The African safari was ridiculous. Hippos in high heels? They had them listening to Pearl Jam songs from the 90s. I just looked at the scenery, which was decent enough, as the savannah carriage bounced along the rough road.
I tapped the driver on the shoulder. “When do you take us back to the hotel?” I asked him.
He gave me a quick look of disbelief. “But we’ve only begun. You want to go back? I can’t go back. Not until the tour is done. The other people, they want to see the animals.”
“Can you stop and let me out then?”
The driver braked. “You going to walk back? I can’t let you do that. There are wild animals out there. This isn’t Disneyland my friend. No.”
“This won’t be on you. I’ll take full responsibility. I’ve already written my family a certified letter stating that I may do something crazy in Africa, but it’s no one’s fault but my own. You and your company are absolved. Bye now.” I jumped out of the vehicle, and he drove away slowly. The other tourists stared at me as I just smiled and waved goodbye.
I walked like a bruise through the sky. I walked liked a man with purpose who didn’t want to die. The sun bore down it’s yellow tentacles of high heat. I suddenly missed the relative comfort of the safari vehicle… That was now but a speck of whirling dust in the distance.
I came upon a herd of elephants at a watering hole. I watched them from the brush. Some were bathing, some were playing. Some were trumpeting their agonies over what vile man has done to the Earth. The pool of water grows ever smaller.
I came upon a pride of lions, and I was very careful because I did not want to get eaten. But I knew they smelled me; I could tell by the movement of their noses. I was a dead man for sure I thought, but then they caught wind of a herd of something else out on the hallucinatory flats and they went for that. I don’t even have a gun, so I have no idea how I’d even be able to defend myself. I suppose I would just let whatever beast it was that attacked me rip me to shreds. And that’s all I’d be in the end. Shreds. Like chicken meat for chicken enchiladas.
I kept on walking toward a sun mirage… I kept on thinking about why I was where I was. The money problems. The family problems. The job problems. The health problems. Too many problems all at once.
My friend Jim ‘Sanitizer’ Santiago went out to get drinks with me one night back home in the city, and lo and behold, both our wives strolled in with different men on their arms. Isn’t that just great?
“Looks like I’m no longer on the menu,” Jim said in his deep, monotone, straightforward way. “But what can I do, my hands are tied… Care for some hand sanitizer?” He retrieved a small bottle from his pocket and squirted a small glob in my waiting hand. He had a thing about hand sanitizer.
“Thanks,” I told him. I rubbed vigorously. “Can’t be too careful in places like these. But seriously, let’s get out of here. I don’t want to seem my wife rub her body all over him if they decide to dance.”
“I’m with you on that one,” he agreed.
Jim ‘Sanitizer’ Santiago was the best-groomed man I’ve ever known. His hair was as dark as an evil witch and sat in perfect form atop his head. He had the most perfectly sculpted goatee and always smelled like an expensive men’s clothing store in a nice mall. We worked together at the magazine publishing house. Only problem is, no one reads magazines anymore. “How long until we get the axe?” I asked him as we walked along a dirty sidewalk through a neon haze.
“I’ve already got my resume up to date and ready to go. It could be any time now,” he answered.
“I’m not going to bother,” I told him. “If they can me, I’m just going to go to Africa for a while. I’ve always wanted to go on safari.”
“Hmm, animals. Nothing wrong with animals. Are you going to be animalistic and mount prey?”
“I could never be as much as an animal as you are. And I’m afraid my mounting days are over.”
He smiled at me funny. “Why don’t we just go to my place. I’ve got some new cigars I been wanting to smoke.”
“Why the hell not,” I said.
He had the cleanest apartment I’ve ever seen. Nothing was out of place. There wasn’t a dirty dish or speck of dust anywhere. His bathroom was spotless and smelled of bleach. When I came out, he was on the balcony smoking his cigar. I joined him. We gazed at the lights and listened to traffic. He then asked me a very strange question. “Do you want to look at some dirty magazines?”
“I’ve got some dirty magazines. Do you want to look at them with me?”
I laughed because I thought he was joking. But when he squeezed at himself through his pants and said, “I might need to take care of this,” I knew he wasn’t joking.
“No. I don’t, Jim.”
“You won’t have to do anything. You can just watch.”
“I think I may just go. Seems like you might need some privacy.”
He clamped a hand on my shoulder as I turned to leave. “Please… Or we could watch a porno if that makes you feel more comfortable. I just want you to stay.”
“What kind of porno, Jim? If it’s guys with guys forget it… Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just not my thing.”
He stubbed out his cigar. “All right then. Maybe I do want to be alone. Sorry if I’m being a weirdo drag.”
But I understood in a way I suppose. “It’s okay, man. I’ll talk to you later.” Seeing his wife with another guy at a bar. We all deal with it in different ways.
Maybe the animal isn’t always what it portrays itself to be…Until you find yourself in the middle of a safari wildland trying to get back to the posh hotel to live a life of luxury when you don’t even deserve luxury and can barely afford it anyway. I raped my credit cards for this trip, and I’ll be paying for it later. Literally. Why can’t anything enjoyable ever come easy. I curse the imbalance… Bad things happen so frequently and with such ease, but why is it such a battle in this life to get the good? I suppose like everything else; it all comes down to money. If you don’t have it, you suffer. If you have it, things are always easier. That’ sad, or maybe I just misunderstand everything.
I was back in my room, and I took a shower. My wife called and said she wanted a divorce because I was no longer the man she married and I just ‘didn’t do it’ for her anymore. I suppose I didn’t care, but then I did. I was suddenly all alone in the word, but then I have been for a very long time, so it sort of felt the same except that I was in this expensive hotel in Africa and I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I decided to call Jim ‘Sanitizer’ Santiago.
“Well, look who the cat dragged in,” he said when he answered which I thought was strange because it was a phone call and not an in-person event. “How’s it going?”
“I’m in Africa and I’m bored. Can you believe that?”
“Maybe you need to go out and hook up with some jungle babes.”
“Nah… What are you doing?”
“Oh, I was just watching some pornography.”
“It’s called Mr. Clean the Sex Machine.”
“Oh, sounds interesting.”
“Why don’t you come by some time when you get back.”
“I don’t know if I’ll be back, Jim. I may go stick my head in a lion’s mouth.”
“That would be an awful way to go.”
“I suppose it would… I’m going to go now, Jim. Enjoy your porn. Bye.”
I ended the call and sat on the edge of the bed and looked through the big glass windows of the sliding veranda doors and the sky was strawberry red with clouds, a wound of humanity sopped up in gauze and bandaged with another wishful goodnight kiss.