There’s a new exhibit at the San Diego Zoo, someone said on a conference call, and a few people took note. There’s just one for now, but who knows. Maybe if she’s a success at drawing in the crowds – if men and women keep stopping when they pass by – the zoo might get more. The way they’ve got it set up is pretty neat, see, you can walk right by and look in at the creature. Right at eye level, like you could reach out and touch her if there weren’t glass between you both.
It’s not quite a natural habitat of course, because it’s a zoo, but that’s not for lack of trying. On the glass wall separating you from her there’s a cut-out of a monkey wearing a diaper, although no one is really sure why, because it’s highly unlikely she could conceive all alone in there, and if she did, it wouldn’t be a monkey. Maybe it was leftover from another exhibit – State of California budget cuts, you know. Beneath the monkey there’s a corporate slogan – one that pays the bills – but apparently not enough to remove the image of the diapered monkey. Inside her fabricated habitat is a potted palm, its leaves are unabashedly plastic and the textured bark covering its trunk is starting to bunch at the bottom revealing poorly painted plastic roots.
You have to be careful when you walk by, because if you stop, she’ll take notice of you. She’ll stop what she’s doing and interact with you. She’ll mimic you – your smile, your laugh, your gritty tone. If you slouch, she’ll slouch, and if you sit straight, she’ll sit straight up too, almost as tall as you even though she’s half your size. So if you want to see her, behaving like she would (almost) behave in the wild, you have to look at her when she’s not looking. Walk by, pretend you dropped something, circle and turn your head quickly and back away again before she looks up to catch your gaze.
Today the keeper gave her some toys – brightly colored sticks and she’s picking them up one at a time and using them to leave marks on a page. She’s concentrating, her lips are moving. She crosses her legs under her small body and puts another toy upon them, clicking and pound away on her lap, pausing to furrow her brows and then clicking away again. She’s eating a strawberry and putting something on the wall. She looks at you, and she smiles.
The new exhibit is me. I’m not the sort you see around these parts – my desk is a pile of glossy papers (collateral pieces) and pictorial folios. There are six different colors of highlighters on my desk and not a spreadsheet to be found (if I can help it). Underneath I’m hiding two bright yellow shoes that match the beads around my neck, and I’m not wearing a polo shirt which is distinctive in itself.
I talk to myself. I furrow my brows, I play with my hair. Sometimes if no one is looking I sit on top of my desk, just for a change of scenery. I get ideas about things – questions about the work I’m supposed to be doing and I write them down in a notepad, or thoughts about other things like the meaning of life, and I scribble those on sticky notes and toss them into my purse to find later at a more appropriate time.
There is also a growing collection of them on my wall – the sticky notes I mean, not the spiritual revelations. There’s a running list titled “Thesaurus That Ish!”, a picture of a palm tree with the day my boss gets back from Cabo St. Luca, and a note reading “Dear Grad Student, Learn how to spell SAFETY! Love, Yourself.” On the desk I’m reading a piece of prose I’ve read 6 times since I pounded it out (crosslegged with my keyboard on my lap) this morning; this round of edits it’s highlighting the most commonly used words. Since the security filter at the office blocks every single website that’s useful to my project, I have to find and highlight the words myself. “Ensure” is highlighted in pink. “Processes” appears in green. “Quality” is purple. Weak or incomplete sentences are covered by a dashed yellow line. Actual edits are in blue pen. Etc, etc.
Looks like you’ve got an art project going in here! He laughs, cocking his head to the side like he’s never seen highlighters in the 5 colors I have other than yellow. Just doing another round of edits on this piece, I say and he still looks amused. I laugh too, saying something I’ve began to say when people give me that look.
I raise my eyebrows and open my eyes, exaggerating them like I’m a Japanese animated superhero and I wave my hands up near my face (JAZZ HANDS POSE!). Oh you know, I’m just the marketing intern!