The day before the holiday I had sat on my own unmade bed at home trying to envisage myself far away from this grey town with its dirty buses. I tried to imagine the clear blue skies (although I did allow a few high, wispy ones), the rattle of steel drums, brightly-coloured shirts and the aroma of jerk chicken on the beach barbecue. The sight of the unmade bed had reminded me that I was there on a much needed holiday, that trekking around a tiny, uncivilised island – albeit a hot one - was not what I had planned. It was the suggestion of barbecued food that was most discordant with my reality.
My thoughts switched again, this time to my niece and something she had said to me. She’d being doing a project on the rainforest and was fascinated by a plant they had discussed. She’d told me about it over and over, laughing. She said that it only came into flower once every ....I couldn’t even remember that....and that when it did, its flower smelled like rotten meat. I’d wondered if she’d ever smelled rotten meat. Did this count as a rainforest? Probably not. But I could smell rotten meat and I could see no flowers anywhere.
The bed was dirty, streaked with brown; in fact, I couldn’t have even made out its proper colour. The duvet was spilling out of the poppered end as if trying to wrestle its way from its cover. I could see some hair poking out from underneath the far side of this crumpled mess. It was red hair. A doll’s? I looked around me. The giggling had stopped. I seemed to be alone. There was no one to explain it to me, to tell me it was going to be alright, to tell me why, when I gently lifted the duvet to examine the owner of the red hair, there wasn’t one. Just a clump of red hair on a dirty mattress.