I hope I see Andy today, I thought to myself. My best bet was dinner. He’d happened to find us at dinner the past four nights in a row, but now most of the group was gone, including his fling Nancy. And I gave him plenty of reason to find new friends the night before. I didn’t know what else to do. I’d already tried talking to him calmly. He was too drunk to realize that he was in danger, that the growing number of star-gazing men around him were actually coordinated pickpockets waiting for the right moment. I chased them off as best I could, but there were dozens of them and one of me. I was sober, so I could see them watching me, waiting for me to leave. Andy and Michelle could hardly stand up, but you don’t need to be able to stand when you’re making out on a beach at 3AM. It took a string of curses and a few slaps across the chest before they agreed to get their things and leave.
I hope Andy doesn’t hate me. I just need a chance to explain.
Nine months of consistent travel doesn’t leave much time for making close friends. But Andy and I had been hanging out on and off for over three weeks. That’s the equivalent to a life-long friendship to a traveler. We might as well be married. We were getting sentimental about it last night before he split off for a roll in the sand with Nancy. He’s lucky I was rejected by that Danish cutie so that I happened to pass him by on my way home.
* * *
On my moped, I flew by a broad chested, curly haired white guy in his mid-twenties. Andy! I spun my bike around and cruised up behind him. I think that’s Andy. I hesitated a split second then shouted, “Andy!” He turned to me. “Hey! Where’re you headed?”
“Just dropping off the bike,” he said.
“I’ll follow you.”
He pulled into the rental shop between two other travelers I’d never seen before. I parked across the street and walked over. “Hey, man! How’s it going?”
“Good, mate. Good,” he said in that distinct Aussie accent of his.
“Crazy night, eh?”
He seemed preoccupied. Or maybe it was exhaustion. He looked a bit haggard.
“Hey, so, I’m sorry about last night. I was just afraid—“ he cut me off.
“Oh, no worries, mate. No worries,” he said.
“Yeah,” I laughed a bit to ease the tension, “I wasn’t mad at you, I was mad at the situation.”
“No worries, mate. Everything’s fine.” What a relief. I felt my body relax.
“Awesome. So, what’re you doing for dinner? I was just headed to Nana’s to meet up with Michelle.”
“Oh, I’m off with these two.” He gestured to the two strangers, one of whom shot me a skeptical sideways glance.
“Oh, all right.” He said nothing. I said nothing. “Well, I’ll see you later then.”
He hadn’t actually forgiven me. He didn’t care what my side of the story was. All he knew was that it was Nancy’s last night in Lombok and I’d ruined it. And I’d lost a friend.
* * *
Michelle was at the table when I showed up. We small talked, but my mind was on Andy and Nancy. I’d probably lost both of them. So much for new friends.
“Andy said he’ll be here in about 20 minutes,” Michelle said.
“He did? I just saw him. He said he was eating with someone else,” I told her.
“No, he’s coming.”
“When did you talk to him?”
“Just an hour ago.”
“’Cause I ran into him on the way here. He said he’s not coming.”
“Oh. Then you would know better than I do.” Michelle had a crush on Andy. She probably hoped to act on it now that Nancy was gone. We sat in silence for several minutes.
We were in the middle of eating when Andy strolled up and took a seat across from me.
“Hey!” He looked more put together, like his usual self. And he was wearing a different shirt. “Did you shower?” I asked.
“No,” he said, rubbing his hair, “I need a shower.”
We dove into some random small talk and I was happy to see that he’d decided to join us after all. He didn’t seem upset with me at all. I still wanted to explain myself, so I brought up the night again.
“Yeah,” he said, “I was meaning to ask you. What happened?”
I explained the whole thing from start to finish, including the moment I understood the situation: “I couldn’t tell what they were all looking at, so I went over to get a closer look. That’s when I saw you two lying in the sand and, six feet away, some guy army crawling on his belly in your direction.”
There was a pause after I’d finished the story while I waited to hear Andy’s response. Please understand, I thought. I was trying to save you. Andy had already been robbed once on this island.
“That is crazy!” He said.
“I’m sorry, I—“
“No, I’m sorry! I was wasted. I didn’t see anything. I can’t believe that happened. I’m glad you were there.”
He meant it. I cracked a smile that didn’t recede the rest of our meal. I have my friend again. He doesn’t hate me.
We recounted related stories from our travels and laughed over our own follies. When I drove home, I hummed to myself. As I neared my house, I noticed three white dudes in shorts and tank tops walking on the opposite side of the road, facing my direction. They didn’t look at me, so they didn’t get a chance to recognize me. But I recognized the one in the middle. There was the shortest of moments, a split of a split second, when I wondered how Andy had gotten across town ahead of me since he’d left after me, and his guesthouse was in the opposite direction of mine. But then I realized who the two men walking on either side of him were. And that’s how I learned that he wasn’t Andy.
Maybe his name was Andy. He responded when I called him Andy. But the first time I ever had a conversation with this Andy, was in front of a bike rental shop two hours earlier. And never again since.