You really ought to do something about it, I told myself with a tone of anger. Yet I added: though it would be best if you just took a seat and sat still for a moment.
I tuned in to this peculiar echo ringing in my thought process as if it were the opening riff of a song I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I stared at the chair and wondered if it would be in my best interest to just sit and be still? And if so, why? An instinct spoke to me from within: because once you become still, you will be better prepared to hear. That sounds about right, I thought, such a truth should never be denied.
For lack of any conscious reason, I turned my eyes upward to that of my companion in the “Upstairs” room. As most of you are aware, the eyes often speak out loud. A pair of complete strangers can fluently reveal their shared interest and mutual attraction with just one simple glance. That eye though, the one I couldn’t see spoke to me, and I understood. My lower body began to congeal as I paced the room, and I could hardly navigate my way to the chair without caving in completely.
My companion turned his monstrosity of a head to one side and peered upon me with curiosity and spoke. “Now that I have your attention, it may help you, as well as others, to first hear my story.”
“Yes, indeed,” I nodded shocked that he spoke to me. “Although first—if you don’t mind—could you afford us the pleasure of knowing your name?” I asked him.
He glared at me for an infinite minute without so much as a response or facial expression. Then he went on ahead of himself as if I never asked the question at all.
“I was born somewhere in the forests of a different kind of wild,” he mentioned matter of factly. “I’ve never taken the time to find out precisely where, and see no reason as to why I should start now. Though, I do have a random question for you. Do you happen to have any sort of history as far as poaching wild animals for zoos and circuses is concerned?” He asked concertedly.
Shaking my head—startled at the question—I answered, “I know nothing about what you speak of.”
His eye sighed and he spoke with a shrug. “That’s good. I have no actual memory of my first circumstance of being caught—though, I have memories of plenty other circumstances. In any case, I was taken into captivity and eventually sold to a zoo in a small but sprawling Southern town. The loveliest village on the plains I once heard them call it. I cannot for the life of me say which town it was, for the awareness of such things, please remember, I have none. But there I lived and grew for lots of years.”
He paused and chewed absentmindedly on a mound of peanuts for a while, as if he were gathering his thoughts about him…
In places such as a zoo—speaking again, at last—where wild animals are locked away in cages, most of those caged are more wise than their relatives lost in the distant wild. This being because even the dimmest of those of those caged cannot help but sense that something doesn’t quite add up with such style of living arrangements.
When I say that some are more wise, I’m not one to try and imply that some have acquired the power of deductive reasoning. But the lion, the one you often notice pacing the cage, is nonetheless preoccupied with something that human nature might recognize as critical thinking.
And this thought begs the critical question: why?
“Why! Why! Why?” The lion asks itself, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, end to seamless end, as it retraces its circuitous path left to decay away locked in a cage. The lion cannot dissect the question or even pretend to begin to elaborate upon it. If one were somehow able to ask the beast, “why what?” It would not be able to answer.
Nevertheless, such a question as why burns like an inextinguishable flame within the heart, generating a sort of searing pain that will not diminish until the beast lapses into a kind of terminal malaise, one in which, the powers-that-be consider as a rejection of life held in captivity. And these sorts of questions are ones that no beast asks himself in his native habitat.
So before long, I too, began to ask myself why. Being more mentally advanced than other beasts, I was able to cross examine what I meant in light of the question, at the very least, in a darker, more primitive sort of way. But I began to remember a distant life, which was—as far as I remember it—creative and comfortable. And yet, by stark contrast, this life now, has been as agonizing as it has lacked consistent comfort.
Thus, when asking myself why, I was vehemently trying to piece together the puzzle of why a life should be divvied up this way, half of it comfy enough, the other half, painful as hell. Mind you, I carried no concept of myself as a captive of pain; it never occurred to me that someone else was preventing me from living a pleasant and carefree life, and which, from this I knew, that things are only how we perceive them to be. And so when the answer to my question presented itself as forthcoming, I began to consider the matter of all things puzzling.
And it was in the piecing together of such trivial matters that my true interior growth began—often going unnoticed.
Although—and though naturally, I could hardly grasp it—the Great Divide was taking its toll on every last aspect of the American Dream. Zoos and circuses everywhere were being forced to pinch every last penny, forced to flush out such wild and rampant inventory and thereby significantly reducing spending of all sorts. A great and disheartening number of us “wild beasts” were left to be—to put it frankly—euthanized, for the greater good of something you humans call economy.
I believe this simply because there has never been a high demand in the private sector for “pets” that neither offered simplicity in their upkeep, or for the ones that lacked color in the way of their feral theatrics. The exceptions were, of course, the extravagant cats, the primates, the peacocks, and a pachyderm.
So to make a long story short, I was, at some point, sold to a roadshow troubadour and his cirque du calvary. He had an empty cage—or void, if you will—that he needed to fill for the foreseeable future. And there I was, a large, magnificently adolescent beast, and to him I represented a metaphoric long-term investment.
Some might imagine that life in one cage is just like life in another, but this is nowhere near the case. Take the matter of human communication for example. At the zoo, all of us animals were aware of our visitors. They were quite a curiosity for us, very much worth the entertainment, in the way that bluebirds building a nest in the backyard might seem worth watching to a brood of humans.
Over time, it became crystal clear to me that these strange creatures were there for the purpose of watching how we lived in a habitat unfamiliar to us, but it never crossed my mind that they had solely come to see us perform.
But with the troubadour at the helm, we set out to find them. We took our roadshow spectacle in every direction known to man, or animal, if you’d rather. And so however it came to be, I, all of the sudden was able to see the reason for such a spectacle.
Indeed, my knowledge of such regard for said spectacle began the moment when the troubadour first put my ass on display. A few guests approached my cage and after a moment or two, began speaking to me. I was dumbfounded. At the zoo, guests spoke to one another, but never to us. Perhaps, this was the place they called the circus, I thought. “Maybe these clowns are just confused,” I wondered with another thought. “Maybe they have mistook us for them.” My bewilderment and perplexity grew with exponential growth, as one by one, everyone that visited my cage, spoke in a consistent way. Yet, I simply had no clue as to what to make of it.
In the time that followed I started to place more attention on what everyone was saying around me. After awhile, I noticed that while every voice was different, there was one sound they spoke out loud over and over again, and it seemed meant to gather my attention. So it did. Though, mind you, again, I was unable to even a gamble upon a guess as to what the word meant. Do remember, I possess nothing that would serve as a translating tool for the human tongue.
Soon enough, I realized that the cages next to mine were occupied by a lovely lioness and her offspring, another by a handful of ponies. I began to observe that the clientele spoke to them in the exact same way they spoke to me. But yet I realized, that the guests offered a different kind of repetitive sound to attract their attention. For instance, when at the lionesses cage the guests called out, “Athena! Athena! Athena!” And when at my cage, they called out “Go….! Go….! Go….!”, but I was never able to put two and two together as to what my name was.
And yet, with these intricate revelations, I soon understood that these foreign sounds in some enigmatic way attached us directly to something along the lines of what you humans call an individual.
You, given a name at birth, cannot imagine the sort of revolution that took place within my heart upon the acquisition of an actual name. It is of no exaggeration to say that I was truly born again in that moment—born as “something” with a bit more “oomph” behind it.
Now, with the nature of my captivity no longer a mystery, as in between the lines, I had heard my life explained by thousands of people, children and adults alike. See, all of us wild beasts in the troubadour’s circus originally belonged to some place you humans call the wilderness, which apparently stretched across every corner of the earth (whatever an “earth” might be).
Yet you see, we had been taken into captivity from the aforementioned wild, and all brought together in one confined place, all because for some inherent reason, someone found us interesting enough to be locked away in a cage, all due to the fact that your kind considered us to be just “wild” and “dangerous” enough to call your own. But such choice of words always left me puzzled because they—upon further examination—evidently refer to the qualities I have often used to simplify myself, and have always admired about myself.
I guess what I mean is that when someone wanted to show someone else something “wild” and “dangerous,” they would point their finger in my direction. It is also true that they would also point their finger towards the lioness, but since the lion and I had yet to know life outside a cage, I knew then, that there was nothing enlightening about pointing fingers…
For now though, if you would please afford me the effort of circling back around to the fact that I meant to keep this long story short. So allow me to wrap this one up.
As a whole, life with the troubadour’s circus was a huge improvement over life at the zoo, because life was always entertaining, and we were always on the move, one town at a time.
And so perhaps a year had passed. Then one rainy afternoon, the circus was deserted, and I was welcomed to a rare, yet beautiful visitor. She was a lone woman, one who looked to be the prettiest thing a beast like me had ever seen. She stood at the entrance, glancing methodically at each cage, and then, without so much as a hint of hesitation, she headed straight for me. Her steps took a slight pause when she noticed the length of rope slung about my immediate surroundings, but then she planted her low profile high heels into the mud, and leered distinctively with intent into my eyes.
Now, I have never been perplexed by human eye contact, but hers were different, it must’ve been something due to the fact that I saw a wild that reminded me of freedom in her eyes.
Delightfully, I stared back in awe. We both stood still for the eternity of a few moments without so much as a blinking eye. I remember that I felt a promising admiration for the woman unlike any I’d ever felt. And there she stood staring back, so glowingly enduring the painful drizzle that was dripping down her perfect face.
Then, at last, she stood up straight with a crooked smile, zipped up her raincoat, and gave me a quaint nod, almost as if she had surprisingly come to a carefully considered conclusion, and then she spoke.
“You harmless thing, you are no Goliath. We shall name you Love!” And with that, she swung open the door to my cage.
She then turned and walked back in the direction from which she came. And as she was almost out of sight, those eyes looked back at me and I heard the sweetest sound my ears have ever had the pleasure of hearing.
“Well, hurry up mister, we’ve got to get you back to where you belong…”