Adam didn’t know what he was getting into. He didn’t ask to be here. He didn’t expect to be anywhere, but now look at this mess.
He had just finished getting a degree in philosophy at a school in the Deep South, Louisiana to be precise, because he liked the rumbling decadence that barreled through the delta. There was something about the people there that startled him. Only in New Orleans could you see a bunch of Black, slum-grown hoodlums on a street corner, shouting, moaning, banging on drums and blowing through cold brass, jazz music, like freestyling angels, as if it were the only thing in the world to do. He had felt like that might be the only place in the country to study western philosophy, where televangelism met voodoo, and life seemed like a gooey mesh of everything. Where could you find meaning in that? If you could, then you’d be the bearer of the big answer, he had thought.
But in four years he hadn’t found it, just more questions, and instead of looking somewhere else, he was sitting in a cage, feeding an overgrown stalk of grass to a two-hundred pound teddy bear with a cupid complex but no libido of her own in the dead of a dry winter.
“I’m sick, Adam,” his father had said over the phone, “sick as a dog. I’ll be dead in six weeks.” What a dick. He’d been having chest pains for the past two years, coughing up a lung, refusing to have it checked out, low and behold, cancer. What a dick. He’d always been a dick, and had been the panda keeper at the zoo in D.C. at least as long as Adam could remember. In fact, when the handlers from China brought this elegant monstrosity to the zoo, Adam was twelve, and when his father had said the name of her, it sounded so awkward and just, Chinese, that Adam decided to call her Chun-Li, and never changed his mind on the matter.
She stopped eating and crawled toward the edge of the glass viewing screen, and as Adam watched her he thought about all the wonder and ideas her kind inspired. And how up close and real, she was just an animal, like every other, sloshing through life into an unknown beyond, just like him. Just like everything.
“What’s her name?”
Adam’s eyes ventured passed Chun-Li’s waddling posterior, to a figure standing behind the glass. He could just make out a girl in a dark grey pea coat standing a meter from the window. He walked up and as he approached he could slowly make her out--Asian, petit, hair tied back, and eyes shifting between the dual-toned behemoth and him, with equal fascination in both glances.
“Check the display!” He yelled through the glass, pointing toward the post near the window as he strutted over to her.
“How do you pronounce it?”
“I have no clue, I just call her Chun-Li.” She grinned, her cheeks arched knowingly. “So what’s a cute videogame nerd doing at the zoo, in the cold, ten minutes before closing?”
“Checking out the wildlife,” she said coyly. Chun-Li waddled away, grabbing the bamboo out of Adam’s hand as she passed, I’ll leave you two alone.
“What’s your name?”
“You’re fucking with me.”
“You’re cursing at me.”
“I’m sorry, it’s the cold, I hate it.”
“Adam! Adam’s my name! That’s why I thought it was...”
“Excuse me miss, but the zoo’s closing,” Adam’s boss said, giving him a tilted look of disbelief from the woman's side.
“Oh I’m sorry, I’m just...”
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” His hand was on her shoulder. What a dick.
“Oh, well, um, bye Adam!”
Adam watched in brazen disbelief as the girl walked off with little less pep in her step than he would have expected to see if he had had the time to make a date with her, which shocked him a little, but then he turned back to the zookeeper, who gave him a wide-eyed douchebaggy stare, mouthing, “Clean that up will ya?” Adam turned, and behind him Chun-Li was finishing up taking a massive crap. What a dick.
He walked over to her and stared, searching for something in her eyes, an answer or a mystery. But there was nothing but abyss, amplified by the black patches surrounding her nothing-but-iris, pupils-contracting-in-the-twilight eyes. “We’re different, you and I,” he said to her, and walked into the compound in search of a pooper-scooper.
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