Monday, July 30, 2012

quiet, lizard

This is about learning to climb
No, really. Part one. 

Once upon a time in Zimbabwe, I went on a "lion walk". These are win-win arrangements: tourists pay to touch animals that shouldn't be touched, the foreign currency funds a breed-and-release program, and everybody—at least, everybody whose cattle don't get eaten—is happy. But at 17, I was too cool for the concept. These are tame lions, effectively, I thought, and only babies. I pictured a petting zoo: cute, but, like, l-ame.

The lions were cute, really fucking cute. They gamboled and tumbled and swatted at the grass; they moved just like kittens. I remember, especially, a cub entranced by water pooled in the ruts of the Jeep track, how its tail twitched over the gold glint of reflected morning.

My turn came for the cheesy souvenir photo and I approached the lion. I looked into its eyes—liquid brown disks encircling small, expressionless pupils. I put my hand on its lean shoulder and felt muscle glide over bone beneath my clammy (why?) palm. I observed the outsized paws, the teeth. This is a tame lion, I told myself, a tame lion, a tame lion. I smiled at the warden with the gun and I smiled at the warden with the camera. A tame, tame lion.

But the base of my brain was in open rebellion. Caveman brain, reptile brain, some cluster of cells whose structure is the memory of long nights on the crackling savanna. There is no such thing, it said, as a tame lion. Run.

Run, run, run, run, run.

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