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Three Strings

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There were tears and I couldn’t explain my actions to myself, let alone to Belinda. But once I’d decided to leave there was no turning back. Maybe that’s why I flew here – to put distance between us. “To get some perspective”, I had told her. I thought about it a lot at first, about whether the quest for personal freedom could ever justify the pain it caused someone else. But once the jet had reached cruising altitude and I had a complimentary drink in my hand, I stopped thinking.

Cynthia was already on the horizon before I left Belinda, but it was nothing serious. She was in a long-term relationship with Tony, a lecturer in economics, and I was grateful just to be a friend. “Don’t even think about it. She’s way out of your league”, a mutual acquaintance and warned me. I never really liked sports analogies, but I couldn’t deny that Cynthia was a whole new ball game. The two ladies were poles apart. Belinda was into tarot and astrology, and it irked me that she believed you could tell what someone was like just from their star sign. She insisted that it was true, but you had to know the relative positions of all the planets at the time and place of someone’s birth to get an accurate picture of their personality, with all their strengths and weaknesses. Belinda was a Gemini like me, but I also had Scorpio rising, which concerned her greatly. Cynthia, on the other hand, was a Capricorn who regarded anyone who believed in astrology as a complete moron.

Cynthia, on the other hand, was a capricorn who regarded anyone who believed in astrology as a complete moron.”

A few days after the touch down, I looked up Stewart. He was a friend of a friend with a business visa living in a backstreet in south Denpasar. When he greeted me at his door wearing a threadbare sarong and coffee stained wife-beater I wondered out loud what type of business he was involved in. “Detourism”, he answered flatly, examining my face for signs of comprehension. Finding none, he explained that he was “an activist entrepreneur redesigning the tourist experience as a randomized sequence of detours.”

To show what he meant, he took me on a long walk to what he claimed was a bar, a veritable hole-in-the-wall, with no signage except for a small playing card pinned to a heavy wooden door, itself the only feature in an expanse of unremarkable cinderblock. I nudged him and pointed to the car. “The three of strings”, he said. “That’s the name of the place, or it is today. Tomorrow, who knows? But you’d never know it was, here would you? It’s not in any of the guidebooks. And I trust you’ll help to keep it that way. Or else”, he added, pushing the door, “I might have to kill you.”

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