My instinctively chosen region was near to South America. I’d always wanted to come here and felt unbridled excitement in the air of the steaming and sticky streets. I had hit roughly the right spot for my rapid calculations - 23 degrees North and 67 degrees West - there was a problem though. The feeling that anything was possible and that I had arrived on a cloud of hot air in the land of the fulfillment of desire was tempered by the creeping suspicion that I might have trouble finding a decent place to stay. It all looked very alien and I had a feeling it may have been doomed. Perhaps I had been a bit hasty in coming so far without a plan or guide.
I was surrounded by growing evidence of the dying throes of a civilization although, being unconscious, I was unable to make rational sense of the situation at the moment I was in it. Furthermore, it appeared that reason had only half-heartedly joined me. She had failed to fully awaken from her state of slumber following the house party and was sitting down aimlessly at any opportunity, clearly oppressed by the heat, unwilling to offer any input to our situation and clearly wishing she was tucked up safely in a more comfortable place.
I looked around lamely. The narrow and uneven street was filled with too much stuff of an indeterminate nature and there were far too many people sitting around in the decaying gardens and yards of cramped shanty houses. I didn’t understand it – this was supposed to have been an astonishingly advanced culture but the houses were a mess and the local people looked vacant, almost as if they were on narcotics. They were all dressed strangely in loose white cotton garments that looked like nighties, and which were embroidered with multi-coloured symmetrical thread designs, usually in dark blue and green, while most of the women seemed to be brushing the long dark hair of their daughters. I looked at one pair sitting to my left. The daughter had a shock of incredibly thick, jet-black hair, that trailed almost to her knees, and I assumed that the mother would be trying to get a brush through it for the next decade. The men all wore wide-brimmed hats and a few were performing odd jobs that didn’t mean much to me. Over to my right were terrace-like levels of apartments and cheap-looking structures that could have been hotels, again, filled with hairy people milling around languidly in the stifling heat.
I had evidently turned up during a long-forgotten century in the poorest quarter of a completely foreign country, somewhere in or around correct continent, fully in line with my impetuous decision and complete absence of proper planning. I tried to ignore my premonition that the whole place should, by rights, have been buried at around that time, for its demise appeared long overdue.
My male volunteer was surprising by his mere and unexpected presence, but he said nothing at all and also appeared to be leaving the decision-making process up to me. I felt slightly defensive at the dubiously haphazard consequences of my desire to get away from it all. He was probably quite good looking – tall and blonde the way I liked them - but I didn’t have the motivation to pay attention to him because I had more pressing matters to attend to. I did want us to have a good time – the opportunity to have fun in a hot country with a good looking stranger was rather appealing. A good time, however, was largely dependent upon decent accommodation and my main priority was to make the best of things and find us a reasonable bed for the night. The only problem with this plan was that the overwhelming impression of an abundance of hair, coupled with the sinking inevitability that any bed for the night was going to be a mattress on the floor of a favela, gave rise to nothing but a burning desire to avoid catching head-lice.
There had to be another solution to this bygone age - there was no way I was going to sleep in one of those shacks – this was supposed to be a holiday, not an ordeal. The atmosphere was stifling and although people paid no attention to us at all –there was certainly no outright hostility – I knew instinctively that we ought to get out of there. I looked around for alternative accommodation but at this point the volunteer disappeared, without so much as a word, and left me alone to deal with whatever was going to happen. I think he ran away with my reason.
Wandering back down the road in the other direction, sort of south and east if one assumes that I had previously been facing north, I chanced upon an improbably grand and opulent palace-like building that had an air of exclusivity. I went in nonchalantly, hoping everyone would assume I was staying there, but suspecting all the while that I would somehow meet my end without making it to bed. The building was full of people who seemed also to be in the midst of some sort of investigation as a consequence of helpless disorientation.
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