On the thankfulness of not understanding

30 Jul

On Gili Air one of these bright clear days, I came upon a woman in her mid-fifties, wearing a green summer dress and a frown, who I could not be happier to not understand.

“So are you going to put the cushions back?” She had stopped in front of me.

“You are not allowed to move the cushions. There is a sign saying, you cannot move the cushions.”

I stared at her. It was true. We had taken more of our share of cushions though there were plenty more available on empty seats.

It was something in her tone that made me slow to respond. Or maybe the strong German accent that came with it.

“So?” she said. “Can we reclaim those cushions?”

“Can't you just take those?” I said. I looked at her to make her follow my stare to the empty beach hut in front with four large cushions.

“I don't want those. The servants sleep on them all day long.”

“But there is no one there now and we have been here for hours. Can't you just take those and if someone else comes, we'll give them the ones we have?”

“I don't want those” she replied, uttering each word slowly and separate from the next.

She proceeded to sigh.

“I don't want those“, she repeated, with one eyebrow raised, talking to me now in an even slower manner, as it would help me understand.

I didn't.

I did when she lowered her voice.

“I don't want those”, she hissed in a whisper. “The servants sleep on them all day long”.

I turned around and looked at my fiancé. But his dark sunglasses revealed nothing.

A moment passed. I gave her the cushion I had under my feet.

She smiled at me. “Thank you”, she said, as to a stubborn child who had finally come around.

I got up and got myself some servant cushions.


That same evening, we returned to the hotel late at night. There were no cushions in the small beach huts.

“Uhm”, I said, thinking not too much of it. “They must take them in every night.”

“So they all get mixed up then?”

I understood him. We laughed.


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