Hurry Jane, they say, and I wonder how many customs agents it will take to steal you from me. When the rain falls, you scream like wild dogs in the night, something breaks inside the crate, and I become frightened of what I’ve become. Smugglers move the tarp from the crate to show me your eyes. I want you. I begin to wonder why. They drag me away from you because it’s going to take time to stop your crying. In another cage, your mother listens for your cries but hears only echoes of some poachers’ hushed conversations.
Arriving on the 12:30 flight, restless women wanting company ask me, where can I buy a baby gorilla? How much does a chimp cost? How much does a lion cost? How much is a finger monkey?
In Africa, gorillas are disappearing, but this makes me value you even more. You’re a baby, though you’ll grow to be over 400 pounds and will one day be stronger than six of me. If you live to be over sixty years old, who will change our diapers?
Seeing you, touching you, holding you inside my vintage leather jacket, none of it matters, though you were born to Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti. When you gaze at me, it’s like I hear long forgotten words. When your little hand reaches for my finger, I feel an ancient melody.
Just when I think you’re lost, an old man stops me along the way to the ATM to say, “Hurry to the crate. He’s waiting for you.”
Demanding bribes, customs officers are trying to tell me I came to Africa to do the things I never have. They say there’s time to do the things they’ve never done but it’s going to cost more money than I’ve paid. They say rhinos are disappearing. They say I can potty train a monkey and eat tiger soup. They say my pet ape might outlive me and my ability to care for it. They say tiger-eye soup can make me see visions. They say eating a rhino’s horn can make me stronger. They say hurry, hurry, the little one’s waiting.
I have to hurry to pay for you and drug you, to hide you beneath my arm and inside the secret flap sewn into my leather jacket. I have to hurry through customs so you don’t smother in my jacket, before people try to drag me away from you the way I dragged you away from your mother.