He’s in another diving group doing his open water PADI. He’s massive. He’s got wavy black hair, a moustache and a funny, chin-beard. He seems familiar. An Italian look. Pavarotti.
Welcoming and inclusive. Friendly. Buoyant. Spirited. Enthusiastic. Animated. I think of the Dolmio puppets. He has wonderful, bright, alert, blue eyes and I’m attracted to him for some reason above all the other people on the boat.
We go for a couple of Bintang later on the beach by the dive school. He’s not American; he’s Canadian. Though he’s wearing shades and a twisted-back cap. It turns out he’s twenty-four. He seems older. He holds court well with people more than twice his age. Great energy. A heart of gold.
Hailing from Alberta, Canada, he has a tough, manual job working away from home for long periods of time. He fixes oil pipes deep below dangerous, dirty, bleak lands at all hours of the day and night. Sometimes he’s exposed to temperatures as low as minus fifty. The edge of the Earth. Just Keane and a tight crew. Alien landscapes. Lonely places. Vast country, where the ground can suddenly open up and swallow everything into oblivion. Never to be seen again.
He explains that his prospects for promotion are as bleak as the landscapes he works in.
“Literally, if I want a pay-rise, someone has got to die.’ We joke that it would be easy to lose someone out in the tar sands. Dear Mr Keane’s boss, you’ve been warned.
He’s safety conscious. It’s in the family. His dad is a health and safety consultant and therefore, our hero has been brought up learning just how much, ‘everything is trying to kill us’. Jeez, if this man isn’t scared of diving then there’s no need for me to be.
He had a girlfriend back home but they split up. Then they got back together. Then they split up again. He does right to be on the other side of the world. Take a look around, my friend. And he does sometimes. We’ll be talking and his head will turn. One way. Then the other. ‘Woah, did you see that fancy tall lady? She’s wonderful.’ And why not?
A week ago, he arrives at the airport in Vancouver. Feeling the need to soak in some new potential, broaden his prospects, seek, he’s ready to travel. He’s away for two months, only he doesn’t know where. He has given his sister-in-law a budget and she’s planned his trip as a surprise. All he knows is that it’s hot. And he doesn’t learn of his first stop until the airport. What a legend.
And here he is on Gili Trawangan, learning to dive. He’s just passed his open water PADI as a newly certified diver. Well done, Keane. Happy to go with the flow, what will he find? Who will he meet? What interesting new directions will his life take from here?
Keane dives with a local instructor, Ozan. Just the two of them. New to diving, Keane is diving with Ozan to stay safe. The reef is notorious for grumpy-bastard trigger fish. Eggy, ugly, bean-heads. Aggressive and territorial with razor teeth. And it’s mating season.
At the bottom, Ozan is attacked by a trigger fish guarding a nest. Ozan’s petrified. Like a true instructor, he grabs Keane’s tank and hides behind him, using Keane as a shield. Almost out of air, Keane is turding himself. The man who’s responsible for Keane’s safety, the guide, the expert has bailed on him at eighteen metres. You couldn’t write it.
Trigger fish are territorial in a cone-shape, upwards from the nest on the floor. If they stay low they’re fine. But Ozan flees upwards. They are chased all the way to the surface with Keane pulled by his tank backwards away from the mad fish. No safety stop. Brilliant. It’s something to talk about on a night out with the instructors later.
Unhappy trigger fish is keen for a piece of Keane.
Beers. He loves the dive culture. He loves the island life. Everyone likes Keane. It would suit him to be an instructor and he’s seen something of real interest to him on Gili Trawangan. Over beer pong, he enquires,
‘What would it take to become an instructor?’
‘Well, you’ve just not got to be an asshole.’ Says Neil.
‘Then how come Nick’s here?’ Retorts Keane.
‘You’re my favourite.’ Laughs Ash.
You’re my favourite too, big guy!
Keane laughs in our hotel room as he recalls his trigger fish dive-terror. He even caught part of it on his GoPro. What an inspiration.
Thank you, Keane. Lovely to meet you. Best of luck for the rest of your travels, buddy.
Thanks for reading