Jungle Love

I needed a vacation. After talking to Dave Glenn, a guy with a trustworthy thirst for women and adventure, I booked a trip to Australia with Contiki – a company that boasts being “The best tour guide for 18 – 35 year-olds”. Two months later I jumped on a thirteen-hour flight to the land down under. 


My biggest fear was not making any friends in the group of 40-something people I’d be spending the next three weeks with – or being the only one who didn’t already bring a friend. I arrived at the Rydges Esplanade in Cairns and immediately inquired with the front desk. They told me the tour started tomorrow, then gave me a room key. When I swiped the card and swung open the door I saw a dark-skinned Asian guy with a muscular build watching rugby. I thought of all the places on my map: Thailand, Laos, Philipines. 

“What’s up man?” he nodded before asking in an American accent. “You with Contiki?”

“Yeah, I’m Brian. Where are you from?” 

“Los Angeles, you?” 

“Los Angeles.” I grinned. This shouldn’t be too difficult. 

Chris was a cop who didn’t like people knowing he was a cop. I watched the same conversation happen at least fifteen times over the following two weeks. 

New Contiki Friend – ” What do you do?” 

Chris – ” I work for the city of Los Angeles ” 

NCF –  “Oh, okay. . . What do you do for the city of Los Angeles?” 

Chris – ” I work with the police department.” 

NCF – “What do you do for the police department?” 

Chris – “Social Work” 

We grabbed lunch and beers on a beach side restaurant that made you order everything at the bar. Almost every restaurant did this, with the exception of one extremely expensive place that served kangaroo, crocodile, and wallaby. I also later found out that “No one here eats that shit mate, it’s for tourists.” After the extra dry beers we went back to the room to take a quick nap before hitting the town. I flopped on my bed, closed my eyes, and opened them again at 3:00 a.m. I looked over at Chris who seemed to have done the same thing since he was lying over the covers fully clothed. I peered out my window at the strange dark land I was about to explore before falling back to sleep. 

We both got up around 6:00 a.m. as the sun started to rise. I tried reading from my kindle on the balcony but it was impossible to concentrate. We showered and went out for a brisk morning walk. After doing a three mile loop around the city, grabbing every tourist pamphlet we could find, we got back to the hotel a little before 9 a.m. 

“Excuse me, do you know what’s going on with the Contiki tour?” Chris asked the front desk in his soft and polite voice. 

“Oh my god! Are you Chris and Brian? I’ve been looking all over for you guys! Your van up to Cape Tribulation was supposed to leave at 7:30 – we’ve been waiting for you,” A thirty-something women wearing a polo shirt with “Contiki” embroidered on the front exclaimed. 

We sprinted upstairs and tossed everything in our bags. The tour hadn’t even started yet and we were already pissing people off. “No worries, mate” a man dressed in a khaki shirt and matching cargo shorts told us out front the van. We hopped on to meet the rest of the people waiting for us. There were two. Just two. And they didn’t seem mad. I breathed a sigh of of relief and sat down behind a cute German girl with pineapple blonde hair and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. Across from me sat a bald-headed German guy who would specify when he met NCF’s that he’s originally from Poland – in case anyone thought he might be a Nazi skin head. Apparently we were supposed to meet the rest of the tour in a couple days.

The four of us listened to Mick, our guide, spout out information about his home country of New Zealand as he drove us up the north-eastern coast of Australia. Not wanting to be rude, he’d turn his head around to make eye contact while talking, still maintaining both hands on the wheel and manuevering through the winding canyon roads. After an hour of daredevil driving, we made a quick stop at a bottle shop to pick up cheap booze. Mick bought a case of 24 beers for himself. We were going to be there for two nights. I liked him immediately. 

After taking us through some hiking trails and informing us on things like epiphytes – anything that grows on a plant or tree but doesn’t harm it – we swam in a clear water stream. Dirk – the German from Poland – chose to sit and watch because he was too hung-over. Daphne – the German from England – informed us that she “didn’t fancy a swim and would like to keep her trousers on”. Chris and I screamed and whooped and splashed like we were ten-year-olds at Raging Waters.  
                
  


Following lunch, we departed for the final hour and a half stretch of driving. When we pulled up on the narrow gravel road, Mick gave us a quick layout of a nearby town. “There’s the utility store on your left. . .and there’s the bar on your right. . .that’s it.” We turned around and headed up. 

The cabins sat in deep green grass submerged in an array of jungle plant life. I mentioned to the group that the place reminded me of the Dharma camp from LOST. Daphne laughed and agreed while the other guys said nothing. They obviously never watched the show because I was dead on. We rolled our luggage along the skinny cobblestone walkways and admired the absolute silence. I’d never experienced such tranquility. Usually when you’re camping there’s a nearby group talking loudly over a camp fire, or a set of tires crunching the pavement from a car pulling up. Here there was only a few distant bird calls.                                      

Mick handed out keys. ” Dirk, Brian, and Chris – you will be staying in 37A. Daphne – you’ll be staying in 37B.” 

“You mean I’m by myself?” she wondered out loud. Chris shot me a smirk.

We walked up the stairs to inspect our rooms. Each had two sets of bunk-beds crammed in the corner with tiny fridges that we soon filled with six-packs of Toohey’s and Cooperton. Daphne freshened up in her room while we all called spots in ours. Chris nudged my shoulder and whispered “What do you think of her? She’s cute yeah?” I shook my head in agreement, ignoring his grin. I went to open a bag of chips, then thought about the trail of giant green and red ants marching by the door. We all agreed not to open any of the snacks. Daphne walked through the door in a new pink sweatshirt. 

 “It’s quite cozy in here, I don’t want to sleep alone tonight.”  she said, eyeing the walls and the extra top bed. We all nodded our heads. I opened a beer. 

We met Mick for supper at the dining lodge an hour later. On the walk there, Daphne bumped from one guy to the next, favoring no one. Still though, she had a room all to herself, which meant someone was fucking her, and I sure didn’t want to be one of the guys listening to it next door. I sized up my competition. Dirk – not a bad looking guy but bald, and with weird facial hair, and German. German chicks don’t come to Australia to fuck other German dudes. I wrote him off. Chris – good looking and in shape, but a little on the short side, almost meeting Daphne eye to eye. I felt like the favorite but it was still too early to tell. 

After eating, Mick stepped out to have his eighth cigarette of the day. I hesitantly joined him, knowing this might be the decision that left me on the wrong side of the wall later. I’d gone all day without one, and after a few beers I couldn’t hold out. No one seemed to pay much attention when I returned for dessert. 

We all walked into “town” after dinner, with the exception of Dirk who went straight to bed. And then there were two. The bar was a wooden cabin surrounded by gnarled trees with dangling epiphytes. Inside was a wide open dance floor where a dude with thick dreadlocks banged on steel drums. Tired of experimenting with strange brews, I ordered a Corona and took a seat on a picnic bench next to Daphne. As we conversed with Mick and Chris sitting across from us I noticed her knees and shoulders turn into me.

I got up to have another smoke with Mick, leaving Chris and Daphne alone. This was another risky move, but if the conversation died when we left, she’d be excited to see us come back and thus equate me with fun and entertainment – even if it was really Mick doing all the talking. I watched the two lean over and chat with big smiles on their faces like they were old friends catching up. This damn cigarettes was killing my game. I tossed it halfway and scurried to the bar to order another round for everyone. Chris informed me earlier that he “doesn’t drink much”. The devil on my shoulders suggested I get him sloshed so he’d blow his chances by saying something stupid or just passing out too early. He thanked me for the beer and we cheers’d. An evil Vincent Price laugh echoed through my head as I watched him take a big swig. I inched closer to Daphne and our knees touched. 

Amidst our conversation, Mick mentioned how spectacular the view of the stars was from the beach. We all ordered more beers, or actually just Mick and I ordered more beers, and we headed out to our secret observatory. On the way there we passed through a small neighborhood of corrugated shacks that reminded me of the area they quarantined the aliens in District 9. It made the trailer parks at home look like posh gated communities. At one point we literally passed by a porch of banjo players. I said it felt like we were in the movie Deliverance - only Mick laughed. After trying several dead ends that made us trespassers on private property, we finally found the right gate leading out to the ocean. The weak glow of our cell phones did little to illuminate the dark trail, but we soon emerged from a tunnel of trees onto sand. I stopped to look up at the clear night sky. Someone mentioned there are twice as many visible stars in the Southern hemisphere compared to the North. I believed it. I approached Daphne from behind and began to execute Stage 3. 

I haven’t read a ton of literature on how to pick up chicks, but I’ve browsed a few magazine articles, watched the VH1 show, and skimmed enough dating blogs to know there are essentially 5 stages. They are as follows (Note: I did not come up with these, I’m paraphrasing) 

Stage 1: Open. 
Initiate a conversation by any means possible. This one I’ve gotten pretty good at. Find something to say, even if it’s as stupid as asking them what kind of vodka they have in their drink. You’ll know within the first two seconds if they’re interested. If not – move on. (In this particular situation Stage 1 did not apply) 

Stage 2: Conversation. 
I’ve heard of different tricks and subliminal messages you can give to aid in your seduction. I don’t really bother with any of that shit, I just talk. That all seems like too much work and information to balance in your head. One rule of thumb I’ve found – the longer you go without learning each others names or occupations, the better your chances. (Since we were around each other all day, I spaced out my flirtatious remarks so I wouldn’t come off too aggressive.)

Stage 3: Physical Contact. 
I hate this stage. I once witnessed a guy steal a girl from me by skipping straight to Stage 3, then working backwards. I actually thought it was her boyfriend until her bff told me they’d just met. I watched them walk away arm in arm to go take shots. That’s an expert. I’m not much of a PDA or touchy-feely person, so there’s something unnatural about putting my hands on a woman I’ve been talking to for ten minutes. This anxiety may come from watching one of my creepier friends offer massages to unwilling girls at parties. I’d rather go home alone than be that guy. Unfortunately however, this is a crucial step that can not be overlooked. If you wait too long the girl will think you’re not interested, or label you a “nice guy”. 

An excerpt from Dave Glenn’s blog on how to approach women repeated through my head before I made my move – “Girls will actually get angry when they’re digging a guy, and he keeps asking her boring questions about work, never making any physical advances. Be a man. Take control.” I walked up behind Daphne, put my hand on the small of her back and whispered in her ear “How LOST are we?” 

“Oh my god! you’re right. It totally looks like were on the LOST island right now.” she enthusiastically agreed, looking around. I smiled and removed my hand. That was enough for now. 

We strolled along the shoreline together listening to the tide slowly roll in and out. The almost-full moon acted as a spotlight following us like performers on stage. In the distance I noticed the silhouette of a couple engaging in Stage 4 about 50 feet away. “Look, it’s the others.” I whispered, tapping her on the side. She forced a chuckle to amuse me. After a three-count she laughed and grabbed my arm. “Oh yeah! haha! The Others! yeah!” She kept her hands on my arm.

One thing I’ve encountered in foreign countries – all the bonus points you get for having a cool accent seems to be mitigated by the language barrier. Common expressions, sayings, and clever references can easily get lost in translation, making it much harder for you to be funny.

We headed back to the cabins after our necks got sore from star gazing. Mick downed the rest of his beer and started singing BeeGees songs because well, the BeeGees are from Australia. With great difficulty, I refrained from doing my John Travolta impersonation. I smiled and sipped on my Corona, trying not to look too drunk. I examined Daphne’s lucidity and modeled my behavior accordingly. I wanted to create the illusion that we were on the same level, even though I’d had at least five more beers. 

We said goodnight to Mick and headed to our Cabin. Me, Daphne and Chris. Us three. Just the three of us. Two guys, one girl. I looked at Chris and the chorus of an SNL song with Justin Timberlake came to mind “It’s not gay, if it’s in a three-way.” I knew there was no chance of that happening, but the song is so damn catchy. It got stuck in my head. 

“I’m not really tired.” Daphne shared, walking up the stairs. 

“I’ll hang out and drink a beer with you.” I blurted out. 

Chris paused, considering what to do. I walked halfway into Daphne’s room, then asked if he wanted to join us. He thought about it for a second, making dramatic “hmmm’s” and “ehhh’s” and “ummm’s” before declining. A new song popped into my head “nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah Hey Hey Hey Goooooodd Bye!” And then there was one. 

Before turning on the light I went straight to the fridge for a victory beer. As I reached for the handle, a large black shape crawled out from underneath. I involuntarily yelped “Holy shit!” before taking two steps back. I could hear this thing squealing and screeching and pounding it’s little insect legs on the tile floor. 

“What is it?” Daphne asked nervously, turning on the lights. “Oh my god!” She cried. We both watched a cochroach the size of a hamster race into the bathroom. 

I am deathly afraid of bugs. I once paid a friend five bucks to kill a spider in my tent when we were beach camping. Insects would reek havoc if they were our size (Honey I Shrunk the Kids still gives me nightmares). 

After the initial shock, I knew what I had to do. If I was ever going to get laid, I’d have to destroy this six legged cock-block. Under any other circumstances I’d be screaming and running out the door, but when there’s sex on the line, I turn into a fearless exterminator. I flipped on the light switch in the bathroom with Daphne peeking over my shoulder. Our unwanted roommate danced around the base of the toilet bowl. I stood still, watching him stop, turn to me, then shake his little antenna’s as if to say, “You don’t have the guts.” And with that, he charged. He B-lined it straight towards me, shrieking out his battle cry and gliding on the smooth surface with record breaking speed. In one swift move I lifted up my right foot and slammed down on the armored warrior with my flimsy Old Navy sandal. When I lifted up my foot to see my lifeless enemy vanquished on the battle floor, I jumped up and down in a half celebratory, half hee bee gee bee’s dance. Over the course the next few days I would go bungee jumping, jungle surfing, white water rafting and cliff diving. Nothing compared to the invigorating sensation of killing that damn bug. At 28 years of age, I’d finally become a man. 

All the commotion startled Chris, who walked in just as I was pacing around shaking my arms. I finally grabbed a beer, popped open the top and took a big swig. It never tasted better. 

“What the hell happened?” He asked, confused. 

“Brian’s my hero.” Daphne announced proudly. 

“Check out what I just killed in there. . ” I nodded toward the bathroom. He walked in and acted unimpressed. 

“You just gonna leave it there?” He asked. We took a quick picture before flushing it. 
      

Chris walked to the front door like he was going to leave, then stopped. We were all in the room now. Us three. The three amigos. I sat on one of the lower beds with a beer, Daphne on the other with a fruity red drink, and Chris by the door, just chillin’.  

“You sure you don’t wanna grab a beer?” I suggested, assuming he’d turn down the offer. I figured this might speed up the process of leaving, the implication being – either grab a beer and sit down or get lost. He chose the latter, leaving Daphne and I alone once again. A soft buzz from the bright white, almost blue-ish tinted light filled the room. It produced the same eerie electrical sound that fly zappers make. This was as romantic as it’d get, it was time to take things to the next level. 

Stage 4 : Kissing 
If you’ve made it successfully past the first three stages, this should be easy. Only once have I misjudged the situation and tried to weasel my way into stage 4 too soon. Sitting on the couch at a bar I asked a girl if she wanted to make-out. When she said no I told her “Good, neither do I. It just looked like you wanted to so I thought I’d be polite and ask.” She left shortly after this. Every other time I’ve just gone in for it. No words. (I mentioned there were 5 stages- The 5th is getting them to come home with you. In this situation 4 and 5 were essentially the same thing.)

You don’t really need any particular move, but being on the same bed, or I should say the same bunk-bed, helps. I tried to think of a story I could tell that would require me to stand up and gesticulate wildly in the middle of the room. Then I’d slyly sit back down on Daphne’s bed without her noticing the transfer. I scratched this plan after further thought. It’d be way too obvious. Instead I just got up in the middle of our bland conversation about books and took a seat right next her, as if someone just told me my bunk was off limits and I needed to move. Neither of us mentioned the new arrangement. The conversation continued without skipping a beat. 

Sitting hunched over like Quasimoto, trying not to bang my head against the top bunk, I twisted my neck to the left to make eye contact. As Daphne continued to tell me about some of her favorite German authors, I noticed a large black moth slowly flapping it’s wings on the bed post behind her. My eyes went back to hers, hoping she wouldn’t turn around and freak out. After a minute had passed I looked back again to see that the moth was in the same spot, but was now joined by a smaller moth friend. I decided to ignore the situation and pray it would go unnoticed. After another minute a tiny centipede climbed up the wall past the two moths who continued to flutter their wings every few seconds. I waited to see if he had another companion. If there were two, I’d say something. Two meant a problem, but one was probably harmless. I monitored the hazardous zone for a few more minutes and detected no further infestations. I was clear to engage. 

I had absolutely no line, I just leaned in for the kiss during a break in conversation. She moaned and kissed back, putting her arms around my waist. As if punishing me for the smorgasbord of new beers I put into it, my stomach started making bizarre growling noises. On the upside it was drowning out all the potential insect mating calls. We moved to a lying position and I started sucking her neck like I was auditioning for True Blood. She tasted of sunscreen and bug spray. Then I went for the trousers. It was all going smoothly until I accidentally kicked over the fruity cocktail next to the bed. A sweet sugary insects paradise covered the floor. I had no choice. I had to stop. 

I grabbed a roll of toilet paper and started blotting the puddle. After about eight trips to the bathroom flushing down used tampon looking wads, I scrubbed the stained area with water. Once every trace of liquid was finally removed I made one last flush. I turned off the light and climbed back into the toddler-sized bunk-bed, relieved Chris hadn’t come over to see what was going on. Just as I heard the squeaky mattress accept it’s new weight I noticed the same bottle clinging sound that rang out moments ago. I turned the damn light on and got back to work. 

Two roles of toilet paper later, we resumed. I searched for a condom in the dark, only to find I’d idiotically left them all in my bag next door. No chance I was turning the light back on, finding my clothes, then waking up Chris and Dirk to get a stupid rubber. There would be no jungle-sex tonight. The moments that followed were a bit of a drunk blur, but the notes I scribbled in my journal the next day read as follows: “Finger-banged, think she came.” 

When it got to my turn, I wedged myself between her and the bedpost and turned on my back. I waited. We kissed for a ridiculously long time. If you were watching a movie you’d see time-lapse footage of plants growing and dying, moons rising and falling, and skies changing color. It’s hard to tell if girls are genuinely hesitant when they do this, or trying to “build up the anticipation”. If it’s the second – knock that shit off, I’m a guy, I’m good to go. 

She began blowing me. I’ve never had a bad blow-job in my life, and I don’t condone douche-bags with the nerve to complain about girls sucking their dicks, but I have had blow-jobs that were reeeeally difficult to come from (i.e. I’m 10 beers deep and there’s no hand action). I need the mouth and hand. I need a good 50/50 mix. Do they not teach this in Germany? 

I eventually had to cup her hand in mine and lead it up my shaft like I was teaching her how to grip a golf club. A really huge golf club. When she finally got the hand/mouth technique down, I made the mistake of letting her know when I was “ready”. Afterwards I grabbed a third roll of toilet paper and cleaned myself off. 

At 4 a.m. I woke up sober, sweaty, and crammed between a snoring human and two black moths doing the deed. I tried rolling into some innovative sleeping positions, given the extrememly limited space I had, but it was useless. Sleep was impossible. I thought about the busy day ahead of me – I had to get up at 8 a.m. for a nature hike, I was going zip-lining through the jungle canopy in the afternoon. I needed my rest. I placed a foot and arm over the wheezing dead-weight next to me and maneuvered out of the bed with as much grace as a deer ice-skating.

“Where are you going?” she asked in a raspy disoriented voice.
 
“I uhh. I like. . . like I can’t sleep, because . . . yeah I can’t sleep. I’m just going to sleep over here, on this bed.” I whispered, motioning to the top bed on the other bunk. I jumped up, placed my head on the cool pillow and passed out. 

In the morning, I quietly tiptoed out and made the world’s shortest walk of shame to the next door just three feet away. When I entered the room Chris started stupidly clapping, then caught himself and began doing what the mime version of clapping would look like. “I’m proud of you!” he whisper-shouted with a big smile on his face. “And on the very first day!” he added. 

At breakfast we acted like nothing happened. Then suddenly, sitting on the opposite side of a long table eating cereal Daphne announced “I can’t find my room key.” Remembering it was in my pocket, I slid it past the plates of toast and vegemite without thinking. Everyone went silent until Chris burst out in laughter and slapped my back. Mick and Dirk grinned. Daphne turned bright red.

On our nature walk, I first made comments that addressed the entire group like, “I hope we see some crocodiles” and “This weather is perfect.” Then I realized I was making it awkward by not talking to Daphne, so I started asking her lame questions like, “What made you choose Australia?” and “When does Oktoberfest start?” Then I thought it might look like I was overcompensating for not talking to her earlier, so I started firing out questions to everyone, “Mick, what did you do out in New Zealand?”, “Dirk, are you feeling better today?”, “Chris, what airline did fly with?”

I’ve never gotten involved with a co-worker, but I was starting to imagine what it must feel like. I had to tell myself to shut up and chill out. Then it hit me about fourteen hours too late. I hooked up with this girl on the first day. This was day two. We still had 18 days left together. 

Fuck. 

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