The villa has small lizards, tokay geckos. Beads for eyes, ghost jade skin, distinctive squawks. At first they were cute, until a couple fell on us during the night,. I catch a baby, smaller than my favourite finger, under a plastic soy bowl, then don’t know what to do with it. I leave the soy bowl where it is, in the middle of the cool tiled floor, with a post-it. “ABSOlutely don’t TOUCH this!!!!”
“You’re gonna leave that there?” says my adult daughter, Wade.
“You’re one to talk,” I tell her. She knows this is true, so she ducks out. Pretends we need more ice cream, which may well be the case.
We’ve been eating a lot of ice cream. Mother-daughter bonding. Homemade sushi, shh-igarettes, red wine and ice cream.
We’re at this villa because her boyfriend blacked her eyes, but I’m not allowed to talk about that. She’s going to go back to him, she says, after they’ve both had a couple of weeks away to cool jets. I have my own thoughts, withheld for now.
I look in the freezer, where there’s a big tub of Ben & Jerry’s after all, and as Wade’s getting some more anyway I dig in with a dessert spoon. Screw it, this is a holiday! Live a little.
Since coming out to the villa, I’ve called her boyfriend now four or five times, and when he picks up, I whisper “Dieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” drawing the word out for as long as I can. I hide my number – I’m not stupid. He listens until I run out of breath, and then he hangs up. Then I call again, and this time I say nothing, and he waits, and waits. The longest he waited was two minutes, before he said, “Stop calling,” and put down the phone.
Oops! The ice-cream’s gone now. Just as well she’s getting some more.
When she was younger, Wade wanted to be a travel photographer, so before coming on this trip I picked her up an expensive camera, and during the day I leave the cable TV on, switched to the documentary channels. Planting seeds. With daughters you can’t wake them up by force, you can only create the environment for them to wake up in by themselves.
She’s left the camera behind, so I turn it on and flick through what she’s taken. Fifty identical pictures of the sunset from our balcony, a dozen of wine glasses from different angles, some flowers, a starfish, a white church against a vibrant blue sky. One of me sleeping it off, my paperbacks balanced three-high on my head.
I’ve been here twenty times before, and I’ve never seen the white church. She must be slipping out in the mornings, exploring. That’s good. Great, even. Tonight I’ll get more wine in, and tell her the local college here runs a photography course. It’s in English, if she’s worried about language, and I can afford it, if she’s worried about money.
Her phone rings, and when I see who it is I answer.
“Way?” he says.
“You stay away from my daughter,” I hiss. “If you don’t, I’m going to pay somebody to put a hole in your dirty little face.”
I’m so angry, I throw the spoon into the wall and make a black mark.
“It’s you, isn’t it?” he says. “The calls?”
I don’t say anything, let the dead air fill the world. After a minute, he says, “Stop calling me,” and puts down the phone.
I think that went well. I check out the black mark in the wall, try rubbing it off with a little bit of spit. It’s not going anywhere. They’ll just have to charge me for it.
Wade comes back, calling Yoohooo, like she’s a guest, and this is a sitcom. She still doesn’t fully realise how welcome she is.
“They didn’t have ice cream,” she says, “so I got Greek yoghurt with honey instead.”
“Oh, that won’t do,” I tell her, and she laughs.
“It’s healthier,” she says. “You’ve been hogging molto gelato.”
I coerce her into the car, and together we drive out to the supermarket in town ‘to rectify this horrible mistake’.
Later, while I’m opening a second bottle of red, she calls me over. There’s a bigger lizard by the plastic soy bowl, looking like it’s trying to push it over, trying to let the little one go free.
“Isn’t that the best?” she says, and she has the camera out, snapping shot after shot after shot.
Christopher James lives, works and writes in Jakarta, Indonesia. He has previously been published online in many venues, including Tin House, McSweeney’s, Smokelong, and Wigleaf. He is the editor of Jellyfish Review.