Empty cages

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We carried on getting high and drunk way into Sunday, and Sunday just didn’t matter anymore, and neither did Monday and Tuesday, and what mattered less was what everyone was saying and doing. It didn’t matter that I’d lost my top, or that people had come and gone and that we’d shifted to another room. I didn’t know these people. Fresher’s week in movies is just like this, I thought.

In the depths of whatever it was we were in, people talked of pleasure and how to experience happiness and joy was clearly the meaning of life. “The meaning of life is to make babies” some Drama major girl with brilliant blue eyes piped up. Her parents clearly still loved each other and she probably spoke to them on the dorm phone every day. I contemplated telling her how endometriosis was likely to stop me ever conceiving. I thought about asking her if my life therefore had no meaning. Instead I ignored her, or thought I did, but I couldn’t have, as I could still hear talk of pregnancy and childbirth, and I grabbed a wrap and a card and a $20 dollar bill, already rolled, one end slightly damp from one of these people’s noses. I chopped up another line of whatever it was the guy had brought. And as I stared down at the white crumbs of uneven shape and my own dirty reflection, mascara all over my tired eyes, I realised that I was cutting another line instead of disagreeing with someone or being upset. Suddenly the room wasn’t fun anymore. In seconds, I craved a glass of water and some fresh air and started to think about leaving. Strange how easily a spell can be broken like that.

“Did you ever see that YouTube video of the lab monkeys?” said a boy, somewhere in the room. Silence from the broken and tired, anticipating the profound and earnest. He didn’t disappoint.

“This chimp sanctuary rescued these monkeys from a lab, and they’d been raised in the lab their whole life from when they were cubs or whatever” he continued.
“They’re not called cubs”, said the guy who I think removed my top earlier. “They’re puppies or something”.
“Maybe, it’s, like, doe or apeling or whatever?” someone added. Another boy. I heard the blue eyed sparrow repeat the word ‘apeling’ like it was going to be the name of her first child. A blue eyed child, no doubt. She repeated it again about four times, looking at her hands.

“But anyway”, and the guy sat up, and considering we’d all been horizontal for so long, I actually felt like this meant something. The physical shift. Conviction. Something. “Anyway, the monkeys had been in the lab since they were cubs. And the rescue guys got them from the lab, and by now the cubs were old. They were thirty or fourty years old. And after working with them to, you know, fix them up and shit, they took them to a sanctuary. And this sanctuary is in a field near LA, it’s got all this grass and wide open space and a little hut for them to live in”.

I watch his mouth as he speaks. He is interesting to me. He’s unattractive but has the voice of someone famous.

“So the rescue guys let the monkeys, who haven’t been out of an indoor place for thirty years, they let them into this field. They look around. Their eyes are open so, so wide. They touch the grass, and they look around. But then they look up, and the depth of the sky, the total immense, like, awesomeness of the sky, just blows them away. And they just stand there, all of them, looking up. All of these old monkeys, just looking up at the sky, in total wonder.”

The room is silent, but a strange disingenuous silence, like that of a one minute silence for veterans or something experienced in church. I imagine empty cages.
His lips are dry, and he licks them before talking again. I notice this almost in slow motion. Perhaps it is whatever I have taken, but seeing his tongue go out and in like that kind of disgusts me, especially that slow. “That’s the meaning of life” he says, like he is the townie version of Jurrasic Park’s Jeff Goldblum. “Happiness.”

I stand up and look for my top. As I do, I think about how if he is right, that if the meaning of life is happiness, and he was happy at watching that video, that if this room full of cadavers are happy at hearing the story, then it was worth keeping those monkeys in a lab, under strip lights instead of sun, for thirty years. Because the outcome, unimaginable to those sky gazing little half-men, was that it made these fuckers happy.

“They’re not called apelings” I say as I step over ashtrays and empty cans on the way to the door. I look over into the blue eyes of the apeling girl, and I look right into the skull that holds them in place. “They’re called babies. The word for a baby ape is a baby ape. Babies”. She looks at me dumbfounded. Someone starts giggling. “You stupid cunts”, I tell them, and I slam the door. As I walk down the hall, I hear wooping and applause. The hall is empty.

It’s dawn as I walk across the campus green, the grass damp with the morning. I reach my building and then I’m brushing my teeth, but my jaw is rigid from the drugs. I stand there naked and look at my belly and hips as I brush.



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