I’m naked. I hover my quivering anus over a rickety toilet with no seat, in a ten-dollar-a-night hut, on a picturesque island surrounded by glow-in-the-dark plankton off the coast of Cambodia. Moonlight illuminates my silhouette while suffocating humidity runs roughshod on my sinuses. It’s over a hundred degrees, yet I shiver. Where are my clothes? How’d I get back to our hut? My last vestige of stomach bile rudely departs from all available exits. We paid an extra 8,000 Riel ($2 US) a night for Trip Advisor’s 2017 #4 ranked Koh Rong open-air concept, which means the crapper is outside, exposing me to fourteen million dive-bombing mosquitoes. Why am I alone? I’ve never heard this many bugs, much less smelled them. I should be grateful; most of this country reeks of motorbike exhaust and damp trash. I pin my right thumb down on a greasy aerosol can of Vietnamese brand bug spray, blasting the onslaught with an illegal in America amount of DEET. My insides, the color of contaminated river water, rocket past my teeth.
A fresh bamboo needle tattoo of an inky lotus flower bursts from my left bicep, growing thick, vicious roots that burrow into my sunburned flesh. Vines slither from the brush, crawl up my trembling legs, and engulf my torso—a tribe of screaming stump-tailed monkeys stampede through the dense jungle canopy.
I heave, flexing every muscle in my gut.
I jam my pointer finger down my tired throat. I’m hollow. All that remains is my death rattle. Alone, on the other side of the planet, dying in a pool of my own sick.
My cold hand presses against my chest; each heartbeat entrusts life back into my exhausted body.