Part 4

It actually took all the gumption I had to talk him down when he asked for two hundred a day down to one-fifty, and even then I barely had enough for two weeks. He gave the impression that he would drop the whole thing like a hat the minute the money stopped, and I respected him for that.

I also appreciated him being older. You might have figured this out already, but I don’t like tough guys or loud, obnoxious guys; generally both come from being a younger male with something prove. Graham, thankfully, was more measured, more cooled out, capable.

Of course, the next day as we readied for Manaus, trying to arrange river travel and hoping like hell we could find a guide, he let some of his personal philosophy out.

This place is honest, you gotta admit, he said. There’s just such a sheer frankness to everything. People want to dance, they dance. They play football like crazy. Someone wants to rob you, they stick some rusting piece in your face and take. They fuck and they shoot each other and to folks elsewhere they seem crazy, but they just seem more true to me.

I half laughed until I realized he was serious. Shrugging, I said that’s probably a stereotype of it’s own.

He grunted and tightened his grip on the smaller valise he carried next to his luggage. I didn’t want to think about what he brought along, but was glad it was there all the same.

The short plane hop was cramped, but gorgeous. You’ve probably seen pictures or nature videos or the like, but being above that green and brown and watery expanse is breathtaking, cliché as that is.

I did mention earlier that this wasn’t the only part of this journey, nor was it the start, but it is where a few key things happened, that lead me on the circuitous path to where we are now.

I won’t bother you all with the small details of landing and haggling for rides and boats and asking around in broken Português where all the white scientists, doctors, et al, usually met, especially since we didn’t have much luck with any of that.

I didn’t want to stick around the place more than a night, as I already had a feeling Ava had left civilization a while ago and disappeared, either wilfully or as a side effect, into that unknowable, teeming mass.

We drank quite a bit, after a day of sweating around and not finding much. Well, I did, Graham a little less so. He was doing his job, keeping my dumb ass safe.

The next morning we met our guide for the foreseeable future. Or rather, she met us, practically on our doorstep, curious about the gringo and the whatever the hell they thought I was.

Some of you may know this, but the Brazilians once were surveyed on their skin types, and they came up with over one hundred and thirty. Let that sink in a bit. I still don’t know which one I would fit under, but it probably changes with the seasons. You’d think I would learn some of the terms anyway.

Either way, amidst the early morning mist and raucous bird calls, we found ourselves an instant companion in the whip-smart, constantly smiling girl called Três-Cinco.