Three Licks

A lush jungle, with bird calls, wetness, moisture; rainforest, wild, untamable.

We went to the jungle by boat up the river. We rowed and rowed and rowed; hours, or rather, the porters did. We sat there with our backpack in the middle of the long boats.

In two boats there were the five of us, two guides, and eight porters. We had equipment enough for all of us to set up camp for a week, once we reached our destination.

Lush, green, bright flowers, sweat, moisture on my brow, on my upper hip, between my legs.

At the campsite there were three large platforms built off the ground on stilts, about six feet off the ground. They were open on the sides, with a light cover on top. The porters set up our tents inside them, so they became little houses off the ground.

The moisture was like nothing I have ever experienced. Think “Florida in August,” times ten, and wetter. I had been told your clothes could rot right off your body in less than a week.

Parrots, birds–all kinds of strange and unfamiliar sounds drifted through the leaves as the sun started to set. The porters made a fire in the center clearing in the middle of the three platform houses. As we sat there the temperature slowly dropped, but it stayed balmy and moist. The porters prepared the meal. We all ate together. The food was simple: rice, plantains, and cooked chicken–or, I think it was chicken.

We sang together. They had a little banjo-looking instrument, a drum, and a flute. They did a calling-out kind of song, where they sang the first one or two lines through twice, and then we chimed in, and we all sang it together.

This went on for a long time. It had a hypnotic effect. It put me in an altered state, kind of mellowly tuned out, and yet completely present. It was as if a different part of my brain had taken over, different than the mode I’m normally in, and it felt good. It felt like moisture dripping down the sides on the inside of my skull, dripping slowly down into my ear canal, drip, drip, drip.

I think I dozed off into a deep dream. Or maybe I actually got up and went to my sleeping cot, even though I don’t seem to remember the getting up part. I dreamed that the porters were all standing around me singing.

A quiet fell over them and over the place. A black panther with a white dot like a bindi painted on its forehead came forward slowly, as the men parted to make room for the large cat to come closer.

I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to move. I sank deeper into this pleasurable state, sleep or hypnotic awareness.

The cat stepped forward, bent its head down, and licked me, from right above my pubic bone to my bellybutton.

A fire lit and spread up through my body like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

Lick: dry-ish rough tongue that almost tickled; if it hadn’t been so warm, it would have. As the cat’s tongue reached my bellybutton, fire jumped from there up to my nipples.

With the second lick the fire spread to my armpits and down my arms into my fingers.

At the third lick my knees lit up. As the fire moved down to my feet, and up through my throat and head at the same time, it felt like my entire body and hair were burning.

The cat stepped back, the men covered me in damp leaves, the fire was slowly extinguished, and I fell into a deep dark dreamless sleep.