Staring at the dark outline of the thatched roof against the night sky, my eyes begin to glaze over. Lightning flashes—illuminating the faces of the three men on the floor next to me. The chanting of the shaman begins to blend with the sounds of the insects and nocturnal beasts prowling outside the shack, deep in the Amazon jungle. My body feels cool and tingly. I melt into the wall. My eyelids feel like they are shutting from the bottom up. Another dramatic bolt of lightning rips across the starlit sky, sending me back to my present circumstances.
I become nervous. I don’t want to be sick and certainly don’t want to have diarrhea in these close quarters along with three men—my guide, the shaman, and two other men native to the area, near Iquitos, Peru.
Now, I can only think about the toilet looming behind the wall. I scoot away from the wall behind me and lay my body flat on the floor amongst the insects that I had seen crawling about earlier, now invisible in the darkness. Coiling my braid as a pillow, I try to relax, but another man is being helped to the toilet. He wretches repeatedly and loses control of his bowels. Why did I drink this awful potion?
Jhonny, my guide and I had followed the shaman through the darkened jungle. His “clinic” was not much more than a shack raised five feet over the ground on stilts.
“Look at the stars,” Jhonny motioned toward the sky while we waited for the shaman to gather his medicinal equipment—a branch of dried leaves, a glass bottle of what looked like white roots in a clear liquid, a half-full bottle of dark thick liquid—the ayahuasca, which he had brewed up that day, a plethora of freshly rolled tobacco cigarettes and toilet paper.
Malo, the shaman placed his two forefingers on my wrist. He seemed to be listening intently to my pulse.
“You have problems with love,” he concluded sagely.
I was about to disagree with him vehemently. Problems with love? Me?
The last time someone diagnosed me through the throb of my pulse; it was a Chinese doctor who told me I had problems with my bowels. Mortified, I lied, even though I hadn’t had a bowel movement in a week.
“Yes, I suppose,” I said reluctantly to the shaman, and he brightened considerably.
“Place rose quartz in water,” he instructed. “When you have stress, put the water on you forehead and temples.”