“Should I pick you up? We can adventure on my scooter,” a Tinder boy offered.
I was fresh off the boat in Bali. All my life I had grown up in Manila, where I was warned not to get into cars with strangers. So I booked my own Ubers to all my dates, which happened in safe, public places where I never lost sight of my drink.
But my intuition, which has never failed me, just shrugged at both the boy and the idea of being driven around on his vehicle. So I said yes and told him to pick me up from an afternoon skateboarding event by the beach.
“I appreciate you trusting me,” he said as we rode from Seminyak to Canggu.
“I told my friends I’d message them if I was getting kidnapped,” I half joked. I had also tweeted something similar, ending with “Don’t tell my mother”.
He laughed. “Yeah, don’t worry! I’ll take you home. I’ll even tuck you into bed. Read you a little story.”
We didn’t feel compelled to see each other again after that night. But I still got warm feelings whenever I passed by the pretty, lawn-type restaurant he took me to. I was traveling on my own for a month–the longest I had been away from home. There’s a certain level of loneliness and anxiety in that. But passing by La Laguna on my daily commutes reminded me that on my third night here, someone took the time to feed me, take care of me, get to know me, and bring me home safe. I wasn’t sure why that meant something, even if we didn’t end up liking each other and would probably never see each other again. But it did.
After that, I worried less and less about riding on scooters with people I had just met–which, date or no date, is literally the only way you get around Bali if you can’t drive yourself. I soon thought nothing of dropping a Google Maps pin of my address in a new date’s Whatsapp, to be whisked away at the appointed time (again, don’t tell my mother).
There’s something to be said about the combination of boys and scooters. Apart from the usual ~wind in your hair, carefree feeling, it turned out to be a very clear barometer of feelings of connection. Apparently modes of transportation that require you to hang on to another human being do that.
It always started out casually–holding on to their shoulders the same way I would a driver I hailed via the Go-Jek app. And then, IF I started to grow fond of them, my body would instantly betray it. I’d lean in closer, rest my chest on their broad backs, my chin on their shoulders; maybe wrap them up in a embrace as they drove on. I’ve read of how bodies move and do things without their owners telling them to. A scooter ride is intimate enough, but also relaxed enough for you to be able to watch it happen; watch space disappear in a very warm, tactile manner. You didn’t have to figure out what was going on in your head. You only had to watch what was going on on the bike. Was it hot or cold? Cold that went hot that was now going cold again? Comfortable warmth tinged with solemn silence because you were flying home tomorrow, so this most probably was the last? You could never not know. Your body would always tell you.
My favorite boy–the only one I grew to like (I dated so many, pero siyempre choosy pa rin tayo)–was the best driver and also the best kisser. And not only was he good at both, he was good at doing both at the same time without compromising safety.
“I’ll be careful.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll take very good care of you,” they all liked to reassure me when I first hopped on. You don’t hear that when your date involves a car.
I’m back in Manila, which means I’m also back to hailing airconditioned Ubers that shield me from the world.
I don’t miss Bali. But I do miss scooters.