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The Last Wave Goodbye

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They’re takin ga little bit of you with them, a piece of your heart, so why do you feel heavier somehow?

Arrivals, departures. It’s always busy at Ngurah Rai, more than 100,000 flights in and out a year, more than 15 million people coming or going. But the sight of a jet ascending through the clouds and disappearing into the distance is different when someone you know is on board. Someone you love, sitting in a window seat. They’re taking a little bit of you with them, a piece of your heart, so why do you feel heavier somehow, more bound by gravity and tied to this place with its smells and sounds and salty air? Your feet sink further into the sand as you watch a wave building offshore. It rises to a peak, breaks and rolls to the beach, crash turning to hiss, before sucking back out again. 

The jet is just a mark like a tiny dash above the horizon now and you stare up at it and try to picture whoever it is – your wife or husband or lover or son or daughter or your friend – sitting with their seatbelt on defying gravity and maybe thinking of you standing on the beach or caught in traffic outside the airport, or just getting on with your life, staying put in a world of arrivals and departures. 

The waves keep rolling in but they’re under you now, the swell lifting you up and lowering you down again. You’ll catch one in when you’re ready but you’re in no hurry and this steady rising and falling is calming, like deep breathing, preparing you to deal with the traces of your lover, child or friend that will linger, like the smell of them that will cling for a day or two before everyday life sloughs them off. 

At this very moment, as the jet approaches cruise speed, you imagine your loved one grappling with a snack wrapped in impenetrable cellophane, a substance developed by the commercial aviation industry to divert passengers’ attention away from the improbable fact that they are flying thousands of metres above the Earth. The snack itself defies easy categorisation. Is it a biscuit? Or is it a cake of compressed powder? Coffee has arrived now too, poured from a large decanter, and it sits steaming in the circular depression of the pull-out tray. Out the window through wisps of clouds, an island punctures the expanse of ocean, a cliff face capped with green. Minutes later it has gone. 

You’re on the beach again now, politely refusing massages and sarongs, deciding it’s too early for beer, but saying yes to rice wrapped tightly in a brown paper pyramid. You dig your feet deeper into the sand while you eat with your fingers and watch as another wave builds offshore. It rises and breaks and rolls to the beach in a low wall of foam, then sucks back out again, rushing to join the next wave, and the next wave, and the wave after that 

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