By: Sawyer Bennett

Our plane flight from Brasilia into Chicago was relatively calm, considering how difficult it was for me to make it out of the rainforest with a reluctant travel mate. I had fought the heat, humidity, dehydration, the never-ending supply of gnats and mosquitos, a near-death experience with a bushmaster snake, and yet none of that was as hard as dealing with Zach’s antipathy during the trip.

The man clearly did not want to leave his home with the Caraicans. After having spent eighteen years immersed in their culture… after having been adopted into their tribe and revered as a member, he had absolutely no desire to return to the States with me.

This was something I had expected was a possibility since he had lost his parents so very long ago. I had a feeling that Zach might not remember much of his prior life, and here I was… taking him away from the comfort and security of what he knew best. I had even told Randall, Zach’s godfather who had arranged this entire rescue mission, that Zach may not want to return to his American roots. Randall was far more positive on that than I was, just telling me to do the best that I could.

Ultimately, I had nothing to do with Zach’s capitulation to come. I stayed in his village for two days after my arrival, while his adoptive father argued with him mercilessly. He was very eager for Zach to take this opportunity to learn more about his own heritage. I’m not sure what Paraila finally said to his adopted son, but on my second evening there, Zach approached me and said, “We’re leaving tomorrow.”

Those were his first words to me. Despite the fact that we had shared a highly intimate experience that first night over the blaze of the campfire, when he fucked another woman while holding my gaze, he had not spoken a word to me until he informed me of our departure. His next words were no friendlier.

After saving me from a bushmaster that was perilously close to my leg, he had sneered at me, “You need to keep your eyes on the path, foolish chama de cabelos. Next time, I let the serpent strike.”

Then he turned his back on me and started walking away, taking the lead and hacking his way through the jungle once more.

I imagined what chama de cabelos might mean in Portuguese. I was thinking something along the lines of idiot, dumbass, moron, or even bonehead. Father Gaul told me later when I asked him that it mean flame-haired.

I ended up taking that as a compliment, despite the fact that Zach looked like he wanted to strangle me whenever we made eye contact.

Zach didn’t speak another word to me until later in the day when he was forced to, because once we reached the Jutai, we split up from Father Gaul and Ramon. His words were short and simple. He told me to get into the dugout canoe that Father Gaul had arranged for us at the small trading village on the river and to paddle hard.

Which I did… and within just an hour, my arms were shot and useless. He muttered something in Portuguese, and I suffered his glare the rest of the day as we traveled up the Jutai toward the Amazon River.

He gave me nothing further but silence on our second day on the water, despite my efforts to talk to him. I knew his English was still in fine form, as Father Gaul continued to speak it to him over the years, but he would only respond to me in Portuguese when I would try to ask him something, and I think half the time he was cursing at me.

Finally, something changed as we ported the canoe at the end of the second day. Something that started out with a few words, but then ended with soft moans and exquisite release.

I shudder now even thinking about the moment we had together.

After pulling the canoe up onto the bank, Zach silently took his machete and hacked away at some low-lying vegetation between two young Kapok trees that bordered the riverbank. When he was done, he merely pointed at the trees and said, “For your hammock,” then turned around and disappeared into the jungle.

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