Monday, August 6, 2007


Change falling out my pocket clanging against the pavement. Playground balls whizzing at my head. Not a clap to be heard with my diploma in hand. Laughs, chuckles, and inconsiderate ‘We’ll give you a call’s one after another.

I find myself as alone as it is imaginable. My apartment could just as well be a dessert or an uninhabited island. Sandy floors sound better than concrete. The only place to rest my feet is my lumpy twin mattress. My resources for food are what my high school friends were eating forty years ago at college. Falling into dreams at night, I can’t imagine how I could ever share my bed with someone, as uncomfortably cramped as it is already.

The only place I’ve felt wanted since my grandmother passed away has been my habitat more-so than my apartment. She used to take me to the zoo when I was young. Before I was out of the stroller I could mimic every animal I saw.

It is surprising. They make such a big deal in school about graduating and they say you won’t go anywhere in life if you don’t. Well I got my diploma, I tried to apply for jobs in the city, but now it was a college degree I needed. It didn’t seem fair.

Like second nature, I turned to my childhood and got a job as a caretaker at the zoo. I usually worked eighteen hour days. My boss, Mr. Jenkins, didn’t mind overtime because they didn’t pay overtime.

“Custodian guy!” All the college educated kids who got to train, feed, name and cure the animals would always yell at me to clean up the shit and trash from the cages. I had my own names for most of the animals. My best friends were the bald eagle, Windy; Honey the grizzly bear; Jackson the jaguar; and the crocodile, Chompers. When people weren’t looking, I’d occasionally still make those animal noises. Somewhere deep down I hoped they could understand me and they were attempting to communicate back.

“Yes, Mister Jenkins?”

“I wanted to talk to you about your time here at the zoo. I think its great how much emotion and feeling you have towards these animals. Most of these kids I’ve hired spent six years in college pretending they cared, but they have no idea.”

“I-I agree, no idea sir.”

“Do you remember when the last time you received a paycheck from us in the mail?” I thought back and remembered nothing but those playground balls and my empty nest. “Nineteen months ago. Almost two years.” I questioned what he was telling me. Had it really been that long? I couldn’t make any distinction between memories from forty years ago or yesterday.

All I could say was “I’m sorry.” I walked out the door holding back the rain. The animals hated the rain. I strolled past the cages on my own two feet now. These were my memories, this was my life. I thought, “No one has ever loved me as much as I loved them.” Just before I passed through the gate I looked over at Jackson. He tilted his head and seemed to purr like a housecat would. I knew that I was wrong.

No comments: