The days of mud and dirt do not end when passing Yokadouma, and I have once again reached one of those unusual moments in which I miss the asphalt, even if it's only for a few days. This does not happen to me very often and when it happens it is because I really need it. The wounds hurt more and more every day and I can not keep them clean, therefore the advent of a strong infection is imminent.
While pedalling under the scorching tropical sun, suffocated by the humidity and painted by the red dust that the trucks transporting wood spit on my sweaty skin as I pass by, I strive to stay focused. I try to calculate the days I need to get to Bertoua, from where the asphalt to Yaoundé begins, but I find it hard to think. It is difficult for me to estimate well because I can not keep up with the same pace that I usually cycle at when I am strong. Therefore, I have no idea how much progress I can make every day. In the midst of a mental debacle, a -"Hey! How are you?" - in a perfect American accent, coming from a pickup that drives slowly next to me, shakes me out of my reverie.
A nice middle-aged white man with a long beard sitting next to the Cameroonian driver tries to start a conversation with me, but in these conditions, I no longer have the energy nor the intention to make it on the move, so I suggest we stop. - Edward is my name - He tells me when he gets off and greets me with great enthusiasm. He tells me that he is from Miami and that he has some tobacco leaf plantations and some businesses here. After asking about me, he suggests that if I decide to stay in Batouri tonight, that I should give him a call because he is organising a get-together at his home that night with some other foreigners who live there. So I tell him that in this state I do not know if I'll ever get there, but if I were to make it then I'll contact him. Since my answer reflects my exhaustion, he kindly offers to take me with them in his pickup, but I gently declined the offer, because the older I get, the more stubborn I become.
In the end, Batouri was closer than I thought and I arrive so early, that I even think it would be a waste of time to stay there altogether. At that moment, while I am stopped pondering my options, I see a young man so white that he is almost fluorescent in this country of black Africa. Strangely, he is making arrangements in the front garden of a house. His name is Paul and he is a Peace Corps who has been there for a year, developing small agricultural projects together with the local people. Paul is very nice and after seeing my condition, he immediately offers me a place to stay at his home to take a break. Not only that, but he tells me that at night there is an expatriate meeting taking place in town. Since I can sense that there aren't thousands of foreigners in this dusty, stifling, small, lost town of Batouri, I ask if it's the meeting at Edward's house. How do you know!!? - He exclaims frowning. -Because I know everything, Paul! - I answer jokingly, while I enter the bicycle to his house.
Late at night, after an afternoon of rest in the shade and a well deserved shower, we head to Eddie's beautiful house, who opens the door to us with arms wide open, a broad smile and his eyes squinting with happiness, while fanning with his hands to undo the huge marijuana cloud in which he is wrapped. He smokes it with a very small electronic device in which he puts a marijuana extract with very high concentration. Eddie warns me to smoke only two drags when he passes it to me. I'm not in the mood for drugs but I decide to smoke one and half-way through the second, I already understood his joy and that of all the hippies in the 60s together. Fuck, this is strong shit, I think, and I decide to cut it there because otherwise, I'll stay there for 2 weeks, or maybe the rest of my life.
All happy, Eddie our host, Paul and Roman from the Peace Corps, a Venezuelan from MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) and I, we sit down to the table when the chef arrives with a tremendous pizza dripping with mozzarella. The image has so much impact on me that it makes me doubt whether the joint that Eddie gave me was hallucinogenic. I honestly can not believe what I have in front of me, and for fear that it is a mirage, I decide to give free rein to my voracious appetite, now unleashed without inhibitions by tetrahydrocannabinol making my neurons ticklish. I eat one, and another, and another portion without remorse until all the trays are clean. When I finish, I lean back with my belly, my heart and my brain, happier than a herd of pigs wallowing in the shit. I am ecstatic.
Moments later, already during the after-dinner, while we chat, Eddie puts two sugary gummy bears on the table. One is so in front of me that I decide to take immediate ownership and eat it for dessert, since nothing better than a sweet after a good pizza. The minutes pass and we continue with the gossip, when suddenly Eddie interrupts everyone and asks:
- "Where is the other gummy bear that I put there?"
With a bit of guilt for my selfishness, I confess that I was the one who ate it and at that very moment, Eddie's eyes pop wide open as if he were watching an elephant flying by. Worried, he covers his face and exclaims: - Nooo!
-No? No what, Eddie? No what? - I answer alarmed - Wasn't it there to be eaten?
- Yes, but you did not have to eat everything! - He tells me.
- But if it's a sweet Eddie, is not there more? - I answer him -. And before I began to apologise for my audacity, he tells me that it is not that, but the fact that the harmless jelly bear was made with a concentrate of half a kilo of marijuana.
Now it was me whose eyes had popped wide open as if watching elephants fly by. I ask worriedly if he thinks it will be too strong for me, but he is so confused that he can't even pull off an answer, so he just goes on and says: -We were supposed to eat just a small bit each!
-But how can I know if you left it in front of me and you did not tell me anything? I thought it was a gummy bear, like the ones I ate as a child!
-Well, ok, alright, take it easy- He tells me trying to confort me without a lot of real conviction- it may not be so bad - he said but I cannot help but thing that it was just wishful thinking.
That is how we continued the meeting for two more hours between talks and coffee, until 10 pm when exhausted by fatigue, we returned with Paul to his house along the now dark streets of Batouri. I am so tired that as soon as I cross the threshold of the door, I say good night and in the shadows, I make my way directly to bed, where I immediately give in to a deep sleep, from which I believe I will never wake up. But I was wrong, dead wrong.
I do not know how long I must have slept until I wake up in the middle of the night with my back, arms and legs suspended in the air even though I'm clearly not doing yoga nor pretending to be a puppet. I have my ass alone on the bed and the rest of the body with each and every muscle in a state of tension. I do not have any mental clarity. I am still immersed in a diffuse nebula in which I can not discern whether I am awake, asleep or semi-dead until I have a brief moment of consciousness in which I let go of all the tension and fall back on the bed like a dead bird falling from the air.
I have no notion about time whatsoever, until the same event, about which I do not have any control, repeats itself once again. I can feel the strong tension in each muscle and the contracture, especially in the neck, when I am holding 2/3 of my body in the air. It's awful and keeps repeating itself over and over again. Every time I fall back on the bed, I do not understand if I'm sleeping, dreaming, a puppet theatre or in a virtual reality game. I can only recognize the darkness of the night around me and nothing else.
I do not know how many times I will have experienced the same shock when I finally wake up at midmorning. It's been 12 hours since I had gone to bed, and I feel like I'm still in a fog. However, I have enough strength and clarity to get up and walk to the kitchen where I find Paul preparing coffee. With curiosity and some concern he asks me how the night had gone and I began to tell him what I experienced. But shortly after starting the story, a kind of magnetism seizes me until I realise that I need to sit down on the couch and later end up laying down completely. While we continue talking about what happened, I feel that I am floating in a weightless space and at that moment I interrupt Paul to tell him, already with my eyes closed: - Paul, I'mhigh! I think I'm totally hi..g....h - and less than an hour after I had got up, I vanish right there on that couch again.
An unknown amount of time later, I open my eyes raising my eyelids like two heavy shutters. I do not see anything around me and I close them again. But how come do I not see anything? ... and I open them again. No, I do not see anything, how can I not see anything?!!! Of course not, it's night time. Night time? Yes, it is night time and I am on the couch in the exact same position i which I had fallen asleep almost 9 hour earlier. My head tries to go back to its senses when I learn it is indeed 7 PM and already dark outside. There was no one in the house until Paul arrives with Roman a few minutes later and when he turns on the light I need to cover my eyes with my hand so I do not go blind like a rodent lit by a flashlight.
Paul tells me that I had fallen asleep at 10.30 in the morning while he was talking to me. Roman tells me about how badly he had spent the whole day after having eaten just a little tip from the other gummy bear. He can't even begin to imagine what I'm going through after having eaten an entire one. I do not have the strength to get up but I need to go to the bathroom. I'm not hungry either, just thirsty. As I stumble back into the kitchen, I look at Paul and say: Paul, I'm high!
It's 7:30 pm and I'm going to bed. I feel that a grader has passed over me again and again until I'm so thin and flimsy that I can fly in the air like a flag. When I wake up the next morning, I am no longer able to recount the number of hours I have slept but I think I slept no less than 30 to 32 hours almost uninterruptedly. When I go back to the kitchen one more time that morning I meet Paul again, who is preparing coffee. I stop before him and think about how strange this situation turns out to be and think out loud: "I have already lived this". Deja vu! But I feel good now. I feel my mind is clear. It is as if a wind had blown the thick clouds of marijuana that clogged my brain during the last 36 hrs. I'm not good at math, but I'm sure I need to use logarithms to calculate how many neurons the wind has taken with it. While I talk with Paul about everything that happened, I'm glad that at least I have enough coordination to take my mug to my mouth and not spill everything in the attempt, but I'm not ready yet to start cycling.
I need at least one full day of sobriety so I decide to stay at Paul's resting one more day. I'm not recovering from fatigue anymore but from the tremendous accidental overdose, I've had. At times, I burst out laughing about the whole situation, at others, I imagine it could have been a lot worse. I'm in the garden, sitting in the shade. It is midday and the hot tropical heat tightens. I look up at the sky, my pupils contract, I close my eyes, I stretch my arms in the air and I stretch my back and I feel that everything will be fine even though I never want to go through that again.
Still stretching and looking up, I fold my arms and grab my head to scratch myself like a dog wallowing in pleasure in the grass, but I notice that something is not right. Something is missing. I frown and scratch my scalp again. I do not feel!. I scratch myself harder. I do not feel! I can not feel! I rub my whole head and I realise that I have the right half of my entire skull absolutely numb. What do I do?!! I do not know what to do! I do not even have an internet connection to investigate or contact a doctor. I try not to despair, I try to believe that marijuana did not give me a tumour or consumed half of my brain in just one night and that this will go away. The hours pass, I'm obsessed, I scratch, I massage, I rub, twist my neck to one side and to the other, but I do not feel a goddammed from the forehead to the bottom of the neck. Nothing.
I want to believe that everything will go away by the next morning after resting even more, but when I get up after having slept yet another 11 hours, I still do not feel a thing. I do not know what to do, there is nothing I can do but I have no choice but to leave. I'm on my way to Yaoundé, my legs are increasingly swollen. My foot is still partially numb because of the scorpion's sting, the rest of the wounds are still infected and as if that were not enough, now I feel that a part of me will stay in Batouri forever: half of my brain.