Part 35

And despite everything, even if it was the weakest lifeline we had, the rush of having any sort of lead was so maddeningly believable. I leaned over right as she finished and gave her my weakest tough-guy hug.

Awesome, I said. With this and the doctor’s funds and, and…

I stopped as the quite skilled village nurse returned to look me over. Beyond her and Três, Graham stood, unreadable. He looked ready to say something, but turned away, stepping down to give a ‘hola’ to someone beyond.

The woman handed me my glasses (which had made the multiple tumbles intact, somehow) and for the first time I got to take in the surroundings. The wonders of perspective can make all the difference sometimes, and staring out at what might have seemed like a mess of poverty and rudimentary buildings and tools was instead like a tiny patch of salvation amid the constant crush and thrush of nature out beyond.

That felt a little too romanticized, and the thankful part of me also minded all the travel hosts that have come before who look at similar places, with their hard-bit people collecting rubber and farming for tubers and making crafts and trying their best to do with what they have, and felt ridiculous in this current pursuit.

Even now, taking pains to swivel back to Três, the stalwart guide and easily-made friend, I saw how much she had contributed when she had no reason to continue so far. It made the next words so ugly and difficult.

You’re not coming with us. You need to get back to your life.

(Which was such a bullshit, self-aggrandizing thing to think, but also right for the time.)

Before the devastation (or so I thought I could see) set in to her body language, Graham cleared his throat as he stepped back up into the room.

Neither am I, once we get back to an airstrip, he said.

Half-choking, half-coughing I wanted to protest as much as anything, but the effort left me so lightheaded, and the look of his spine, his posture stout, immovable, it was all I could do to slump back down and feel like the proverbial ten gallons.

Dark brown, pissed-off eyes hovered over me in the mid-morning light, followed by sounds that could have been angry, I’m not sure. The tiny weight and flapping sound of the notepad hitting the sheets was all I noticed. Then she was gone.