A flash of blue in the deep, layered green of the jungle—the blue of plastic mermaid tails, of Walmart signs and birthday balloons, of everything that we’ve left behind. I catch his arm, point.
“Do you see?”
He pulls away from my touch, sees nothing. Soon there is nothing to see, only a dense tangle of vines and above us an overlapping canopy of leaves, each one large enough to smother me. Belief in a sky filled with sunlight is an act of faith. I long for blue the way I long for dry socks and cold water that doesn’t taste of iodine. A jungle should have poisonously bright colors, the reds and yellows of a dream world, lurid purples and defiant, inhuman blues, not this relentless midnight green. For two weeks I have endured the itch of damp fungus between my toes, mosquito bites that swell to the size of fisted bruises, humidity so thick that I choke on my own breath. This is his expedition, his dissertation that hangs in the balance; I am only here for love. He thinks he’ll find what he needs by slashing his machete, pushing himself ever deeper into the darkness.
The next day when it happens again, that glimpse of impossible blue, I don’t try to show it to him. I stand still, wait without moving. Slowly the blue resolves into an animal swinging from vine to vine up toward the sunlight that I can’t see or feel. The Paraboon. It’s what we’ve come here to find, so why can only I see it?
That evening I tell him that I’m staying at our camp tomorrow. He looks at me with jungle-blinded eyes, then turns away, shrugs with sharp impatience. In the morning I lay an offering of mango on a tree stump at the edge of our clearing. Its deep orange flesh glows bright in the gloom. When the blue streak appears in the tangle of vines above me I feel sorrow and satisfaction in equal measures. The plumage of a parrot, the body of a baboon, vestigial wings folded small and useless across its simian back, its crimson underbelly so brilliant that my color-starved eyes begin to water. Flexible doll-sized fingers reach for a piece of mango. Sweet juice dribbles onto the soft down of its chest. I taste the memory of mango in my own mouth, but the bitterness of tears in the back of my throat overwhelms the remembered sweetness. Even so I wait until the Paraboon finishes its treat, until its round eyes watch me, bright with sentience—only then do I raise the dart gun from my side. If my lover can’t see a Paraboon in the wild, I will give him a Paraboon that he can touch and possess. It’s an act of love that may destroy my ability to love its recipient, but I pull the trigger and watch the Paraboon collapse, colors already dulling to believability.