The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes:
Going Native in the Jungle
going to the jungle. Palenque
Haines rotated the wire postcard rack and scanned them all before picking
out the one with the aerial photograph of the hotels and resorts that
lined the beach. On the postcard, orange letters spelled out "Cancun,"
and the word hovered above the water and buildings like an ignominious
blimp, and Matt thought of the black and white footage of the Hindenburg
he had seen on the History channel.
He addressed the card to his roommate, Luke Monahan.
Im going to the jungle. Palenque.
Matt dropped the card into the mailbox in the hotel lobby, slung his
backpack on, and went to the desk to check out.
"Couldnt find a job bartending?" the clerk, who was
also American, asked him.
"I got offered one," Matt said, "but Im heading
"Going to the ruins?"
"Yeah." Matt signed the credit card slip.
"Good luck, man."
The bus ride was long, the highways narrow and winding. He passed the
time sleeping, reading, or staring out the windows while music blasted
through his headphones.
On the last leg of the trip, the bus driver let passengers smoke. That
driver had played music most of the stint, chain smoking along the way.
Matt had liked him and gave him a tip when they stopped in Palenque,
and in return the driver had told Matt how to find the most isolated
He ate a quesadilla at the café, and drank three cups of coffee.
Matt sipped his coffee and watched across the street as the short Mexican
with the red and black cowboy boots talked to passing tourists. Whores
lingered by the side of the road, next to the white van where they did
Matt approached the man, "Cuanto me cobra llevarme a? What will
you charge to take me to
The man cut him off with a laugh, and gestured to the girls who leaned
against the building where there was shade, sipping from soda bottles
and smoking cigarettes.
"Pretty girl for hire," Enano replied in English.
"No." Matt turned and started to walk away.
"Magic mushroom," and Matt turned around again.
He filled Matts palm with psylocybin mushrooms for the equivalent
of three US dollars. The whores stared at him, the youngest one smiling.
In a few years, Matt thought, some of them would be missing teeth. Better
to suck dick with. He felt ashamed for thinking such a thing.
He hitched a ride to the temples and found a slim path through the jungle.
The bus driver had told him to look for the paths that the tour guides
made, the Indian tour guides, he had stressed, not knowing that Matt
was an Indian himself, an American Indian. A half-blood. He had followed
a tour group into the jungle and had hidden in the brush while the tourists
climbed the temple.
The Mayans had built this place almost a thousand years before Christ
was born, he knew. He wondered how much blood had spilled on its stones.
At first, he was afraid of the howler monkeys. But he had slept on the
temple top for three days, and in that time, the monkeys had not bared
their teeth to him or shrieked. When the tourists came, he would watch
from the brush while the monkeys shook branches and threw shit or bananas
at them. Tourists, monkey no like.
He found and filtered his water from the cascading pools, and searched
for fruit in the jungle. Mangos and bananas. On the third day, Matt
awoke, and realized it was Christmas morning. If there had been a phone
nearby, he would have called his mother or father or brothers and wished
them a Merry Christmas. But there was no phone nearby. Instead, he ate
a dry energy bar from his pack, and followed that with the mushrooms.
Once the drug, the nepenthe, had taken hold, he thought of staying on
top of the temple and its moss bed, but the jungle was calling him down.
He slithered down the worn temple, dribbled down its rock like rain
water, pulled by gravity to the bottom, to the earth, under the earth.
The monkeys began yelling to each other. Must be tourists nearby.
He did not know where he had put his knapsack and he did not care.
His shoes were gone and his toenails radiated like mother of pearl.
"Dont go to Mexico because youll get robbed by the
Banditos," his mother had warned him. But they had left him alone.
After failing the fall semester and skipping finals, Matt had headed
to Cancun with his backpack, hoping to get a job bartending. He had
spent two weeks there before beginning his journey deeper into the jungles
His mother, Ellen, hadnt wanted him to go so near to Christmas,
was angry that he had surrendered his scholarship but was willing to
forgive. She was the best kind of American, she liked to saywell
mixedas was he.
Matts father, a Sioux Indian, or Big Pow-Wow, as Matts mother
referred to him after the divorce, had passed on enough dark pigmentation
that the Banditos had left him alone in favor of paler fraternity brothers
and pasty honeymooning couples.
Indianhe could feel the Indian cells in his blood colliding with
the French, Dutch and Welsh cells and all melting into the resonating
earth. What kept them stuck together, those cells?
The tourists were getting closer. He could hear them coming through
Must be a guide whacking, he thought.
Whack, whack, whack.
Big machete hacks through jungle and here he was with no shoes or shirt
no service at the convenience store and wearing only a pair of shorts
and no ID on him because he had hidden his knapsack somewhere, and they
were getting closer and the monkeys were getting louder and the birds
were flying away and why did the tourists want to come to this temple
anyway, to this little pile of mossy stones when there were so many
other temples that were easier to walk to where you didnt need
a guide to hack through the brush and where he wouldnt be disturbed
while he was peaking on Christmas and then he was watching the ants
by his toes and wondering if they would bite him so much venom in such
a tiny creature but the ants seemed to leave him alone and all around
him the pulsing, the breathing, the birthing of the world, it was in
labor he was eating its placenta, it was all breathing it was a continuum
of breathing even when it was over uncountable micro-organisms feasted
on the body which was just a sack of water and jelly and salt a giant
knapsack of flesh and he wanted to fly away but here he was and those
mushrooms had cost just three dollars and maybe he loved that one whore
he wanted to save her he could buy her and take her back to the US she
was so young and radiant she had looked at him with those big black
eyes and he had wanted to fuck her but he was scared of disease and
ashamed for considering.
The tourists and their guide came out of the brush. He was barely hacking
now because he had found a semblance of a path.
There was a woman and a man with the guide. They were dressed in khaki
shorts, the woman much younger than the white bearded man, with her
hair pulled tight under her hat, and Matt could smell the bug spray
emanating from them and see the pearls on her earlobes, and he wanted
to fuck her too as easily and simply as the howler monkeys went at it
together, he wanted to collapse in a puddle of lust, of being, and all
the words had fallen away from his cortex and there was only divine
cellular experience, each cell in ecstasy and unity, one being, the
body and the earth. It was perfect and fundamentally flawed.
The guide had fear in his eyes, and Matt noticed his hand grip the machete
tighter. Matt wished that he had hidden in the brush like he had done
when the handful of other tourists had come, but he was frozen. He stared
at them and they stared at him, and Matt saw that the men were perplexed
but the woman was excited. After an eon of silence, the woman spoke,
her accent British, "My God, its Tarzan!"
And with those words the primordial ooze became articulate and formed
into grunts and he pounded his chest and tickled his armpits with his
fingers and then he made the sounds that he had heard the monkeys make
when they were excited ahwhooahwheh heh heh hee hee hee while
he ran closer to the monkeys and hid in the brush, where he found his
knapsack and the bladder of water. The monkeys were going nuts and Matt
knew that they understood, and as the tourists climbed the temple, the
guide still gripping the machete with white knuckles, Matt watched the
primates shriek and throw bananas and shit at them, striking the older
man on the shoulder with excrement.
Back in England, at the University, the woman would tell her colleagues
about Tarzan, and damn few of them had believed her.
© Mary Wilson March 2004
stories in Dreamscapes
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