by Leslie Anne Franklin
The beautiful wise high priestess of Bali, Ibu Jero beckoned to me to sit next to her on the earthen floor for the healing. Pre-monsoon weather had hit and the day was hot and sticky humid. I could hear the cows mooing in the distance and the roosters still cock-a-doodling even though it was late morn.
Ibu Jero is famous in Bali known for her psychic direction as much as for her incredible physical beauty. I had waited for weeks to have this experience.
I was enthralled to be sitting in her temple. Surrounding me there were dusty god-box’s, shrines of Siva, Vishnu and Ganesha. Flower offerings (called canang sari) were placed all over the altar from previous incantations. Bits of string, a coin, a fresh Dji Djam Su clove cigarette and grass were placed in the palm woven offering basket (bantan). Some baskets showed their age turning from green to brown looking as though they had been there for months or maybe years. This seemed familiar to me as the Balinese devote offerings every day to various Gods depending on the Balinese Hindu calendar. On a normal day every Balinese will pray five times a day dediacting their offerings to Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa thanking this god for peace reigning in their home, their village, in Bali and the world.
Jero was dressed in a tight purple embroidered cotton sarong wrapped as a skirt and white lace kebaya top with fragments of rice on her forehead from her morning prayers.
I had heard about this magic woman for years and finally I was in front of her in her simple home.
As the room filled with sweet aromas and smoke from the incense she lit, Ibu Jero prayed to her temple chanting in old sanskrit and sat down in front of me, kneeling due to the tightness of her sarong skirt. She smiled and said “Good you come Leslie. Jero’s been waiting to see you long time.”
Jero immediately reached out and grabbed my arm. She grabbed it so strongly I was shocked. Then the pain came and the burps.
She was squeezing my arm so hard from my shoulder right to the fingertips where she would zap off energy while burping away. She said the evil spirits in me were being released through her as let out belch after belch.
I felt uncomfortable thinking I was being exorcised. Was this really what I came here for? No! Definitely not!
Her strong hands kneaded my arm down to the bone. My arm hurt so much yet her timeless beauty distracted my pain momentarily. How could this elegant refined looking priestess perform so many ugly burps? Didn’t she know to burp in the presence of another was very impolite in my country? Yet, I was as mesmerized as I was a bit disgusted.
My mind started reeling in ridiculous thoughts. (How toxic must I be? I did have a couple of margaritas as I watched the Legian sunset the night before but was I this bad?)
‘Just breathe’ she told me smiling gently. She had amazing clear black eyes.‘Relax’ she said. My mind continued in it’s madness. (How could I relax if she was making me squeal? I didn’t expect this. What was I doing paying a healer to be hurt? Jeez, I must have had a zillion entities in me. Would she please just stop with the burping? God if only a few of my straight friends back home could see me now! They would be laughing so hard. She burps again. ‘Better out than in my head tells me. Ha ha.) “Ouch!”
Yet despite all the random thoughts travelling in my head, I came to see Jero for another reason than just getting out the devils I had within me. I came to see Jero because I wanted answers. Like most single women in their single women in their forties I felt that time was ticking faster. Well many i knew were desperate to have children. At least I got that one down already. Years were passing by at an accelerated rate it seemed. TI started to ask myself “Where am I? How did I get here? 44? This isn’t what life is supposed to be like!” I am reminded of the daytime soap opera on TV my mother watched while she was ironing or occasionally when I stayed home either sick or pretending to be sick. “Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives”. My life felt as if it had lost it’s grip on the world.That edge that gave me spark or drive seemed to be dissipating. Could this be the start of early menopause? (Heaven forbid! Don’t even start on that one Leslie.)
Yet here I was done with my active mothering days and after many arduous failed marriages and relationships I was still single. I truly didn’t expect my life to turn out this way as a pretty young girl living in Sydney studying at the best school and living in a upper class beautiful home. What did I do wrong? At what part did the boat capsize? Oh God, I had never been so lonely. The lines on my face were getting deeper and generally I felt a void inside of me that needed desperately to be fulfilled, that seemed to be growing with every passing day. The self-help books no longer worked. It seemed to be a daily battle to stay youthful, positive and keep a healthy perspective for the future. Time seemed to be speeding up and here I was alone.
Finding love one day seemed to be my only solace. That he is out there. Someone I can share my life with, someone to hold at night, someone that knows and loves me for who I am. A person that would make everything right in my life and that I could trust and depend on.
Ibu Jero smiled gently as I winced in pain. (I’m going to kill Jessica. She’s the one that suggested I come to this beautiful sadistic healer. I wondered if Jero actually enjoys hurting me?)
Thank God Jero stopped her wrenching. I felt as if my arm was black and blue. Face to face sitting cross-legged in the temple, the smell of incense wafted towards me through the air with the afternoon breeze. We both looked in each other’s eyes and took a deep breath. A part of me felt an instant relaxation, maybe just for the fact that the squeezing had been stopped.Ah finally she had stopped squeezing. My arm however still throbbed from the pressure.
There was a quietness in the air for a few moments, the cock had stopped cackling, the dogs were quiet and a beautiful light suddenly entered the window making the room seem yellow and blessed.
Jero smiled into my eyes and broke the long silence we were both relishing. She said to me softly “Yes, this silence is beautiful. This silence is who you are. You must try to be happy Leslie and not to be sad. “ She continued “Leslie, you came here to ask me a question. Please now ask me your question”.
I knew what I wanted to ask and yet I felt girlish and dumb, especially after feeling into this beautiful silence.
The question, ah yes the golden question. Here I am, 44 years old and still wanting to know about my love life. Like a coy teenager I looked away, my heartbeat starting to race and I could feel myself blushing.
(Ok here goes. Get your courage up Leslie. She’s a woman too. Even high priestesses have desires.)
I lift my head and shyly smiled as I stammered “Will I ever meet my man, my soul mate?”
There it was. I blurted it out. My life long quest, to find my soulmate. The one. The person that will never hurt or harm me. The one that will never run away. The one who does not give me problems. The one that knows and understands me. The one I can trust and love whole-heartedly. Till death do us part.
Jero acknowledged my question through the expression in her eyes, which she now closed. She fell silent and it was as though she entered deep meditation. I held my breath in anticipation.
My mind was reeling again. (Imagine if she tells me that he is coming this year! Gosh! I had better start going to the gym and get in shape. Maybe it will be next year? Oh that gives me time to get my bikini body back. I wonder if she knows what he will look like. Does he live in Bali? When will this all happen? I was eager to know everything! What does he look like? Have a met him already?)
Jero opened her eyes as if she was coming out of a ten-hour sleep and stared at me. Her look was serious and yet loving. I could detect even a slight smile with her eyes.
‘Wow, this is big’ I thought.
I wasn’t wrong. (Are you going to stop staring at me and give tell me when he is coming?)
“Leslie, Leslie Leslie… The answer is NO. You will never be with a man again because Leslie, you cannot love just one person.”
Smash! Bang! Boom! Kezapp! I felt as I had entered a Batman and Robin comic as the enemy. I felt as if I had been smacked down to the floor. It was as if all my dreams were crumbling before my eyes, like a wave hitting a sandcastle that took years to build. Did I hear correctly?
“Never?” was the only word I could manage to escape from my broken heart.
“Never” Ibu Jero replied with compassionate certainty.
My mind and its defensive thoughts flared up. (You have got to be kidding me, Miss Balinese belching priestess. You mean to tell me the only thing I have ever wanted in my life I will never have? You mean to tell me the fantasy that has kept me alive for the past 32 years is over? Are you telling I am destined to be a little old lonely woman living with cats in a smelly apartment? My mind reeled with images of being a bag lady on the street, lonely with nobody to love. I was a scrawny scrooge woman with a wooden heart. I may as well just give up and die now.)
Jero gave me a smile that just made me want to punch her as I gave her $40.00, a violent emotion that I rarely felt. (What a waste of money. I swear that is the last time I will go see these types of soothsayers. I’m not going to believe this. I’m not dead yet. I am beautiful and can create my own destiny. This afternoon was a total waste of time and something I prefer to forget. Yes, that works for me. I walked out of there though like a puppy with his tail between his legs. Damn. Never. Never?)
“You cannot love just one person Leslie.” She said again as she walked me through her compound to the gates holding my hand. “Goodbye Leslie, Try to be happy. You have a big heart, too big.”
On the ride home on my scooter through the rice fields, these words played over and over in my head. Just what did she mean by not being able to love just one person? I have loved many people in my life and each one in a different way. To love a man would be no different than loving anyone else, except that special one and I would decide to be committed to each other. My mind reeled. Could it be she meant I would have many lovers and never settling with one? What did she mean? Could life be this cruel to me, never to find the one? Why me?