Monday, December 7, 2009

Risky Business

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Risky at La La House of Beauty in Ubud

His name is Risky. He is the lead stylist at the La La House of Beauty just off the main road in the hillside artist colony of Ubud, Bali. I know he saw me coming from several meters away. In Asia I am not easy to miss. A 6'5" , 200lb nordic giant that just screams tourist without ever uttering a single word.

As I approach, he stands at the ready with a big smile and a home made xeroxed flyer in his diminutive outstretched hand. Special for you today he says coyly. I give you good price on any treatment. What you want? What you neeeeed? he coos. I size him up quickly before I answer, a face lift and a new ass. Defy gravity, I add. There was a brief silence as he translated in his head then a full on giggle of delight. You must come upstairs to La La right now - no time to wasting - we have big job to do. That’s an understatement.

After negotiating a package deal for a haircut, manicure and pedicure for the grand sum of $20 he calls in the La La House of Beauty construction crew to assist . 2 young Balinese girls join us – one at my hands the other at my feet. Suddenly, the guilt of being a spoiled westerner sweeps over me. Risky notices my shoulders tense, Relax he whispers sternly in my ear and then wraps a cape around my neck. We pamper you. No worry at La La. Our job to make you beautiful and happy. Good luck with that I think to myself. Risky pats me on the shoulders. I surrender. The guilt evaporates as quickly as it appeared.

Risky switches on the electric razor and winks at my reflection in the mirror. Here we going he says in full on flirt mode. As he takes his first pass at my receding hairline I see him notice my wedding band. Nonchalantly he asks, where you wife? How long married? I say, 23 years... to my husband. I am gay. He gives my earlobe a playful tug and says in his best broken English, me already knowing this but I wanting to be sure.

I decide that since fate has tossed me into the La La House of Beauty for some “risky” business, this must be a chance for some one on one impromptu Rights of Passage research. How come you are called Risky, I inquire. Me a little bit dangerous that’s why. At least my last boyfriend is saying that to me when he breaking up. But that’s ok, I liking tourist man better then Indonesian boy anyway, he offers seductively. I see immediately where this is going. I deflect. You will meet the right guy in time Risky, I did and it has lasted many years. A brief silence. Risky is regrouping.

Where you staying he asks feigning disinterest as he buzzes away the patches of grey in my sideburns. Samhita Gardens Hotel near the Roda Internet Café, I tell him. How lucky, me having room very close by, he says enthusiastically. Without hesitation, I deflect again. I have much work here on Bali then on Java. A very busy schedule. Risky falls silent again and continues his work. I let it sit there for a few minutes.

Being gay very hard here, he says out of nowhere. I notice that when he says the word “gay” he says it very softly. I sense a tinge of fear in his voice as he wraps his lips around the danger of that word. Risky’s flirting glances in the mirror have been replaced with a harder more cautious look. The girls working on my limbs pretend not to hear or understand the conversation taking place between us. They seem to buff a little faster. Now we are getting to the heart of it I think to myself. It’s the same the world over - the all to recognizable closet complete with the pervasive self loathing lurking in the background.

I going from Jakarta 1 year ago. Much crazy there. Gay not so good for me. Ubud very quiet. To quiet I am thinking. Still it better. Risky confesses this without my prompting. Me 29 and I waiting for something...someone...when he come? My mind reels. I want to say the right thing here. The best I can come up with is, you are young and very beautiful. Some man will be lucky to find you and will fall in love with you. He is coming, maybe just around the corner.

Risky sighs deeply and maneuvers the electric razor to the back of my neck. A mischievous look darts back into his eyes and he says, Well telling him to hurry up ok? He blows a kiss in the mirror and then slips me his phone number. Just in case he says as he dusts the hairs off my face and shoulders. I smile at his reflection and feeling flattered say, but I am old enough to be your father! Risky answers back quickly , no problem for me. I am overlooking this. By this time, the manicure-pedicure girls are now buffing in triple time and staring holes into the floor.

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