Yesterday I got lost in the jungle.
It began when I ventured into the inner depths of the forests outside of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The lush greenery above trapped the hot, sticky air near the jungle floor, causing sweat to gush from my pores as I hiked the rugged trail. As I made my way up the jungle slope I passed a few Taiwanese hikers, who greeted me with friendly ni-haos.
Everything was going well. The mountain wasn’t particularly tall, nor the hiking particularly difficult. Besides, I was following the signs — signs never lie, right?
Well, perhaps signs never lie, but they do have a nasty habit of disappearing at the most opportune times, kind of like that guy at a dinner outing who always excuses himself to the bathroom just as the bill shows up.
Anyway, I must’ve made a wrong turn somewhere, because I found myself alone in the thick of the woods with no signage to guide me. Dense vegetation overgrew the trail, chirping birds echoed in the distance. My feet glided over the rocks and tree roots as I cautiously waded through the eerie jungle.
Ahead, I saw a clearing. I ran forward, my heart racing in anticipation. I burst out from the tree cover … and there was a cliff, just inches from the ends of my toes.
I calmed myself with a deep breath. It’s okay — I can just turn back and return the way I came, I thought. So I spun around and began to head back into the jungle.
That’s when the real trouble began.
There before me stood a gang of monkeys a dozen strong; short but angry, tiny but vicious. They inched closer, circling around me with hunger in their eyes. I took one step backwards, then another — the heel of my shoe hung over the cliff’s edge, leaving me with no means of escape. I didn’t know what the monkeys had planned for me, but it looked like I had no choice but to find out.
Wait! I felt at my back pocket — it was there!
“The NSA is watching your every move!” I shouted, “Don’t come any closer, or the drones will strike!”
The monkeys looked back and forth, eyeing each other, then took a moment to deliberate in monkey-speak. A moment later, one stepped forward and spoke to me in perfect English.
“It’s not every day we get an American in these parts,” he said. “Come on — drinks are on us.”
I raised an eyebrow — I no longer had any idea what the hell was going on. Eh, why not? I thought with a shrug.
The monkeys led me through the jungle to their secret hideout — an abandoned shack, hidden deep behind the underbrush. I ducked through the entryway, and poked my head inside.
Light streamed through the empty rectangles where windows used to be, providing ample light for the small, one room building. On the tables scattered around the room, I saw empty cocktail glasses and a few decks of cards — these primates knew how to party.
In the back corner sat a wizened old monkey, his hair white from old age. “Have a seat,” he said. I obliged, sitting down at the nearest table.
The old monkey snapped his fingers, and two of the younger monkeys came to his side. “Two Mai Tais — with our best rum,” he said. The younger monkeys nodded and ran off.
“You’ve come a long way. Tell me abut your homeland.”
I cleared my throat, and began to tell him about Wisconsin, about the big Holstein cows, the fresh yellow cheese, and the glorious Green Bay Packers. As I went on at length about my home state, the servant monkeys returned and handed me a Mai Tai — sweet and tangy. I continued to tell the elder monkey all about my travels.
We spoke for quite some time. In fact, it turned out we had quite a bit in common. He told me about how the local berry bank had been running a Ponzi scheme, causing him to lose all of his investments, as well as about how all the pollution from China obscured his view of sunny Kaohsiung. I nodded in agreement — in fact, his tale of monkey life brought a tear to my eye.
Eventually, the sunlight through the empty windowpane began to fade, signalling that late afternoon had come.
“How do I get back to the subway station?” I asked.
“Don’t worry — we’ll show you the way.” Again he snapped his fingers, calling servant came to his side, then whispered something into the servant monkey’s ear.
The servant monkey looked at me. “Come on,” he said, gesturing with a bob of his head. He led me out the door and we began our descent down the mountain.
After five minutes of bushwhacking through the foliage, he’d led me to a trail I recognized, complete with signs.
“Thanks — I can take it from here,” I said.
“You sure?” the monkey asked.
“Suit yourself.” The monkey bounded to a nearby tree and began to swing up it, branch by branch. I smiled as I watched him go, then turned to take another look at the trail sign. The subway station wasn’t far — just a fifteen minute walk and I’d be right back where I’d started.
I meandered down the trail, then continued along the sides of the narrow, curbless streets until I reached my destination.
As I stepped onto the escalator and let it carry me towards the tracks, I listened to the song playing over the PA:
Cheer up, Sleepy Jean.
Oh, what can it mean.
To a daydream believer
And a homecoming queen.
I blinked a few times … then shook my head.
It seems that no matter where I go, the Monkees won’t let me be.