Crying babies on a plane. “Why me?” I mutter to myself. I’ve never had a baby. Indeed, I’ve never had a strong desire for progeny. But here I am, aloft in a hollow, metal, tubular nursery, hurtling through the lower stratosphere. Trapped amidst unpleasant (often unidentifiable) smells, cramped leg room, subdued existential panic, and those crying babies.
Then one of the little humans (who happens to be right next to me) reaches out a tiny hand and grips my arm. I try not to pay attention as I peer at my open book assiduously rereading the same sentence over and over, as if to memorize for an examination. Damn, I still can’t remember what I just read. I stay in my allotted sphere (a seat that I imagine was conceived and constructed by a small robot with limbs that can bend both ways).
My mind drifts to the spider monkeys I just saw days earlier. The one with her baby clinging to her back as she swung branch to branch above my head in the Yucatecan rainforest stands out in my memory the most. I reflect on the fact that they are among our closest relatives on this life drenched rock in space.
I feel a tug at my arm again and glance over to the little human seated next to me and she giggles, gurgles and smiles. Her mom jests, “Oh, she likes you.” I nod, “how old is she?” I ask. “10 months.” I smile and turn back to my book. Then I hear her father singing a custom made song to the little human to the melody of “Frosty the Snowman.” It sounds like “Luna the grouch-babe” or something like that. And Luna, the little human, grabs my arm again and giggles. Her tiny fingers pinch the hairs of my forearm. She squeals in a high pitch and flashes a toothless grin at me and her mother.
My mind drifts once again to those spider monkeys. Of their way of life. Of their threatened habitat growing smaller by the day. Of their family bonds and common aspirations for living. Of the fact that they are the only known spider monkey troupe left in this region of the Yucatan peninsula.
And I sigh and forget what I am reading again. I forget for a moment my impatience with being in this nursery of sorts. My misanthropic feelings ironically seem to dissolve when thinking of those monkeys while surrounded by the screaming infant voices of my kin. They fade into the ether of the airspace surrounding the metal tube I am lodged in while one of them gently pinches my arm.
“Why me?” I mutter to myself. “Why did that little human, the one named Luna, reach out to an oft jaded, old grump like me?” Then I smile to myself, check the time, and realize we are making our final descent. And I hadn’t even noticed.
Kenn Orphan 2019
Photo is a spider monkey in the Yucatecan Rainforest, by Kenn Orphan