It would start almost normally. She would be sitting in his living room couch, legs crossed, smiling at him, her eyes cast onto the floor. He would forget too many things when he saw her there. Too many.
Just a few weeks ago, she had promised to meet him at the Jimbaran Hotel.
He would pick her up from the lobby about an hour after she had landed at the airport and on his moped take her to the prison wall at Kerobokan. He would make a left turn onto a dirt track and ride past several vast paddy fields, until they came upon a bungalow nearing completion, overlooking a stream deeply embedded in a lush ravine.
It would be such a hot day he could almost see the freshly cemented walls drying. He had asked the Balinese workers to invite their families and villagers nearby to help themselves to the excess building materials. They would offer to sweep his compound or call a shaman to bless the house on an auspicious day, in exchange for some floor tiles for a new family shrine, or half a sack of cement to patch a leak.
She would smile; he knew she would.
He would hold her hand as he took her inside the raw, empty rooms one by one, dressing them up with his dreams. In the living room, they would have a daybed and maybe even two, overlooking the river. On the walls, he would hang Balinese ceremonial masks from a street market and in the corner of a stair landing he would place a replica of the reclining Buddha. Upstairs, in the bedroom they would have their four-poster teak bed, a study table for his work, a cabinet for his camera equipment and an armchair from where he would watch her stir at sunrise or fall asleep in the moonlight. He would want to take pictures of her writhing in his bed. Perhaps on a cool monsoon night, he would tether her ankles to the bedposts and watch her dark nipples rise and fall as he swatted them with a firm hand until the hair between her legs began to glisten. On some nights, they would sit on the balcony overlooking the paddy fields, and watch the rice stems and tillers shimmer as they were ruffled by the westward wind heralding the monsoon.
On that night, the monsoon was fast approaching, but there were no paddy fields. He had been watching the waves roll onto the endless beach all afternoon until it was dark, until the sea foam was no longer visible. It was his fifth day in the cold bed of the Jimbaran Hotel bed, and he did not even have to check his phone to listen to the voice message Tia had left just this afternoon to know that she was not joining him.
And yet today, Tia was here, at his apartment, ringing his doorbell, waiting to tell him about her photo shoot in Kuala Lumpur. He had not answered his phone, but she could hear the television from outside. Perhaps John was showering or sleeping. She would have coffee downstairs just around the corner while waiting for him. After all, he had confirmed with her just hours ago that he was in town for the coming week. She would wait until he called her back, until he was ready to welcome her back in his home.