I’m naked. I hover my quivering anus over a toilet with no seat, in a ten-dollar-a-night hut, on an island surrounded by glow-in-the-dark plankton off the coast of Cambodia. Moonlight illuminates my edges while 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 their oppressive density. I should be grateful; much of this country reeks of motorbike exhaust and damp trash. I pin my right thumb 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 roots that burrow into my sunburned flesh. Vines slither from the brush, crawl up my trembling legs, and engulf my torso, pulling me to the ground as a tribe of screaming stump-tailed monkeys stampede toward me through the jungle canopy.
I heave, flexing my gut. Nothing. With my cheek against the dirt, I jam my finger down my tired throat. I’m hollow, alone, and on the other side of the planet, lying in a pool of my own sick. Is this it? My cold hand warms against my bare chest. Each heartbeat a reminder, delivering life back into my exhausted body.