Trip to the Zoo

This morning, I checked my email and saw a message that said I would make a good girlfriend. My first response was to hiss at it, as only a cat would do when angered. This response, though telling, surprised even me. What is it about the term “girlfriend” that makes me channel my inner animal spirit, and not in a good way?

Yesterday, I took myself on a date to the zoo. Ten minutes into it I realized why I hadn’t been to a zoo in years: I don’t like zoos. Zoos are depressing; all these beautiful animals trapped behind glass, captured by humans, how selfish we are. I can’t help but think the tortoise that keeps paddling against his glass cage is trying to escape or that the gorilla eats his own feces because he’s been driven mad by cabin fever. I can’t look at the lions without noticing how small their captivity is and how empty it seems without actual prey to prey upon. And the panda who is happily resting on top a slide turns his back and walks away when a group of tourists gather before him. I think that sent a pretty clear message as to how he feels about visitors.

Even more maddening are the words that escape some of the visitors’ mouths: “pick up a rock and hit the tiger, see how it responds.” I hope someone throws rocks at him when he’s napping: the tourist, not the tiger.

The word “girlfriend” evokes in me the image of those beautiful, captured animals. It makes me think of everything I’d have to give up, everything I imagine I’d have to give up. Sovereignty, for one. Independence, perhaps. A lot of my free time that I spend with my friends or on myself, most definitely. I probably can’t keep doing whatever I want whenever I want with whomever I want; that’d be a real shame.

The problem is I’m too accommodating. Even though I think I’ve learned my lesson about unbalanced relationships, I’d hate to put it to the test and realize how wrong I am. It’s been awhile since anyone has put a title on me. I think the last time someone introduced me as his girlfriend I actually cringed, not noticeably, I hope. The same way I cringed seeing a baby tiger pace his glass cage. For whose viewing pleasure? Certainly, not mine.

I will say, the zoo is not without its redeeming quality. In the middle of the great Shanghai zoo, there is this beautiful lake. I believe fall is the best time to see it. The lake is surrounded by trees whose names I wished I knew. Reflected in the lake are vivid greens, vibrant oranges, and fiery reds as only the paintbrush of fall can achieve. I stood by the lake for quite awhile, in awe of the scenery, noticing just in time that I had been holding my breath as if the slightest disturbance might taint the view.

So maybe, one of these days, when I no longer care about doing whatever with whomever whenever because I’ve found someone as awe-inducing as seeing that lake in the fall, he could introduce me to his friends by name because they’d already know who I am. We can skip the “g-word” and go straight to happily ever after.

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