MY TRIP TO THE ZOO
Paul Sand

Well Phyllis, you're really asking for it now.

So, to satisfy your appetite for the borderline perverse, I shall answer the request in your last letter (wait a minute, I want to find your exact wordage) "Tell me your most memorable sexual experience." Well, here goes. I call it "My Trip to the Zoo".

Aside from being in love when the simplest move can bring tears of gratitude from my eyes and to thank God for bringing this person into my life, I have to say my most memorable sexual experience was in Chicago in the 70s, while a member of the Second City, an improvisational theatre company. The great problem with the world of improvisation is: it's hard to stop when you step off the stage -- it seems to simply become one's rhythm all the time, everywhere, under all conditions. I don't mean telling jokes (I'd ask you to shoot me if that was the case) but as in -- you find yourself in a situation and you want to see it though, step by step, to the most amazing conclusion.

Well, this time our company was doing a "written scenario". All we, the actors, had to do was fill in the dialogue. However, since I was playing a monkey who had a talent for painting great art on the sidewalk and was owned by a nice organ grinder, I didn't have to talk. I just had to "find the essence". So, like anybody who calls themselves an actor, what do you do? You go out and observe the real thing, then you get on that stage and what comes through, comes through.

Off to the zoo I went. I picked the Children's Zoo. Don't ask me why, call it intuition. I went several times, until my sense of obligation to my creative process passed. We opened the show. Here's the plot, in capsule form:

There's this organ grinder who has this monkey who paints abstracts on the sidewalk. The organ grinder is poor, naturally, and a rich capitalist gallery owner comes by, sees the monkey in action, knows a good deal when he sees one, buys the monkey for a song (literally), takes him away, locks him in an attic studio, forces him to paint (even though he's very sad), sells these paintings for a fortune with the big lie being "The painter is too shy to meet the public." BUT the Flower Power, freedom seeking, beautiful daughter of the gallery owner sneaks into the attic and sings "Come Into The Jungle With Me Boy", frees the monkey, who is happily reunited with the organ grinder, and that's the end.

We opened and I felt I "captured" sufficient essence to help make it work. Well, it was the custom of the theatre company to casually mingle with the audience in the bar after the show, have drinks and be generally friendly. There I spotted HER. She was about to walk out the door. She glanced at me. She was petite, with long straight light brown hair, and very big, very beautiful pale eyes. She stopped. She walked towards me. I got off my bar stool, excused myself, and went to meet her half way. She spoke, "You make a wonderful monkey. I ought to know." "Why would you ought to know?" I asked. "I work in the Children's zoo and the monkeys are my best friends. I've seen you in there. Come by sometime and I’ll introduce you to my friends." I loved her. That was in the winter.

Spring came around and I thought I'd take her up on the invitation. So I went across the street, through Lincoln Park, to the Children's Zoo. There she was. She looked at me and smiled as if our conversation was just last night. She was wearing overalls. She was very thin and they were cut to fit her very closely. She looked just like Rima, a character I read about in a book called "Green Mansions" who was raised in the jungle by animals until this nice man comes along who is just as nice as the animals. He takes her away and they live happily ever after. I felt just like that man. She introduced me to all her monkey friends. Each one was kept in a tiny cage. They'd knock it around with joy, in high anticipation of being held for a moment by this gentle, loving, pretty girl. I met all of them, got their names and let them hold my finger for a moment. Then I left and didn't see her again until summer.

It was my day off and I was walking on Wells street, just in front of our theatre. I looked up from the sidewalk and saw her riding a bicycle, wearing a yellow dress. I stretched out my legs and arms, pretending I was a barricade. She put on her brakes and I asked her if she wanted to have dinner and go to a movie. "Sure" she said and got off her bike, locked it to a lamp post and stood, ready to go. "That's it?" I asked. "Yes. Let's go." And we did.

It was a hot, summer, Chicago night and we found ourselves walking home. I felt very... big... and strong... around her. I liked the feeling. Maybe it was the heat. We talked a lot and became closer. I put my arm around her shoulder. It was so easy. She was just the right size. She fit. There was something she wanted to tell me, "To confide" in me, and she hoped I'd understand. "Of course," I said. I felt so calm.

She had been married but it was annulled. "Why?"

"Because... Because... Because, my husband was a... pervert." She started to cry. I kinda wondered what she meant by "pervert". I was intrigued. I held her closer. "What do you mean a... pervert?" I asked. She couldn't answer for a while. We walked in silence. "He... He... would..." (She covered her eyes with her hand and tried not to cry.) God! I held her so close. "He would... tie me up and... let his friends... fuck me" (she whispered the word "fuck") "and he'd watch." We walked in silence. "Yeah," I agreed, "that seems kinda perverse all right."

And there was a child and the nuns blamed me for everything and they took it away from me." This really made her sad.

There we were, in front of her house, a three story Victorian, divided up. "Do you want to come in?" "Yes," I answered. We walked up two flights. She put her key in the lock of a bright orange painted door. We stepped inside. There was no furniture in the living room at all. Nothing, except at the far end of this long room was a cage, a huge cage, that filled the entire end of the room. And in the cage was a very large monkey. It took one look at me and leapt at the bars, grabbed them with his hands and his feet and started to scream at me. Let me make this clear -- he looked me in the eye and screamed at me.

"What kind of monkey is that?" I could barely get the words out because all I really wanted to say goodnight and leap down those stairs and out into the night. BUT I DIDN'T. "He's a Spider Monkey," she smiled, "and he gets very jealous." I STILL did not leap out into the night. Instead, I asked if we could "go into another room." I followed her into the bedroom. The monkey rattled the cage and screamed louder. On a lavender, paisley bedspread, sitting cross legged like a Buddha, was another monkey: "He's paralyzed. The zoo wanted to kill him so I brought him home." She leaned over and gave it a kiss on the top of its head.

Only its eyes could move, one arm could barely reach down and struggle to pick up a dried piece of orange or a browned apple section that had been left there for him.

The killer in the other room screamed louder. There seemed to be a kind of pleading mixed in with the screaming. The little creature sitting on the bed kept looking at me apologetically as it struggled to pick up the fruit and struggled some more to get it to his mouth. Why didn't I leave? I don't know. I think it was out of politeness.

"Could, could... we go to my place?" was all I could come up with. "Sure," she answered. As we were heading towards the door, I shot a glance at the cage, naturally, and the big monkey (who was very tall and real skinny) was doing its best to force his entire body through the bars. He didn't have fur, it was hair, long black hair hanging off its spidery arms and legs, and he was trying to get through the bars, to get to me, screaming and clawing the air in an attempt to tear me to pieces.

Now here comes the part, Phyllis, where I feel it might be going too far. I could stop right here, but then I'd be depriving you of the real twist of what makes this "my most memorable."

My place: in "Emma's Rooming House." Several of the actors from our theatre live here. I've made my room look like a Matisse painting, cluttered with wonderful stuff -- a round fish bowl, a potted palm, a folding Chinese screen, a fur rug, a low marble slab for a table next to the bed, a telephone, and a decanter for drinking water. A large shuttered window faces my fire escape with a plant, and beyond to the park and sky and moon. The window is open, letting in the night heat. I don't put the light on. We kiss. She pulls my shirt over my head. I pull her yellow dress over her head. I take off my pants. Moonlight fills the room. I have to pee. I can't believe it, at a moment like this. I tell her and she gently pushed me towards the bathroom door. You know when you stand and take a pee, so many things go through your mind, so many images -- that orange door, that screaming monkey, the small, apologetic, paralyzed monkey on the bed, the Japanese dinner, the sake, her face, her dear, sweet body, the screaming monkey, the screaming monkey. I flush, I wash my hands, I close the door behind me. She is naked. She has thrown the covers on the floor. She is squatting on my bed, knees apart, facing me.

The belt from my pants is lying next to her. I don't breathe. I remember her story, her husband tying her up, his friends watching, the nuns taking her baby away, her tears. She looks me straight in the eyes and whispers "Fuck me... Fuck me like an animal."

My attitude changes. I become kind of casual, and deliver what could be the last line, if this was just an improvisation. "Well, I'm not an animal, but I’ll do my best."

Ordinarily the lights on the stage would "BLACK OUT" and the audience would react. I must have clicked into some other place, because I don't remember details, just some of her words come back to me — words like scent, smell -- words that took me deeper into this other place. I have to tell you, Phyllis, and I'm not bragging, we fucked all night, which is really unlike me.

I remember noticing the light become lavender, then grey, then pale blue. She woke me, kneeling over me, trying to fill herself with what was left. I had no fluid of any kind in my body. My eyes felt full of sand, my mouth parched, my brain turned against me, I couldn't speak. I lifted one arm and I pushed her off me. She landed on the fur rug, which took her for a little ride across the room. She got dressed. I noticed and soiled. She left and the door snapped locked, protecting me. I fell asleep and she went home to her friends I suppose, probably lied to her angry monkey until he calmed down, and probably cuddled with her Buddha pet and fell asleep herself.

The first thing I did when I regained consciousness was to reach for the phone and call the doctor. Now the only doctor I knew was this guy who hung around the theatre, a real fan of ours. He'd be there almost every night, and buy us all drinks. He was a plastic surgeon and wanted to give us all free operations. He wanted to give Barbara a new nose, a different chin for me, ears for someone else. He was a nice guy. He'd talk like this and then he'd leave. Anyway, he was the only doctor I knew, so I called him and said "I've just had a really strange experience. Could I come down right away?"

"Sure."

So I got a cab and went to his office.

Because he was a plastic surgeon, the entire waiting room was filled with people with bandages on different parts of their faces, noses, ears, chins, dark glasses. The nurse let me in right away. I guess I really sounded desperate. Well, I was.

I told him the story. He leaned against the wall with his mouth hanging open in disbelief. Then he gave me every test imaginable (one involved a long Q-Tip). "Go home. Don't kiss anyone. Don't go to bed with anyone and wash with this bar of blue soap and call me in the morning."

I went to work that night and didn't touch anybody. That's a neat trick, to improvise with seven actors for three hours and not touch anybody. It's almost impossible, but I did it.

The next morning, I called the doctor. "Come down right now."

Again, I was whisked through the lobby. I think the exact same people were sitting there (at least they looked the same). "What do I have? Do I have syphilis? Do I have gonorrhea? What?"

"Nothing. You have no disease. But where have you been? I've never seen such filth in my life."

"I told you the whole story. I told you everything." 

There was a long silence. Was he thinking what I was thinking.

"You think?" I asked.

"Uh-huh," he answered, and gave me a shot of something for good measure. It felt more like a spanking.

I saw her a few days later, riding on the back of some cute boy's Vespa. I guessed he was in for his most memorable sexual experience, and they disappeared around the corner.

You asked for it Phyllis. That was it. That was m^ most memorable. It was a long time ago and I was very young, so please be kind. Talk to you later. See you on the 4th of July.

Love,

R.