Things Could Be Worse

How’m I doin’? I’m feelin’ pretty good today, actually, thanks for askin’! I spend a lot of time now just sitting around, though. I like find a spot on these steps that lead up to the house—one that gives me a good view of the street—and I spend most of the day just sittin’ here and watchin’ people go by. The concrete’s not too uncomfortable, and there’s no room for a chair or anything, so I take what I can get.  Everyone says the steps look pretty natural—like stones or rocks, I guess—probably the way things at Disneyland look natural, if you catch my drift. That’s what people say, anyway. I’ve never been, so I don’t know.

I used to get around a lot more, especially before I moved here. I was very long and lean back then, if you can believe it. You probably think I’ve always been a fat slob like I am now, but I was quite a gymnast, really. No—really! Well, not a pro or anything; it wasn’t like I competed in any of your standard events like parallel bars or rings or things like that. But I used to live up in the mountains, so I could do a lot of mountain climbing; climbing of all types, basically. That’s what I used to do. Eventually, I moved here and just lost interest. It got repetitive. You know how it goes: you start out doing somethin’, you’re havin’ a good time, and one day you wake up and think, screw it, I don’t feel like doing anythin’ today. And that’s it—the beginning of the end. Tomorrow maybe you do it or not, the next day it’s less likely that you do it, and before long you’re never doin’ it. Well, that’s life.

I used to have a friend that lived with me here; his name was Raff. He was fun—quite a comedian, you know? He was always ready with a prank or trick. Like, one thing he used to do was mimic people, their expressions and everything; they would stare at him like they were trying to figure out what was going on. They were never sure; they’d say, are you mimicking me? And they’d get kind of pissed. And Raff would just stare back, doing what they did, mimicking them, and I’d be trying not to laugh so I wouldn’t give the joke away.

Raff could have his dark moods too though; very dark. No, I mean it! For example: he was kind of small and would get pissed off if he heard someone say something like “short stuff” or, worst of all, “pygmy.” Well, who wouldn’t? But that’s the way it goes. Other times he was as sweet as could be, and quite a “hedonist” if I have that word right; that’s what people would call him anyway. He could lie stretched out in the sun for hours, barely moving a muscle, perfectly happy.

He was sick when he moved in here, though people didn’t realize it. It was ironic, you know—he had this weird name: “Raff.” I mean, what kind of name is that? He told me once that it means “healed by God,” but he wasn’t. God didn’t come into it at all; if he had Raff would still be here because Raff is basically a good guy—well, was basically a good guy. So, now I don’t believe in gods.

I knew about him being sick, and it made all the fun we had together a little sad, too. When he got worse people started to notice and talk about it. He used to talk about it himself; he used to worry that I would get sick too just from being around him, but I never did. He would worry about what it would be like for me when he had to leave. It was hard for me to listen because I didn’t want to think about what I would do if he wasn’t here. Who would I play around with? Who would tell me jokes? It’s been twenty years since he was taken away in the middle of the night; I didn’t even realize he was gone until morning. I still think about him almost every day. I don’t know if you ever lost someone you loved, but I loved Raff and then I lost him. And it sucks, man. It really sucks.

So, I’m still here. A little slower than I used to be, a little more white in the hair, a little less runnin’ around, a little less heave-ho, if you know what I mean. They try to tell you that things get better as you get older, but I think things get bitter. Did you catch that? I just wanted to show you I can make a joke too. Okay, I see you’re not laughin’; I guess it wasn’t that funny.

Maybe you’re wonderin’ why I don’t make friends with the neighbors. Well, the place on one side is empty, you can see that; there’s a lot of work going on over there lately so maybe somebody new is moving in. The guy on the other side isn’t very friendly – a real Baboon if you catch my drift. But at least most of the folks on the street are smart enough to be reasonably close to the top of the food chain—ha ha! Time was there was a lot more traffic passing by, people walking back and forth; they were a lot more interested back then. There was even a tour bus that stopped right in front of the place next door. Yeah, I’m serious! No buses have been by here for a while, though—maybe a couple of years now. But, as I said, this is still a good place to just sit a little and watch people. Things could be worse.

You start to notice stuff, though. For example, kids these days don’t seem as polite or as well behaved as they used to be. Sometimes, when they see me sittin’ here, they yell names at me I don’t even understand. I know they’re not nice. They’ll throw junk at me when their parents aren’t looking—things they pick up from the street! Pebbles, drink cups, stale hot dog buns. I mean, if you’re going to throw a bun at least give me a little hot dog with it! See, there I tried again. I guess you’re really not in a laughin’ mood today.

Anyway, these kids—the simple truth is I don’t have the energy to react anymore. I just stay put and think to myself, fuck you, fuck you, some day you’re goin’ to be old and I hope some snotty-nosed little sub-primate dumps a whole garbage can on you, you little twirp. But I don’t say anythin’. In a way I don’t want people to notice me, you know? Well, present company excluded, of course! But if other folks noticed me they might think something was wrong—maybe I’m too old or something—and then they’d take me away, too. At other times I think it might not be too bad; if they took me away I might find Raff again.

So, yeah, I sit here where I can see everything, and try not to attract too much attention from the people walking by. Some stop for a conversation, like you, but it’s a little one-sided, if you can believe it—ha ha! I think most folks really can’t be bothered to try to figure me out. To be honest, I’m not even sure I’m gettin’ through to you right now. Yeah, I mean you! Who do you think I’ve been talkin’ to all this time? STOP! DON’T LEAVE!

Okay, Okay, I’m sorry about that. I shouldn’t have yelled. No! Don’t call anyone—I’ve got to finish telling you something!

Where was I? Oh, yeah, I was talkin’ about how crappy people can be—present company excluded, of course! When I feel generous I put it down to bein’ from different generations or somethin’, but I suspect it’s somethin’ else. I don’t expect folks to want to have anythin’ to do with a fat old geezer like me. I know I don’t do much grooming, and I probably stink, even though I can’t smell anything myself. It’s not like anybody could get close to me if they wanted to, anyway. There’s always some kind of barrier between us. That’s what I wanted to say. Sometimes I get the feeling that the people passin’ by know something about me that I don’t, as weird as that sounds. Or maybe it’s because of the different generations, like I said; or maybe it’s their bad manners, or maybe it’s just me, just because I’m sad a lot of the time. But bein’ alone here, it’s not good. No good at all.

Anyway. So here’s the question. This is what I wanted to ask you. There’s one thing that’s bothered me, all the years I’ve been living here: there’s this sign fastened to my front fence I’ve never seen, never been able to read. No, really—I can’t read! I know—you’re surprised. So people come by, and they stare and stare at this sign, and then everyone always says the same thing, over and over: “Bonobo, Central Africa”. What the hell does that mean?

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