I never thought love would find me. But it did. And then, just as rapidly as it had swept into my life, out it went, and I was alone again. All the years before I met her, I could cope with the loneliness and depression – but now I can ' t. I have tasted love and want more, and if I can ' t have her, then there is nothing left for me to live for. This is how I feel. And I know this is how my life is going to peter out, and I am going to spend the rest of my days being lonely and wanting to fall asleep and not wake up – yet I am going to do nothing at all about it. Because, you see, I am a coward, and think only of myself. I have been like that my whole life.
When I was drinking and womanising, all I could think about was indulging myself, and where the next pleasurable drink or feel of smooth flesh would come from. That was what kept me going. But she completely turned me upside down. She was like an angel from heaven, yet I would probably be better off if I had never met her. Hold on, what am I saying? That year with her was the best of my life. Although I was certainly not young and as handsome as I once was, I could still pull off the old charm.
Before I met her, I had had a string of young lovers, all wanting to be seen in the bars and restaurants on the arm of an older gentleman. It made people look at them, and they liked the attention. But I didn't respect one of them, not one of them, never mind love any of them. They were like toys to me. And I saw her, from across the hall, going in and out of her room with a different man every night. I guess they wanted to be seen with her for the same reasons. But none of them could please her. I saw them, leaving her apartment at all hours, their tail between their legs like a scolded child, and I would sometimes catch her looking at me, although she always looked away the instant our eyes met. We did, of course, meet in the usual bars and restaurants, but we managed to exchange nothing but an occasional nod and an awkward smile before moving hastily on. It went like that for years. I used to enquire to Mr. Udo the landlord about her, but he wouldn't tell me much and I didn't want to seem too interested. I did, however, know that she was a heavy drinker due to the amount of empty wine bottles outside her room.
But, one hot summer, fate was to deal me a lucky hand. The editor sent me to report on the robbery at the art gallery where she worked, and as I entered the gallery building, I saw her in her richly coloured red dress and black leather gloves, her hair flowing in red black curls around her finely formed shoulders, and she was holding a handkerchief to her nose and had long black streaks of make up pouring down her cheeks.
"Ms. Yamoto I presume?" were my first words to her. She looked at me with those amazingly bright eyes, and though I may have been imagining it at the time, she seemed to need help. Not just help to get over the shock of the robbery, or help to clear up the mess, or catch who did it, but REAL help. Support. 'Someone to lean on' as they say. So we had our first proper conversation. We didn't mention that we knew each other from the hotel, in fact it was all very business-like, but that didn't matter. I was so happy to be talking to her I could have floated out of the gallery when I was done. It would, however, be two weeks until we would meet again. I entered Tan's Bar alone, and saw her sitting in the darkest booth smoking a cigarette in a rather ornate looking holder, and holding a glass of whisky. She was alone and looked unhappy. More confident having already had our first conversation at the gallery, and from the whisky coursing through my own bloodstream, I approached her.
"Ms. Yamoto...alone tonight?" She seemed a little startled, but not embarrassed.
"Mr. Wayan....sometimes I like to drink alone. It gives me time to think." She took a sip on the near-empty glass, pouring the last drops into her mouth. She looked beautiful.
"So your article on the robbery made the front page??" she continued, "how lucky for you."
"It's just a pity you hard to go through what you did, in order for it to happen" I replied, searching her face for a reaction. She stared at me for a second, looked down at her glass and shook it, moving the ice around in the bottom.
"Please sit down" she stated, curtly. My heart thumping, I sat down in the booth and called on Mr. Tan to bring us two more whiskies. We began, of course, by talking about the robbery and how she got over the shock by apparently drinking more red wine than ever before. But by the third or fourth whisky, she said something that I will never forget.
"I watch you" she said. "I see you come and go. And I think you are hiding from yourself." Well, I didn't quite know how to reply to something like that, so I gently shrugged my shoulders, put the glass to my mouth and looked towards the bar.
She continued, "I think we are very similar, you and me. We would prefer to lose ourselves at the bottom of a glass or in the willing arms of a youthful distraction than face up to the reality that we are alone. But this reality can't be ignored, not any more". Although initially uncomfortable with what she was saying, I listened to her as every word rang true. I was forced to concede that she was right. It's funny when somebody tells you the truth about yourself, and you have known it to be this way for a long time; you still don ' t want to accept it, and you even fear it because now the truth must be dealt with. So we talked and talked and Mr. Tan allowed us to sit long after closing time, and it came to be that we left the bar together, returned to the hotel together, and spent that night, and every night after that together. She was simply wonderful. We found each other that night. We forged a bond that would last forever. She made me experience things I had never experienced before - love, companionship, and a passion for life. When we were together, which was every day for thirteen months after that, she made me feel alive again, and we did amazing things together; personal and intimate things that will stay with me always.
She moved in to my room, and together we gave up drinking and trying to behave like twenty one year-olds. No more bars, clubs, and youthful distractions. And it felt RIGHT. I even took to my work like never before, and made several more front page stories. The gallery flourished too, and with her newly found energy and exuberance, it became a major attraction and a profitable business again. We took trips to the islands (I had never been outside the province before), and walked on the beaches holding hands and hired a little boat to take us across to the outer archipelago, where we would look for shellfish and pick coral out of the sand. Colour came back to my face and I walked down the street with a broad smile on my face, happily greeting people who looked at me like I was a man possessed with a mystical spirit. But I was, and that spirit was HER. But our bliss was interrupted, suddenly and without warning. She was diagnosed on a Thursday, and died the following Tuesday. For the first week I didn ' t leave our room, barely ate a thing and did nothing but stare at the empty bed. After a few months of oblivion, I looked at my face in the mirror and saw my old self again. I had of course, fallen off the wagon by this stage. The mystical spirit had long since gone, and a shell of a man is all that I saw in my reflection. And now I sit in my room, that was for a brief moment a happy place to be, and I hold a whisky in my hand, and it is the only thing I have to hang on to, except for memories of HER. I know I should feel incredibly grateful for the time we spent together; it was a wonderful sun-kissed island in the middle of the dark, murky waters that have been the rest of my life. And I am drowning in those waters, with no hope of rescue.