It’s one of those days where I just fucking hate Bali. We’re in the middle of a tropical thunderstorm, my friend’s a little homesick, and I just got sexually assaulted while driving my scooter.

For the three kilometres I was followed, something didn’t feel right. I slammed on my brakes, letting him pass me twice, only to have him slow down the second I was behind him. Ma’af Officer, the only image I can provide was his young face and red shirt in my wing mirror.

I can tell you the fifty shades of green I saw as I rounded the corner to my favourite rice paddy fields on the left. Not world famous, but beautiful in their own reality. Traversed by locals tending to the plants each day, the reflection of the sky caught in the pools of water between the plants sprouting heavenwards. Half built Balinese villas created and abandoned in the distance. I can describe the shouts of the school children as they passed us on the roads, four to a scooter with the chauffeur being no older than twelve. Seven arms sticking off the two-wheeled vehicle and waving at the white people on their way to class. I can tell you the smell of the streets. The fresh rice and spices being hand-tended in the warungs by the women who have done the same since they watched their mothers doing beforehand. A concentrated smell watered down by the salty ocean air travelling up the streets. The smell of rain on the concrete and every so often the bubble of the vilest thing you ever smelt. Rotting foods gifted to the gods weeks previously, the burning of rubbish in the drains and a dysfunctional sewerage system. The bubble of air so foul I could taste it. Reminding me I wasn’t in paradise, but a developing country.

I can tell you all the senses, but I can’t describe the man who attacked me in more than a sentence.

I started to pull over a third time, but he drove up beside me and shoved his left hand up my skirt, grabbing me so hard with such feral intent I can still feel where his fingers touched. A slap, a hit, a literal Donald Trump grab her by the pussy. There is probably a family-friendly way to phrase it, but it was vulgar and intrusive, and I want you to know the intensity of what I felt. Physically. Because the emotional stunting the man on the scooter felt justified his moment of temporary satisfaction, grew to be a self-doubt I never knew my childlike mind was capable of.

I still feel his hand there. Always unsure of how long I will be able to feel his finger imprint for. Someday someone I love will be touching me, but the only hands I will feel will be his. Bony, malicious and crafting such hate with a single touch.

My scooter slowed down to a stop. I couldn’t tell you how; body and mind numb from the touch of the stranger’s fingers. In unison with the motor, my life stalled for a moment too. This happens to people, sure. But it doesn’t happen to me. It was never on the cards or in the stars or anywhere in my universe.

After being followed for three kilometres, chased, evading him more times than I can count and reasoning the gonna-vomit, upside-down feeling in my gut a consequence of the local’s subpar driving skills. I could have done nothing more. I was aware of his presence, and I was attacked. His left hand invading my skirt as he passed me in one moment, out of sight the next. Never out of mind.

Harder to visualise the beauty of the rice paddy fields, I now admire the woman who spends twelve hour days in the tropical heat tending to the grain we eat at such little expense. She does it to afford to bring a child into the world that we have created. Destined for nothing more than the same career as herself, guided and given hope by their spirituality. Spending their mornings providing offerings to the gods.


I find myself trying to reason that it meant nothing to him, that the contrasting culture he had come to believe him had convinced him that his thievery was okay. Or maybe it meant everything to him. Somehow, I had made this man so inexplicably angry that sexual assault was the only way he could exert his power on me. To one up me.

I can never decide which one’s worse.

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