“I open the orangutan’s door and set a pan of fruits, vegetables, and nuts on the floor. As I close it, her long arm reaches through the bars. She points at an orange in another pan.
‘That? You want that?’
She continues to point, blinking at me with close-set eyes. Her features are concave, her face a wide platter fringed with red hair. She’s the most outrageous and beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
‘Here,’ I say, handing her the orange. ‘You can have it.’
She takes it and sets it on the floor. Then she reaches out again. After several seconds of serious misgivings, I hold out my hand. She wraps her long fingers around it, then lets go. She sits on her haunches and peels her orange.
I stare in amazement. She was thanking me.”
“When you are five, you know your age down to the month. Even in your twenties, you know how old you are. I’m twenty-three you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties, something strange starts to happen. It is a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I’m–you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you are not. You’re thirty-five. And then you’re bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it’s decades before you admit it.”
“When will people learn that just because you can make something doesn’t mean you should?”
“The more distressing the memory, the more persistent it’s presence. ”
“Is where you’re from the place you’re leaving or where you have roots?”
“The thought has cheered me, and I’d like to hang onto that. Must protect my little pockets of happiness.”
Sara Gruen – Water for Elephants.