Call Me Mark

Thus far, what you have been reading has been the joint results of both Frederick and myself trying to communicate with each other, as well as to you. I began sanctioned lessons in American sign Language for Frederick shortly after observing that both his parents were already starting to teach it to him on their own.

I am not aware of other Bonobo/Chimp matings, but Frederick is definitely a product of both his parents. I have come to regard him as an evolutionary quantum leap in primate development, cognition, and intelligence.

As you have already learned, Frederick’s observations and insights on Human primates are refreshingly devoid of reverence for our preconceived notions, arrogance, or hypocrisies.

I am Mark, an instructor in American Sign Language. My Master’s studies centered mostly around linguistics and primate behavior. I started working at the Sanctuary shortly after they commenced operations, about two years before Frederick was born.

Curiously, although Lilith was one of my best and brightest subjects, Malkira seemed to lack either the inclination or motivation to show much enthusiasm for signing. Malkira had high alpha-male status among the other chimps and was well-liked by everyone, including the handlers. He was a very large specimen within his breed, surprisingly strong and agile and quite bright. There was not a female chimp that would have spurned his amorous advances. Within his world, he already got about everything he wanted, almost effortlessly. In Malkira’s world, he was the mountain, and even Mohammad would have to come to him. He did not have much need for accolades, or recognition, or much of anything else he didn’t already have. Privilege often begets complacency. Were Malkira the least interested in politics, he would have been a Republican, but not for long, as Lilith, who was almost his antithesis in outlook and demeanor held a unique influence on his behaviors.

Lilith was forever the blithe spirit, a hippie of sorts who heard her own drums, and seemed to never stop dancing as she scampered hither and yon, cavorting and frolicking as she pleased, but because she did it with such finesse and charm, she always made the highest marks and achieved the most progress, usually in the shortest time, although she usually had so much fun playing around the subject or test, that the actual finish seemed almost an afterthought. She was often playfully argumentative in a way that often belied more intelligence than we have been comfortable attributing to primates, even bargaining over rewards or breaks. How do you discuss Lilith’s abilities to think outside the box to a community disinclined to recognize that she could think in the first place?

There were no recorded matings of Chimps and Bonobos prior to Malkira and Lilith. Chimpanzees (Pan troglidytes) and Bonobos (Pan Paniscus) have developed a hierarchy of patterns of socialization that are mutually exclusive of each other. Chimps are more likely to kill not only lower orders of monkeys for food, but even each other, and are markedly territorial, utilizing roaming gangs of males who will patrol the borders of their territory, sometimes killing intruders. Chimps are patriarchal, whereas Bonobos are matriarchal. Bonobos are noted for using sex as a bargaining strategy, and are polyamorous, in sharp contrast to the monogamous behaviors and socialization of the Chimps. Without the protective isolation afforded the Bonobos by the Congo River, it would be difficult to imagine a safe or intact outcome at the hands of the more aggressive and violent of the two tribes.

After a great deal of debate about the proper environment for Malkira, Lilith, and eventually Frederick, it was decided to provide them an isolated environment that afforded them protection from either the Chimps, or even the Bonobos, as well as maintaining the integrity of the other two cultures. After only minimal modifications, a long-abandoned monkey house provided them a tranquil, safe, and beautiful habitat sufficiently removed from the other clans in which they could pursue and develop a hybrid world of their own making. We held our breath for months as this bare nuclear family so accustomed to the same type of extended family dynamics as we have seen disappear in Western human culture within the last sixty years develop their own unique family dynamic in the absence of the peer pressure of either tribe.

It was about this time that Darcy came to work as a handler, and she proved to be a great fit to work with Malkira, Lilith, and Frederick. As she was new to both the Habitat and the Sanctuary, she would not conjure up memories of either tribe’s handlers, or their previous habitats. As I think back about it, I believe I had written in my notes somewhere that Darcy slightly reminded me of a Bonobo alpha female. Her face was almost unnaturally juvenile in appearance, much the same way that mature Bonobos often resemble adolescent Chimps. Her eyes were bright, very large, and full of mischief. She was very tall despite the fact that her features were quite petite, and that gave her a sort of thin, lanky look to her without seeming gawky or awkward. In fact, she had a very fluid grace in her movements much like those of Lilith, and both females bonded almost immediately. Also, Frederick latched onto Darcy in a way that was quite heartwarming to observe. Both tribes of primates practice joint parenting by females, and Darcy was the perfect “Aunt”. Darcy was not only single, but she had never been married before, and the way that Frederick had adopted Darcy really played a couple of high, soulful French Horn solos on her Fallopian Tubes. He had developed a habit of holding her chin close to his face, so he could stare deeply into her eyes for disarmingly long periods of time, which she freely accommodated, and sometimes even encouraged. She said she thought Frederick was trying to communicate non-verbally, and after they finished a few minutes together, both would get this dreamy star-struck beatific smile…their eyes even smiled. It was a thing of strange beauty to observe.

Because I spent so much attention and time teaching and observing Malikira, Lilith, and Frederick’s behaviors and amazing progress, Darcy and I were in close contact for many hours each week. Management was “quietly” interested in the project, and it soon became apparent that we were tacitly being given the “green light” and everyone within the Habitat couldn’t give enough help and support.

The five of us had become quiet rockstars within our tiny milieu. I was the
only one who had full access to the entire Habitat and I couldn’t help noticing the hushed, almost reverent way that the project was discussed without actually speaking directly about it….

The longer Darcy and I worked together, the closer we became. She had a down-to-earth humor and was very bright, and quick-witted, and just well-enough educated to appreciate my off-beat Zany Zen Wisdom, but not educated enough to feel compelled to draw attention to its flaws, or debunk me as some sort of Fallen, Charlatan Shaman. We made each other laugh sometimes so hard we would cry. She had a graceful knack for physical comedy and mimicry that bordered on genius. One day when a state inspector came to the facility, she managed to follow him into the building right to my office, mimicking his every move, nuance, and gesture, rolling of eyes, sighs, tossing of hair, or every other quirk this poor schnook exhibited with the almost imperceptible air of exaggeration so as to parody this self-impressed petty bureaucrat right under his very own nose, without him so much as suspecting he was being lampooned.

She loved the million-dollar words I used….

She taught me to dance a wild provocatively improvisational series of movements she called The Bandaloop, (or something like that). She said if you ever learned to do it exactly right, you would learn how to live forever…It was vaguely reminiscent of the Chimps’ Rain Dance, but every time I ever saw her do it, every ape in sight copied her in perfect unison like a bunch of Simian Rockettes.

Our schedules, including Darcy’s graduate classes left little time for romantic pursuits, despite the fact that we openly discussed our mutual infatuations as the sexual tension grew between us. Months passed as we even discussed every sort of quirk, fetish, perversion or passion that humans are wont to perform, as well as our own personal experiences and preferences, or even hilarious failures at odd moments alone. We even developed a shorthand way of alluding to some practices, including those of the Primates who were our leagues. A slightly lingering kiss, an inadvertent touch, a look of longing were hard to ignore, but with cameras in every imaginable corner of the Habitat, as well as the Sanctuary our self-proclaimed Imaginary Romance remained forestalled for so long by the seemingly most insignificant reasons that both of us began to wonder if maybe the other wasn’t just being polite (even if one or the other of us had been gay, it wouldn’t have stopped us, so strong was the Chemistry of our Crush…we had even jokingly discussed…What If? in a half dozen different scenarios that expounded upon our mutual curiosities.)

Darcy was living with a guy named Hank when she came to work at the Habitat. From the way she talked, it was not exactly a match made in Heaven, but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to get physically involved no matter how fascinated or curious we were about each other. I sensed a disappointment in her that I did not invite her to my apartment several times when we had opportunities to “explore our mutual fascination, but my apartment was way across the other side of town out in the country and took almost an hour to get there, and I really have an aversion to “cheating”. I realize that it is often difficult to set up yourself in single living accommodations, so many of us tend to jump from one frying pan to another, but I don’t like the dishonesty. I was in no hurry, no matter how much we desired each other. Besides, the anticipation was amplifying our desires so much that my only reservation was that I hoped the reality of our actual encounter would not be a letdown. It would only be a matter of time to find out, once Hank and Darcy blew up. It happened a little sooner than I expected, all things considered.

One weekend we managed to get the same two days off in a row. Our Crush had endured so long that we had saved enough money to go to Captiva. (I don’t do Sanibel Island anymore…for reasons I may or may not explain later….), which is a Mighty Reckless Move in the Name of Romance for two people hadn’t even gotten naked together…yet.

As much as I would love to go into details (…and Darcy isn’t shy either), THAT is a story that could run this tale right off the rails on its own right; suffice it to say it would have been called something like Fifty Shades of (Tequila) Sunrise. We got an apartment a week later (…in truth, Darcy’s new digs were perfect for us, so I moved in with her.)

When we got back from Captiva, Malkira, Lilith, and Frederick did a Rain Dance in our honor, which evolved into one of Darcy’s Bandaloop Dances. Never underestimate the power of simian nostrils to tell who just got their dance ticket filled….

One day, Darcy, almost out of nowhere said: “Darlin’ I’ve been around the block so many times they named one of the back alleys after me… She sighed……You sure you’re ready for the likes of me? I never did anything to outright hurt anybody in my life, but sometimes…well I’ve been known to ‘jump the fence’ so to speak, more than a few times…It won’t matter how much I love you…in fact, the more I love you, the sooner it will likely be to happen, ’cause I foolishly want to believe that somewhere out there is someone just as Hungry and Romantic as me that isn’t afraid, ashamed, embarrassed or guilt-ridden about their Deepest Secret Fantasies because they understand. I may be cursed with Romanticism by the Imp of the Perverse for believing that for every pot, there’s a lid, or that both of us can encourage each other to feel, and to live like there’s no tomorrow all the while acting like we’re never going to die. Don’t get me wrong, the first time you are inclined to want to ‘explore’ elsewhere, I may feel a great big lump in my throat, or you may notice a slight catch in my voice, or the start of a tear in the corner of my eye…it’s not because I don’t care, because right then and there, I will feel just how much I care in ways I didn’t even know the day before…and I really want you to know just how much I want you to be the one that uses the option first…It’s just that I don’t MIND the way most people do, and I’d rather set the example for the way I hope you take it when it’s my turn…and eventually it will be…and oh yeah…I will always come back as long as you want me.”

I still remember the way the sun shone through the window onto her face, and the way the air in the room smelled, the song that was playing in my head before she started to speak, even what I ate for breakfast that morning. As I closed my eyes for a moment before I spoke, I saw an Angel descending toward me wearing the most beatific expression I had ever seen. Heaven had opened, and the radiance and the music that flowed down on me swept away every single shred of fear or insecurity or inadequacy or guilt or shame I had ever known. I had become very careful about what I had wished for all my life prior to that moment, and I finally got it.

One Response to “Call Me Mark”

  1. Keeping me at the edge of my seat.

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