The old Muslim man at the end of our street liked to massage my inner thighs. He owned a warung, a combination of general store and roadside eatery, that served Halal foods and traditional beverages such as sweet iced tea and hot orange juice. A few blocks away sat the local Canggu Permai mosque, and on Sundays his restaurant would be filled with pious eaters still decked out in their sarongs and cylindrical black hats.
On a Thursday, I walked to the corner from my small efficiency apartment down the gang, saying hello to him on my way past. I got a take-away portion of rice, tofu, and vegetables and was headed back out when he padded the seat next to him, smiling invitingly. Uncomfortable with his physical intimacy, I had been avoiding him for many weeks, always claiming to be busy, but that day I decided to humor him. The left side of his body had been lamed by stroke, but his right arm was strong, the fingernails on that hand long, and sharp.
As soon as I sat down he leaned over and got to work. “No good, no good,” he said as he was digging his nails into the varicose veins that run up the inside of my right thigh. “You must come to me for massage, more often.” Wincing from the pain caused by his sharp nails digging into the tender flesh of my inner thighs, I looked up and made eye-contact with a group of Javanese construction workers building a house across the street. All four of them had ceased their labors to stare at the uncommon sight of a tall, blond, Ynki surfer getting his sensitives rubbed by an elderly, partially paralyzed, Balinese-Muslim restaurateur. A couple of hijab-clad young ladies perched atop a motorized scooter rode past, their eyebrows rising in apparent wonderment. The absurdity of the situation overwhelmed me; I started laughing. Such was my outpouring joy that Bapak Resto was soon laughing with me, our deep belly laughs shaking the makeshift bamboo bench upon which we sat.
Within moments, the old man’s son came running out, wide-eyed with terror. Apparently, he thought his father was having another stroke. At that, I took my leave, shaking hands with and bowing deeply toward my ailing masseuse, whom I visited at least once a week, thereafter.
americanifesto / JPR / whorphan / 場黑麥