The Devil’s Daughter

They say you should never talk about the women you used to know after you get married. As a writer, I disagree if there’s a good story in it. My wife knows most of these stories, and in fact, she cleared me to write this, so it’s all good.

I can’t remember where I met Mia. I remember speaking to her on the phone a few times before I met her, so it must’ve been Facebook. I was contemplating taking a job at a summer camp in China, and then Mia showed up and convinced me to stick out my contract in Jakarta. I remember that she was always elegantly dressed, wore expensive jewellery and stayed in five-star hotels and luxury rented apartments when she was in town. After all these years, I don’t remember much else about her.

Because I wasn’t doing much anyway and was a little lost at this stage of my life, and because I was having a good time hanging out with her, I stuck around and took a short-term teaching contract with an agency. It was a “I’m having fun, so let’s see where this goes” type of thing. Apart from possibly going to China, I didn’t have much else going on anyway.

Mia lived in another city about two hours away. She came down to see me every weekend on a shuttle bus, and we hung out. She had a lot of friends in Jakarta, and I got to know them all. One of my fellow teachers even started dating one of her friends for a while. However, we weren’t that close, and this was a strictly “at the weekends” type of deal.

To be honest, there were warning signs about this woman from the outset, but I either chose to ignore them, or they just didn’t consciously register. Isn’t that always the case in retrospect? I’m a pretty non-judgemental person, so I appreciate most people the way they are, and I can sometimes let far too much slide. One of the warning signs would have been a dude’s name tattooed on her lower back. She told me she was divorced and hadn’t had it removed yet. I just took it at face value.

About four or five months passed like this. During that time, I noticed Mia was fiercely jealous of other women who even looked at me. She was a good-looking woman, so she had no need to be insecure, but she was wild and challenged several women openly for even saying hi to me. Once, she walked over to a group of women and asked them sarcastically in Indonesian if they wanted to take a photo of me. She hissed at a woman in a mall once because the woman was staring. I found it funny, but in retrospect, these were major red flags I should have paid attention to. I didn’t see it as being a serious relationship, though, so I didn’t think too much about it. I found it mildly entertaining.

Like many doomed situations, this one came to an end abruptly. Two things happened within roughly a week.

First, my good friend Ben came over to visit. I had to work (was proofreading news scripts for a local TV station), and I left them in a trendy coffee shop in a nearby mall. As soon as I got out, Ben pulled me aside and told me, “Bro, we need to talk.” He went on to tell me how Mia had basically propositioned him right there on their first meeting over a cup of coffee. Ok, this was a problem I actually took note of. The crazy was becoming near impossible to ignore.

Second, my friend Kamelia told me that she’d been reading an Indonesian woman’s magazine, and Mia was featured. As she was reading, something jumped off the page at her. In the interview, Mia was explaining how she’d opened a women’s only spa. She told the interviewer, “even my husband isn’t allowed in.”

As soon as the words left Kam’s mouth, my mind pulled about 50 dots together, and it all became crystal clear. The insane jealousy of other women, the three phones that she claimed were for different businesses, and the tattoo on her back that she was always going to get covered up but never did. The Blackberry she bought me but gave me in an open box because she’d obviously loaded some sort of spyware on it. It was all so obvious in hindsight.

I was gobsmacked but not really that mad about it, to begin with. As I dug into it, it became clear that this woman had been carrying on at least three different affairs in Jakarta, Bali, and a few other places. Her husband was a semi-famous rock singer who was on the road a lot, and she was a financially independent woman with a string of successful spas, salons, etc. As a wedding planner and minor TV personality, she had an excuse to be anywhere she wanted at any time. It was the perfect setup for shenanigans of all kinds.

A few weeks later, on a humid Jakarta night and a few too many cold beers later, it hit me. How dare this crazy witch behave like this? She couldn’t be allowed to get away with it. I didn’t even care about her that much, but it was THE PRINCIPLE OF IT. I was sitting at the bar with my buddy Rob Labrie, and with every cold Bintang I sank, I got angrier and started ranting. Rob had been through the ringer himself, so he had some wisdom for me.

Eventually, Rob slammed his green lighter down on the bar and accosted me.

“Look at that lighter, man,” he said. So, I did.

“That lighter is this fucking situation. That bar is the duration of your life. Look at how small it is. This is nothing. Let it go.”

I specifically remember I burst out laughing there and then. The absurdity of the situation washed over me, and I did let it go, or at least I started to.

I never saw Mia again, but I know she’s married to some dude in Canada now. I hope she’s happy and has settled down.

At the time, I felt like I’d wasted a fair chunk of time I could have been doing something better with. I was a bit annoyed that I hadn’t gone to China and had a cool experience because she’d convinced me to stick around. In retrospect, while she stopped me from taking that job in China, about a year later, I got an awesome job on the oil rigs that changed my life and led to many new and interesting experiences. I also met the woman that would become my wife and the mother of my children around the same time. Would I have been there in Jakarta that night I met Karla if I hadn’t met Mia? Unlikely.

So, what did I learn from this insane little chapter in my life? Three things.

First, everything happens for a reason. Even crazy, lying adulteresses play their part in the rich tapestry of life, and they can sometimes lead you to your destiny. Stuff that seems insane and bad at the time can turn out to be a good thing years later, and as Rob’s lighter on the bar showed, it’s usually nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Second, if something crazy happens to you, wait a few years before you judge it. You’ll probably look back and see that it was necessary for some reason. As Søren Kierkegaard said “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

Third, if a woman has a dude’s name tattooed on her back that she hasn’t covered up yet, it’s probably a good idea to think a little bit more about it. At the very least, you should check he isn’t her husband in another city.

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