After Toni sent her response to question one she went for a run. Thinking about Fidget always made her feel restless and a little unsettled. Not knowing what became of her had always been the toughest part about losing her. She had begged her parents and the Bastianas to find out, and to their credit they tried, but there was just no information available. As she splashed through the rain drenched streets, her thoughts tumbling over each other, she began to clear her head. Sad thoughts of Fidget were slowly replaced with other memories from her childhood and her teen years. Eventually her thoughts turned as they were wont to do occasionally to her first boyfriend. “Paul” she said out loud with an amused groan. Paul was the boy who lived down the street. He was a typical high school boy, he played soccer for church, he wore braces and he was in her English class Freshman Year. They were “going out” which meant he would come to her house and play video games with her little brother Mac while she sat there filing her nails or flipping through one of her mother’s magazines, trying to pretend like she was enjoying it all. When Paul dumped her for the new girl with the locker next to his Toni had been devastated, as any fourteen year old girl would be, but looking back on it, it wasn’t losing Paul that upset her, it was the status of having a boyfriend. “Girls can be so silly” she thought as she rounded the corner for home.
Jogging up the stairs instead of using the elevator she let herself into her fourth floor apartment and, shedding clothes as she went, headed for the shower. Standing in the stream of hot water she again had second thoughts about her answer to Yellow’s question. “He will probably think I’m a freak” she thought as she scrubbed her face. She got out of the shower and pulled on some sweats and headed to bed. The next day was a Sunday and she had errands to run.
First thing Sunday morning, coffee and bagel in hand, Toni sat cross-legged on her bed and opened her laptop. He had sent an email! She felt that jolt of excitement she felt when something good was happening and then chuckled to herself when she felt butterflies as she opened the file.
“Good morning Antoinette. Thank you for responding to my email.” it began. “Let’s get this over with. Your response was absolutely not that weird, it was actually quite charming and thoughtful. You did not ‘freak [me] out’ and I’m glad you opened up and let me have a peek into your world. The reason I ask these questions is to get to know people in a different way than the norm. What you listen to on the radio might be interesting but it doesn’t tell me who you are fundamentally and this is my way of circumventing that.” Yellow wrote.
“So, first let me explain why I call myself ‘Yellow Hat Guy'”. He went on to say. “Have you ever read ‘Curious George’? Well that’s where the name comes from. I am a primatologist and my specialty is chimpanzees. Currently I am working at a sanctuary with chimpanzees who have lived in laboratories, as pets or in the entertainment industry and have been retired here to live out their lives in a safe and dignified manner. You’d be amazed at the unbelievable things people will do to these awesome beings in the name of Science or so-called fun. Hence, the yellow hat reference. My name is Ted and I prefer to be called that to ‘yellow’ so I figured we could get that out-of-the-way. I do wear a hat most of the time but it’s khaki, not yellow. More often than not it hangs from my neck.
So onto the question. My passion when I was ten was, yep you guessed it, primates. I can’t recall a time in my life where I didn’t have a love for these simple creatures who were so very much like us (98% to be exact). As a little boy my mother would read to me from the ‘Curious George’ books and I couldn’t wait to see what he would do next. I wanted a pet chimp so desperately but fortunately my parents were smart enough to know that this was a very bad idea.
As I grew older and my obsession with ‘Curious George’ turned to more academic pursuits I began to realize how misguided people were as it relates to chimps and their exploitation. When I was a Freshman in high school I had the incredible good fortune to attend a talk given by Dr. Jane Goodall. As you may be aware she was in her time the foremost authority on primates and she was doing a book tour. She had been living in the Gombe forest in East Africa for years and had just a few years prior come out of the forest to work to save the chimps. That day, listening to Dr. Goodall speak, was the day I knew what I wanted to do as my life’s work.
So here I am, thirty-six years old living with animals, literally. I’m scarred and battered by years of taking care of these sometimes not so sweet guys and girls, I’m weather worn like an old sailor, I live in army green t-shirts and khaki cargo shorts with every pocket filled with fruits, leaves, nuts or bark for my ape friends to find and snack on when I visit them. I have permanent dirt under my fingernails and the closest thing to a night out with friends I have had lately is when I camped out with some of our interns on the island so they could film the chimps tracking and eating some of the small pigs we had recently released for a school research project. We made campfire stew and s’mores and some of the girls taught us a round song called ‘Rise up O’ Flame’.
So that, my new friend, is that. So I now I hope I haven’t freaked you out!”
He went on immediately with “Now for question number two, hope you’re ready!”
‘Where did you go to high school?’ No no I’m just kidding but how anti-climactic would that be if I became that guy? So here is the real question. ‘When was the first time you felt pure unadulterated joy?’