I was walking through the arbor that leads to the primate section of the zoo when I saw two teenagers at the langur enclosure. They were busy harassing the monkeys, throwing stones and screaming at them. I was so enraged that I rushed to confront the boys.
It was then that I saw the stranger walking rapidly towards the bullies. He was not tall, in fact, he was shorter than most men, but the way he carried himself was very imposing. He had the piercing gaze of a fierce eagle and the voice that was like the roar of an angry lion. When he looked at you and spoke, it was almost impossible to contradict him.
“Ruffians! Good-for-nothings! Why don’t you learn to do better things in life than torment the helpless?” bellowed the stranger.
“Yes! Rather than abusing these sad souls, you should fight for their freedom!” I joined in taking the bullies to task.
The boys looked at us, irked by our interruption. “Off you run, larrikins, before I decide to teach you the lesson of your life!” said the stranger. There was the menacing stare of a wild beast in his eyes. The miscreants decided to make a quick exit and fled from the place.
We stood watching the langurs for a while. He made some odd monkey-like sounds to which the langurs responded. It was as though he could talk to them. I was utterly astonished. He turned to me and said, “Thank you, mister, for your support. I have seldom heard humans speak as you did! You are a rare man!” He extended his hand in friendship, and I gladly reciprocated.
“I know what it is to be within those walls, with no freedom, no home, no family nor friends. A million eyes gazing at you every day. Mostly hostile eyes, rarely loving eyes. Even rarer are the empathetic eyes that I saw in you today. I know because I was once within those walls.”
His sudden and peculiar disclosure astounded me. I asked him if he really meant what he said.
“I was born in the Congo. My family was murdered in my infancy, and I was taken across the oceans to be housed in this place. Many years passed by before I made my escape and tasted freedom. But I could not walk freely in the world of men for I was different. So I devised this costume that hides my true self from your kind so that I can walk unnoticed, if not accepted.”
By then I was altogether confounded. Seeing my confusion, he rubbed his right hand with his left as though he was pulling a glove off it, to reveal a palm that was black and hairy, just like that of the great apes. He then ran his hand across his face as though he was peeling off a mask.
As my confusion gave way to incredulity, he said, “You see, I am not a human, I am a bonobo!”
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