You know what to expect. There’ll be too many mosquitoes and ants and spiders and leeches and hungry boars. It’ll be difficult and gruesome and cruel, your blood eaten and your heart stolen. The air moist and soil soggy, and life dripping from the branches and the leaves and buzzing around your head like a flock of angry bees. It looms large, the forest, lures, invites you with a threatening gloomy mystery. It belittles you, mocks you, and tells you you’re a coward. It doesn’t laugh, it hollers like rain on the rusty corrugated iron roofs. It tests your guts, your strength, your skill, your luck.
The road slaloms between banana trees and oil palm plantations, and the car slaloms between the holes in the road and shakes your body when you’re not banging your head to the music playing loud. You’re getting close.
And then you go in.
And tears well up in the eyes, stream down faces and leak through the botched roof, and when they fall, they softly caress your arm with warm fingertips and ask you
What took you so long to come back?
The current of the river is still so strong that if you swim really hard, you just about manage to stay in one place. But soon the water closes in, grabs you tightly around the waste and tries to drag you along. You can hear the panting, heavy and full of expectation. You freeze. And then you kick free and run.
The wet road on the way out is even more slippery and bumpy and big trucks carrying big trunks chase you and tell you that you have no business here. And then you hit the asphalt and mobile phones beep to life and you can’t help but feel relieved that you don’t have to go back to war.