest from me uttered, "No more sadness."
The oldest mermaid swimming in her tail fins came towards me with her white long hair, as she reached out with her arms and smiled. I swam towards her and hugged her as she gave me a small starfish into my hands. I took it and placed it inside my swimsuit as I wanted to keep it with me when I swam to the top and on land. My beating heart felt warmth as I was immersed in liquid love in the depth of the ocean.
"Remember us," said Nayan as he touched my cheek, and pointed to the sky over the ocean. I nodded and swam out of the caves, and out of the mermaid village towards the snorkeling areas and was hoisted up by the waves onto the surface.
I swam back to shore and reached the sands. I searched for the small star fish rock that was in my swimsuit. I took it and kissed it, as I sat on the sands by myself and realized that my loneliness was a thought that was to be offset with the alternate optimism of this present moment. The memory of this fantasy that no one could take from me.
I cried on the beach because I found out I was a lover, a family builder, a sweet warrior, and an authentic being and holy not out of hubris, but out of revelations in these waters. I saved a merman and the act proved my quality and honor. I forgot that I much attended to my depressive thoughts that I forfeited the possibilities of miracles and surprise.
I was on the sand, feet and body halfway towards the waters in my shorts, my swimsuit and my tears. For the first time, I didn't wish for something to be different. I wanted to be alive, I wanted to be the person who saw a merman and helped him. I wanted to do more for the world. I wanted to save the ocean, the inhabitants, their ocean community. I came to Bali to escape my thoughts and to leave life behind, but found a different purpose. I sobbed over the waters and touched my face, and there was no black ink, just tears of gratitude.
I walked to my bungalow, and I was about to shower when I slipped on the ground, and bumped my head. I must have passed out for a long moment, as I woke up and felt a big bump over my forehead and I felt blood trickled down.
I heard another knock on the door, and I realized there were broken glass from a wineglass under me.
"Miss, this is Fajar, your taxi just arrived," he said, over the locked door.
"Taxi? What Taxi?" I ran to the mirror. I had on the same outfit as when I arrived, and I saw the opened glass of merlot on the kitchenette counter. I opened the door, and Fajar said, "Miss, you will miss your flight if you don't go now. The taxi driver requested you an hour ago. Hurry!"
I looked to my room and my luggage was still intact, and I felt like I had just arrived. But, now I have to go again? What happened?
"I just got here, Fajar," I said to him.
"No, Ma'am….you have been here for a week. You kept putting the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on your door and no one could enter your room. Perhaps you will be happier in the States where you lived before," said Fajar.
"What? A week…but it can't be," I said. "I was just here overnight."
"Ma'am, the flight! You must hurry!" said Fajar.
I glanced at the time; it was 8 am. I looked for my plane ticket, which said I had a 9 am flight from Ngurah Rai to Los Angeles Airport. I ran to the main lobby and got in the taxi, I saw from the corner of my eyes, Fajar had smiled. As he turned, I saw an extra layer of skin behind his earlobes. I tried to feel for my ears and they felt smooth and complete. I reached into my swimsuit that I had under my clothes and took out the small star fish rock, and uttered, "Thank you," as I ran out, got into the taxi and rode towards the airport.
For the first time in a long time, I felt whole. I wanted to live forever and most of all, I felt brave.