Yours truly again. Nerves and taste buds still numb. Stone deaf. Bored stiff. Yesterday—sometime around noon, is my best guess—the first turkey vulture tore open my shirt, then my abdominal cavity. Not a pretty sight. I looked on, maintaining a clinical detachment for about two seconds, then stretched my invisible leash as far as it would stretch. About fifteen meters. Since then, a dozen or so of the birds’ cronies have joined in, turning my wizened self into an unrecognizable mishmash. I was going to check back, just for curiosity's sake, but didn’t have the stomach for it—literally. Thus, here I sit... or hover? I have no real sensation of being in physical contact with my locale, while wondering what, if anything, I’m supposed to do next. Besides rot. Then watch my bare bones bleach and crumble into dust.
    I have no plausible explanation, by the way, for why two of my five senses are keener than ever while the other three remain on the fritz. The last time I recall experiencing anything similar was in Maputo, Mozambique, where a severe head cold virtually obliterated my abilities to taste and to smell. Yayuk contracted the illness first—a few days earlier, we suspected, while playing an inane campfire game with our pestilence-ridden safari mates—but hers was a less virulent strain. I, who snagged with my teeth the same paper sack she and all the others had, tearing off a piece in turn so that the next contestant's stoop got more ridiculous, followed in her symptoms’ wake... sinking me up to my eyebrows in a quagmire of mucous.
    I will say this episode brought out the best in Ms. Kertanegara—whose long suit was loyalty (which she pronounced “loy-al'-i-ty” accenting the second of four syllables). ‘For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health...' nobody ever proved more reliable than my predestined spouse. Which meant a lot to me. I had a tendency, especially during our African jaunt, to understate feminine virtues in hopes of escaping them. A simple enough observation in retrospect; not nearly so self-evident at the time. At the time—the first week of our second month abroad—I was still telling her, and myself, that the primary obstacle to our happily-ever-after was Yayuk's stubborn, righteous, inflammable personality... I, naturally, being the epitome of kindness, patience, and elderly understanding—my short suits, each and every one.
    Anyway, for eight straight days I hacked like an asthmatic, extruding yellowish-green snot by the chamber-pot-full—interrupted by frustratingly short-winded forays into a fascinating city—with Yayuk ever-vigilant, attentive to a fault, and, on those few occasions when she left my bedside to buy food and drinking water, she would come back in a sweat; “I a little bit run.”

 

CHAPTER TWO

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