There are renovations at the house of Ketut Likir. And queues.
Since being blessed with fame for his pivotal role as the mystic in Eat, Pray, Love he has enjoyed wave upon wave upon glorious golden wave of fortune. Western travellers on the pilgrim path for all our lost happinesses seek him out, to gaze into his toothless face and ask for their destiny.
I come too. I am in Ubud. My path is avalanched. I am sick. And scared that dark forces have got hold of me after a bitch-fight with the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, out of which I am not the first injured casualty.
I ask at the reception here for a Bali doctor. “Why you like Bali doctorrrrr?” the boys ask me. “Because we are in Bali, yesss?” I tease them, and they cascade into Bali laughter. There is much serious consideration while they discuss in Bali-tongue, my options.
“You like maybe the famous one? Likiirrrrr. Yes? What kind sick you have?”
I have toffee- coloured slime oozing from my throat, sweeping nausea, sweats, hot flushes and a suppressed rage. “It’s not a sickness in my body,” I say. “It’s something for my spirit.”
“Ooooooh,” they nod seriously. “Let’s go!”
They are going to take me on my motorbike. They don’t want to miss it!
So here we are. We’ve followed little handpainted signs saying Ketur Likir: painter and carving into a small backstreet and through a dishevelled doorway into a typical Balinese family compound. Ketut is, as the famous book says, small and old. He is like an ancient child, and he is busy on the floor of his room arranging papers. Ketut is fumbling happily with blue RP50 000 notes and large old books. He comes to me and holds my hand as he beams into my face with a child in his eyes, and asks me, “what you like?”
“I’m sick.” I say.
“Oooooooh.” He tuts concernedly. “What you have in the body?”
I tell him my woes and he says, “Maybe you need doktor?”
“There has been fighting, bad things and I am sick because I am sad and confused and I don’t know what this is about.”
“Ooooooh.” He says. “But what I do, you seeing, is looking for the future. Only this. I can read you, and reading your palm and tell you your future – what you need doing, perhaps what is blocking you way. Only these things, I sorry.”
“No. Please. I want this,” I say. Because i am sure he can give me something that will free me from myself. The Balinese are famously and innocently frank.They are forever telling me that I am “a little bit the fatty one,” I want to hear my fortune and any terrible news straight up.
“Ok, ok. But now you must be waiting little bit. I so, so busy now, I not had breakfast or anything to lunch. Tee hee. You be waiting some little time,” he giggles. “I coming back from some soup.”
It’s 3pm. The garden is still and sweaty. I wait.
Ketut laughs off merrily, hobbling through the constructions, and eats quietly in a corner before rinsing his mouth out with a large glass of water and swooshing his face liberally into the plants, wiping it off with the hem of his frayed sarong in a most unabashed way.
‘You coming sit here.” He puts me on the floor outside his room, and looks gently and evenly into my face. “You thinking you be black magiked!” He says loudly, embarrassing me in front of my eagerly eavesdropping bellboy.
“Ha ha,” he yells at me. ” … you thinking you be black magik. I am looking at you. I am seeing you for theees.” He holds my hand and reads my face.
“Ok, I looking at your face. No black magik,” he giggles. “Here. You have the four lines between your eyes .. one, two, three four … this be mean you verrrrry verrrry smart! Yes, you understand theees? You verrrrry verrrry intelligent girl. You see all the ways and you choosing the good one. You see the ways and you taking always the good one. Verrrrry Good! No black magic!
“Now, your eyes: merry! You have the merry, merry eyes. Verrrry Verrrry Good!”
“Your nose. No black magik!” He slaps his thigh happily.
“The Ears. Let me see? No. Verrrry Good.”
“The cheeks? Good! The mouth? Ah, you have very very sweety. Sweety – you understand? Lovely. Verrrry Verrrry good! No! Not this black magic. You very strong lady. Oh yes, chuckle chuckle. You verrrry verrry strong girl. You having the whole nature helping you. You very good. No probleeeem, he cooees, gently asking me to agree with him. You must not be thinking for this Black Magic. All finish in Bali now. No more coming the Black Magik. Tee hee hee..”
“Now I read your palm.” He takes my left palm in his hand which is old and weathered and more lined than a Bali streetmap, but feels as warm and soft as tender as any hand I have ever felt.
“Oh, you very good,” he says excitedly. “This one is the Life Line. Verrry verrry good. This one verrry long. Little bit broken here. Giggle giggle. You need resting. Like more to rest, you been work too too hard, yes? Ho ho. You been very hard worker.” I decide not to comment on that one, as I am a known sleeper-in and haven’t reallyy had a job in about 10 years.
“This one is the Lucky Line. Oh, you have verrrry verrry good lucky. You very Lucky girl. Very Lucky. He he. You have more so lucky, I verrrry pleased to meet you. Most lucky girl. Good, very good.”
“This one,” he curls my hand up to see the inside edges, “these is the Money Line.” He looks startled and beams at me. “You be very rich!” “I I shake my head, “umm, nope. Not really” But he nods determinedly. “You be making very very money. You be rich. Sure. Very sure here – see? This one it goes aaaallllll the way. Ho ho ho.”
“And this one, it is the Art Line. Oh! You be artist lady. What you say, people will come. You have the very very influence. You understand? Influential? You be very good artist. Very lucky. I think you writer. You writer? What you do now?”
“Um, I am a writer,” now I say a sort of bewildered he he he. “Yes! Ho ho ho. You be very very good. You be wonderful! Verrrry good! ” And he collapses into giggles.
“Ok. So we seeeee the marriage.” He looks to the edge of my hand below the pinkie and beams radiantly. “Ah, so, you have the boyfriend before, yes? He verrrrry verrrrry Good Man. He verrrry verrrry strong. Special boy. Is he man? Sure, he verrrry good man. He have divorce before? Is ok. Good for you now. You marry this one, if you like later. You maybe marry if you like – see this: the married line. Very strong this one. Very happy. Very Good. Ho ho ho.”
“And thiiissss?” He turns to look inside my thumb. “Yes! He he. You have the two children if you liking. See them here? You have the possible two children for you. Verrrry Good!”
Ketut springs down to my wrist. “Me verrrry verrry happy to meet with you. You special lady!” and I am feeling, oh, about a million times better.
“These ones here. The incarnation.” The bellboy scoffs politely. “You have this time third incarnation. Verrrry good. You have the verrrrry good karma! Yeeesss, oh, verrry good karma and this like now, you be verrry verrrrry good karma! You verrry lucky! No more this black magik! Giggle raucously. You Stop this! He slaps his thigh hilariously.”
“Now I see the sex. You understand? Sexuality?” The bellboy is giggling wildly next to me. “Oh, you having the very good sex! You making very nice sex. On the honeymoon you possible many times. Maybe two three times! But verrrry important this. You be little bit carefully before three times, yes? You maybe little bit too tired. The bellboy is staring at me with wide eyes and giggling nervously. Shhhh, I say. “You be little bit too tired, you must remember this one. If you be making three times sex then the baby it coming also little bit tired. Not 100%. Just 90% only. Remember this, please, ok?”
“And now….. I see your back, ok?” I turn for him and he looks for a moment at my back and gasps. “Ha!! Ha ha! You woooonderful! You have the Lotus! Verrrry verrrry special! You have the good incarnations – you bring the Lotus – the power of the whoooole universe with you. You have the flowers! The fragrance of the lotus your whoooole long life. You be very beautiful all of you life. Until 100! He looks at me expectantly. 100! (I am not really thrilled about this) You have long, long, beautiful life! This very very woooonderful! Ho he ho ho he.”
“And when you dying, you go to Heaven! Very happy. And your husband, maybe five years between, and he coming to meet you! Me verrry happy to meet You!”
“Now the legs. Putting here.” I stretch them out beside him. He gently taps my left knee. “Not coming, the arthritis. And the left one. Not come the rheumatism. Verry good.”
“You having the car or the motorbike?” He asks me. I say that I have had both in Bali. “Ok, for the accident – you safe. No problem. But I saying this, you being verrrry carefully. There many many coming Americans, Canadians, all kinds of traffic in Bali. You being verrry carefully, ok?”
Now the fingers. He holds my hand outstretched and counts off each finger: “no…., not coming the problem with the heart. The lungs: good! The liver: verrrry good. The kidney. Good! And the gall bladder? Yes, verrry good – the blood very strong. You strong lady. The gall bladder have liquid inside for cleaning the blood and very strong, you.”
“Now, you be verrry special lady, yes? You with aaaaaallllll the flowers all around you. The plants, they be coming with you – nobody hurting you – nobody dare! You have the whole universe bring you verrry lucky. Nothing to worrrry. Nothing to upsetting. Nothing for black magik. You protected, yes! You verrry nice, very strong lady. Me verrrry very happy to meeting with you today.”
Which turns out to be pretty much what he sys to all the girls. x