Trembling Tigers We Were

Trembling tigers we were, crouching beneath the makeshift plywood table acting as a shifty computer desk in the all-but-full Balinese cyber cafe on Poppies lane II, lined with vendors of all varieties of high dollar knockoffs. I was certain we were about to die, having been the target of anti-American terrorist activity just one day, one month, and one year after the famous attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Without thinking through our lack of a game plan, we crept around the corner, assuming to confront our assailants. Instead we encountered broken windows and shattered dreams of a nation picking itself up by its industry of tourism.
The cracked computer screens told us this was far from a nationalistic aggression, it was something bigger, something scarier, something far more serious. Using the now empty window frame as a doorway, we stepped into a nightmare of bleeding chaos. There were people from all different nations, some covered in their own blood, some missing limbs, others missing steps in the menacing corridor of crowded fearful faces.
The bomb had exploded one street over, Poppies lane I, the original tourist strip in Bali’s largest city, Kuta. Rumors flew through the streets with the fleeing seagulls, “a terrorist attack,” “a car bomb,” “Sari Sari club.” All were true, but none made the pickup trucks full of the dead and dying any easier to stomach.
Making our way through the panicked streets of unknowing lost faces, we arrived at our abandoned hotel where all those absurd childhood practices of what it might have been like to have been born blind finally came in handy.
Carefully counting my steps in the dark, I traced my hand along the hanging key rack and in one confident swipe, grabbed what I had hoped was the key to room 15.
As we sat in the dark, attempting to keep calm in this moment of madness, convincing ourselves that we were safe inside this straw roofed cabana. 225 people died that day. 2 of which were fellow surfing companions we had met along our journey, most were Balinese.
The mind works in mysterious ways. Memory can be tarnished with unforgettable images, both bitter and sweet. For us, however, the sweet is far outlasting. The magic of this Southeast Asian island could not be broken by this horrific event. Bali is an island characterized by its beautiful tranquility and culture of mindfulness. It is permeated with Hindu traditions of peace offerings and mantras in daily meditations and a deep faith in the continuity of impermanence. It is perhaps that very philosophy that allowed us to remember this as though it were all merely a bad dream.

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