Graham and I made the hop over to Belém the next day, saying only a few things during the bumpy flight.
So what really happened, I asked about halfway through the trip. With the farmers and doctors and everything. What did you offer them?
He made a slight hmph, partially amused, part something else entire. I told them the truth, he said. You were a broke, lost Canadian tourist that was supposed to meet up with the jungle doc and that you needed help. The older guys asked me a bunch of questions but I told them we had gotten separated. I offered them the few bucks I had. They offered to ‘look after’ the docs while the kid came with me. That was it.
After looking for a witty retort to encapsulate the whole mess, I came up with ‘Oh’.
And then: Wait, what about Três then?
Vacation girlfriend. Probably why the local boy was eyeballing you so much.
Of course, I thought. I was surprised that pity would work on guys that sounded happy to use force on the locals to get their way, but that particular reflection caught a nice slice of my ignorance.
As we were thumped around our seats on the descent, Graham, trying to melt into his chair in a pantomime of relaxation, asked what I gave her as a parting gift.
The hole in the wall next to the café was a half-assed, dusty curio shop and I had scoured the smaller carvings along the back corner until I asked the owner if they had anything like a beaver or moose available. She gave me a look (I said the animals in English) but tried to find something to help. We ended up grabbing what she swore was a porcupine carved from a white wood (pine, it turned out), but looked more like a big groundhog.
I bought it and a brown knitted cap and a red marker, cut part of the cap into a big flat oval, taped it on the end of the thing, and scribbled the two bars and maple leaf on the underside, with ‘sorry, eh,’ underneath.
I’m sure someday she would get the joke. If she didn’t throw it out.
Landing and booking flights and seeing about customs all came next in a long, hazy, blurry afternoon. Somehow Graham’s took almost as long, even though he was for Brasilia and I was for Buenos Airies with a dip into São Paulo on the way. He waited patiently by departures entrance.
I’m at 3C, he said.
I’m not, I said. You’re crippling me here, big guy.
I’m not going to say call me crazy, because I don’t want you to call me at all, really, but if this whole thing turns out to be true, you might be better off not having me around to tempt you into doing things you shouldn’t. You still owe me, though. Don’t call. Unless you really have something. He smiled, wide and lips tight.
Fair enough, I said (my go-to for dissipating tension and/or keeping me from getting aggravated).
We shook hands. That was it. He didn’t leave a number.