This past August my partner and I happened to be chatting about hybrids--animal as well as plant. I finished the following story in September (well before Mule Appreciation Day, which occurred just this week). I haven't yet sent it to any magazines or journals with a view to possible publication; any comments you may have would be welcome!
[March 2016 note: The above was written in November 2011--I am in the process of expanding the story into a novel. ]
“Bonbon,” copyright Don LePan 2011, 2015
We come from Comber, originally, all of us—that’s near Detroit but on the Canadian side, just on beyond Windsor. It’s flat country and there’s not a lot there that’s interesting, if you want to know the truth. My sister wanted to leave from the time she was 7 and she started looking through all those old National Geographics that had been sitting in the garage since our Grandfather had died. I say looking through but Susie was a smart kid, she was reading them too, and not just the words under the pictures neither, mum and dad kept saying that they wanted us to be improved by those magazines and I reckon Suzie got herself a mite more improved than I did, every which way. By the time she was 9 she wanted to go to Africa like other kids wanted to ride a horse or have a dog to look after. And Africa for Susie had to be jungle. Not the desert, not the – what do they call it, the plains—savannah, that’s it. None of that: it had to be jungle, had to be Africa.
It didn’t fade away when she hit the teen years, the way that dogs and horses fade away, most times. She skipped a year in high school, she did a four year anthropology degree in three, and whatever else she needed beyond that she did in what seemed like no time, and at 26 there she was writing us from some camp near Lake Mai-Ndombe, near Inogo, near Kinshasha, near a lot of other places I reckon nobody has heard of, trying to figure out if these chimpanzees who aren’t really chimpanzees—bonzees, they’re called—if there what she calls a patriarchal society, if the women dominate the men, basically. They use sex to do that, that’s the theory; they have it all the time and they seem to have a lot of fun doing it, but a lot of times one of them is using sex to control other ones, if that makes any sense.
By this time I was almost 30. I’d spent a lot of time trying to figure out other things, including how not to be controlled by a man, and not to control one, either. It was long past the time when everyone was saying the personal was political, but I think maybe it still was for me. I was old fashioned in a lot of ways. When my mother was going to throw out all the long loose skirts and dresses she’d worn in the 60’s—hippie clothes she called them—I said no, give ’em to me, and I started wearing them a lot, and not shaving my legs, not shaving anything. I never had a problem with body hair, I think it’s beautiful, but a lot of men don’t think that way these days and I guess a lot of women too, or is it that they just let the man do their thinking for them?
Make love not war was another thing I picked up when my mother was about to throw it out—she had a couple of old posters as well as a few buttons with slogans on ’em like that. I think she still believed what was wrote on them but she never talked about it and she was happy enough to get rid of the stuff. I didn’t have any more space than she had, or any more money neither—I was mostly working summers on an organic farm, but it wasn’t as sooner have gotten rid of cell phones and GPS gadgets than throw out that old junk from before I was born. Actually I think Susie would have felt the same way if she hadn’t been half way round the world. Maybe not the old clothes—you never could get Susie into a skirt or a dress—but with the buttons and the posters anyway. She had all of that book learning that set her apart but take that away and we thought a lot alike, the two of us.
Neither of us never thought we was American or Canadian, that was one thing. It wasn’t so much that we thought we actually were both. Like we both had dual. It was more like we didn’t think of ourselves as either. I want to be a citizen of everywhere, she’d say. Or of nowhere at all. I guess maybe I wasn’t so political, but I sorta felt the same. ’Course she didn’t get to be a citizen of anywhere ’cept Canada, but she was always going over to Detroit to see some show or other, or join in some protest, or hang out with some guy she’d met in some bar on the Canadian side. She’d even go over to take in a Tigers game with people she hardly knew, and she didn’t care a whole lot for baseball. That was the way it was for a bunch of years when I was growing up and it’s not like I blame her, not now. Anyways, like I say, Comber was pretty quiet.
I came early—that’s how I got to be American. My mom was thinking she probably had just a few good nights left before I arrived—back then people didn’t go all bananas if you were a woman and you wanted to go out and have a drink or two when you had a little one on the ways. So she was over at Chassy’s in Detroit taking in some band when her waters broke, and next thing you knew there I was, 20 inches long and six weeks early. And American. Born on American soil, they love to say that. We love to say that, maybe I should say.
You want to know something funny? After Chassy’s closed down they put a zoo in there. I’m not kidding, that’s where they put the zoo, right where Chassy’s used to be on East Congress, right next to the Benevolent Society. The Benevolent Society’s still there, I guess you know that, they fixed it up a little but it’s still shabby and it’s still selling second hand stuff to people who need it. Maybe they sell just as much to people who don’t need it, sometimes that’s the way I think it is with all those Benevolents. But the zoo on top of where Chassy’s used to be? Like I say, that’s funny. I guess maybe you don’t know why that’s funny until you’ve heard a little bit more of this story, but I’m telling you it’s funny.
It was after Uncle Harry died that I started to think that maybe I could travel a bit too. Some people used to say Harry hadn’t been really rich, he’d just been comfortable, they’d say. Or upper-middle class—you know the sorts of people who say that? And how they all fancy themselves being upper middle too? Sure, just like my neck is the upper part of my middle. Or well off, or any one of those phrases that mean rich but you don’t want to be snooty about it. Whenever I hear people say someone is well-off I think of that other one, well endowed, that other—that what? That other you-femism! Ha, got it right, didn’t I, and I pronounced it just like Suzie would, I’m better when I’m talking, the spelling I’m not so sure.
So maybe it wasn’t only Uncle Harry leaving each of us some money that made me think of going somewhere. Things weren’t exactly great the last year or two I spent in Comber. Me and this guy—Cyrus Danby was his name, you wouldn’t think there’d be a Cyrus living in a place called Comber, but there was, and he had a decent job at the plant, back then Chrysler and them had that big car factory in Windsor, and he was mine. For a while he was mine. And we wre going to have a kid, maybe a few of ’em. We weren’t going to get married and that wasn’t going to matter, you didn’t need to spend a fortune for a big show and a piece of paper, we were right for each other and we were going to stay with other always and we had a nice little apartment above the jewellery store, Sellars’ jewellery, maybe you know where that used to be on Main Street, of course everyone made all the jokes about buyers and sellars and ground floors and cellars too, but it was a nice little apartment, not so little, really, it was a two bedroom, there would have been lots of room for the two of us us and two kids, kids can share a room, does ’em good, I think. But why am I going on like this? It all went wrong, didn’t it? First he got me pregnant, and that was a good thing, don’t get me wrong, it felt good from every angle, I wanted kids as much as he did and I didn’t have no morning sickness or nothing, hardly any. But then his friends and his parents got to him with the whole marriage and respectability garbage, We had a few arguments about that but finally I let him buy me a ring from Sellars’ and we picked a date when we’d make it official at the registry office, Turns out he thought it would be a good idea to have a name change too, not him of course, he wanted me to change mine and be a Danby, but I didn’t want to be no Danby, I wanted to keep being me. And that time I didn’t give in, I’ll marry you but I won’t do that to my name, I’m not going to be you, it was a big deal, that fight, and I guess it was never the same afterwards, though of course we made all nice for the wedding and that, and went through a lot of the motions of loving each other for quite a while, I don’t mean just that way you’re thinking of, went through the motions, I mean our feelings. Maybe we just didn’t love each other any more and maybe we could have gotten to love each other again just as much as before but then there was the morning when I did have a lot of pain down there, but it was only five months or was it six, it wasn’t time yet, that was the thing, and Cyrus was at the plant so I got a taxi and then I called him on his cell but he wasn’t picking up and at the hospital it was hours and hours and then tey told me no, the little one hadn’t made it, there was no little one, there wasn’t going to be no little one, not then, anyways. Somehow that was the last straw for Cyrus. Of course he said don’t worry it’s not your fault and all those things, well damn right it wasn’t my fault, who put it into his head that it could have been my fault? You don’t want all the details—trust me you don’t. All what happened was the sort of thing that happens everywhere every day, it was just a shame that we’d gone and gotten married so now we had to go and get separated and go and get divorced, and you’ve got to have lawyers, who has the money for that. So you can see that I had a lot of reasons to be happy about Uncle Harry, not about him dying and all but the money, the money and the being able to get away. Really get away, that was the thing. Not to Toronto or Detroit or something, Really get away. See something of the world, maybe find a whole new way of thinking. Maybe be happier, not that that’s the only thing in life, but still.
Go to India, I thought, maybe, go to Nepal—and for sure stop in and see Susie in the Congo. Stop in—that was literally what I thought to myself, can you believe it? And then of course when I started talking to people—Dad was dead by this time but my mom, my friends, my ex-boyfriend Matthew (the only one of my boyfriends who had turned out to be a friend), the travel agent in Chatham, and of course Aunt Ellen, since it was going to be her Harry’s money that I’d be spending, every last one of them said I was crazy. Just crazy, you don’t go there like that, not to the Congo, it’s not for tourists, it’s not for visiting of any sort, people get raped there, people get killed there, it’s a wonder your sister…. They went on and on about it for quite some time, but like I told Aunt Ellen, I’m just about as stubborn as my sister. Or as Uncle Harry was—she got a good laugh out of that. So I went ahead and booked a round-the-world ticket, first stop Kinshasha, except of course for the stops you had to make in airports before you could get to such a place. And next thing you knew I was on a ramshackle old bus that somebody had said they thought they’d heard might get to Inogo before dusk. Every few moments there’d be a thump as we hit a pothole and you’d bounce up and then down again hard on the seats—hard and cramped they were, my rear end started to be sore in about five minutes, I can tell you that. The old woman beside me seemed to know where we were going but I couldn’t make head nor tail of it, she kept smiling and gesturing to the chicken she was keeping down around her feet, and that chicken kept fidgeting the whole time, she was quite a character—the woman I mean, not the chicken.
At first I’d thought I wouldn’t actually tell Susie I was coming. I’d just show up out of the blue, wouldn’t that be a surprise? But everyone gave me a lot of reasons why that wouldn’t be a good idea and it sounded like one of those times when what everyone says is right. So I’d written ahead, and the letter must have gotten there ’cause when the bus finally pulled in to Inogo—it was pitch dark by this time, not dusk, and I asked the driver about that, were they behind schedule or what? but he just said sunset must have come early, except of course he didn’t say that like you or me would, everything come soon soon, madam, you will be seeing, that was more like it, that was the way they talked, so they weren’t behind schedule at all, in fact—and there was Susie, right as rain. Except it wasn’t right as rain, not really. We hugged and all and she smiled but you know what? I actually wasn’t a hundred per cent sure she was glad to see me.
It didn’t take more ’n a couple of days before I could see what was bothering her. There she was, living in the bush like she had wanted, but it didn’t feel like bush, not really, in the bush people don’t have those fancy degrees, those fancy words—and it wasn’t just her that had them neither. There were five of them in all—it was university-this and research-grant-that and it must have been some sort of embarrassment to have a visit from your older sister who hadn’t done much more ’n finish high school, I did slip in a few words about going to college and I didn’t say nothing about it being community college and only for less than a year. But people know if your faking it with shit like that. Truth is, I reckon I embarrassed her, just by being there. And not just embarrassed, neither. This had been her thing all along, and here I was, the big sister, come to horn in on her. “I know it’s hard for somebody from outside to understand,” she kept saying, “it’s hard for somebody from outside to get much out of it. You’ll probably find a lot that’s more interesting in India.”
And maybe I would. But I thought it was pretty easy to understand why you’d stay in a place like this, living in huts that were pretty much glorified tents and spending all your time watching bonzees. They did it all the time, that was one thing. It could be hard to count how many times a day they did it, and you could see every bit of it. And, whatever people might say, who doesn’t find that interesting? That was the obvious thing, of course people got off on all the sex, no matter how much they dressed it up in their fancy language. Males are nearly always sexually receptive; whereas most other animals copulate only as an act of reproduction, bonzees appear to derive continual physical pleasure and emotional satisfaction from sexual contact, both heterosexual and homosexual….That bonzees often copulate face-to-face has been widely observed, but bonzees engage in an extraordinary wide range of sexual behaviours—they are by human standards quite adept and profligate in their sexual endeavours. So on and so forth, just like us except they do it a lot more often. And except it seems with them the women always have the final say, for all that the guys get to do more strutting about.
Visitors weren’t supposed to “interact” with them too much—even researchers weren’t supposed to, you weren’t supposed to “taint the research” by disrupting the bonzees’ social lives. You were supposed to just watch them, mainly from this observation hut that was just bamboo and thatch built over a gigantic hill they said had been made by termites, except I’d never heard of termites that would want to build a mountain. They must not be like any termites you’d find in Comber—Detroit even, or some of the places I been since, Toronto and New Orleans and that.
You’d sit there and the bonzees would sort of know you were there but usually they couldn’t see you and usually they would forget about you and go about there business as if you weren’t there, that was the theory anyway. And I’ve got to admit it was pretty neat, watching them, there were two groups of them, men and women and kids, and they were all interesting. Didn’t take long before you could tell who was who, how they acted differently, had their own personalities. Of course Susie and the others had to give the animals names, you wouldn’t want to call an animal like that K9 or K12 or some such thing, but they didn’t want to give them normal human names like Dick or Jane or Alex neither. So they had started giving them the names of cities, they thought that would be funny when they were in the middle of nowhere, and because they were all bonzees people started thinking of all the “B” names, there was a cute younger woman they called Berne and a slow moving older guy they called Bilbao, Bill for short, and there was a Bonn and a Brisbane. There were two babies, one in each of the little groups that would come to this open area in the trees, and the bonzee babies were Bathurst and Buenos Aires. Bathurst was named for Bathurst, New Brunswick—one of the researchers was from right near there—though for some reason they always called that baby Little Bathurst, not just Bathurst.
And there was one grown-up called Beirut, Bei for short, he was beautiful but troubled, you could see what they had been thinking when they named him. Bei loved to put on a show and to give a good time to anyone and he was especially good with Little Bathurst, he would play with him and carry him anywhere, so much so you got to thinking Little Bathurst was a little bit spoiled. But you could see that Bei suffered as well, he got picked on by one of the larger males, one they had never found a city for, they called him Ude, after some of the sounds he made. Ude was the largest one and twice I saw him rape Bei; they don’t call it that, between males, forced mounting occurs frequently is what they say. Like I mentioned, bonzees are always having sex and mostly its friendly, mostly it’s even loving but not all the time, that’s for sure, especially with the males. Rape is what it was and every time Bei would be left screaming.
I was alright with everything else except seeing that. Nothing else fussed me too bad, at least not until the night before I was to leave. Susie opened a bottle of wine and then another bottle and we stayed up late and suddenly it seemed like she couldn’t stop asking me questions but they weren’t really questions. It was what are you going to do with your life, Lu?—-that sort of thing. It’s funny how when she got all challenging she finally started calling me Lu like I like to be called. Ever since she’d picked me up in Inogo she’d been calling me Lucinda; had she forgotten how I hated that? Now she was remembering my name, but I sure didn’t like all these questions: don’t you really have to think about some big issues, Lu? You could go back to school, you know, it’s never too late. Is travel really going to help? And really she was saying you’re stupider than me and you’ve been wasting your life, if you’re not getting an f-ing graduate degree you better get a job in the Ford plant like everybody else in Windsor, except she doesn’t even know the Ford plant is closing and everyone’s laid off and she doesn’t even bother to ask, no one asks the real questions, do they? At least hardly ever, we go on in our own worlds and we only want other people’s worlds to confirm what we’re already thinking, what we already know, that’s what I think, anyway.
And thinking that made me sadder than I had been in a long time and when we finally went to bed I couldn’t sleep, I knew I would be going in to Inogo and Kinshasha the next day and then off to London and then to Mumbai but it wasn’t any of that I was thinking of, it was the other stuff and finally I got up, very quietly, and I crept out. I closed the thin little door ever so quietly, and then I was on the path to the observation hut. When the moon was out you could see everything and suddenly there was a figure coming into the clearing beyond the observation hut, and then he turned and saw me and he started to come closer. Now he was walking on two legs just like a man would except they are so small, the legs of a bonzee. I don’t think he was much more than four feet tall and as he got closer I could see that he was rubbing himself and I could see that it was Bei, he was all alone, it’s just pleasure, isn’t it, Bei? I said to him, what you do to yourself, what you do to others, pleasure, and if people call it love, call it something more than—well, who are any of us to say that they are wrong? It doesn’t need to be tied in with having children, does it, Bei? Or with competing with all the other boys, or with scarce fucking resources, excuse the language, Bei. But you don’t need any of that, do you, Bei, no, you don’t, you’re a sweetie, aren’t you? You want to touch me there? That’s a little bit naughty, isn’t it, but maybe you know what I like, Bei, maybe we can have our own little playtime while Susie’s not here, while everything – that’s what I said, something like that, maybe some of it I wasn’t saying I was just thinking, but those were the sorts of thoughts I was having, there’s no point denying it.
And then I looked into his face and I thought of Matt and I thought of Phil and I thought of Rick, I thought of all the boyfriends I had had and I thought, did I even know any of them? Any of them except maybe Matt? They would look at me, all of them, when they wanted something, when they wanted pleasure from my body, and they would look as if they were caring for me, as if they wanted pleasure for me, as if they—love, that was the word they all used. Did they feel it? Did any of them feel it, feel the ache that I would feel at night when I was falling head over heels for one of them? The ache I would feel of longing and of love, the ache I would feel in the end when I heard we’re just not right for each other, that’s all there is—its no one’s fault, and now here was Bei’s face in front of me, innocent like a child and not trying to make me think anything at all about how much he cared for me, just touching himself, wanting pleasure, wanting to give pleasure, wanting to be pleasured. When Susie had talked about how only bonzees and humans make love face-to-face, was it those words she had used, had she said make love? But it didn’t matter, none of that mattered, not the words, not what we humans tell ourselves are the feelings, either, ’cause all that is just crap 98% of the time.
I touched him, I touched him on the shoulder first and then on the cheek, all the books say their faces are closer to the face of a human child than they are to the face of a chimpanzee, of a gorilla, of a monkey, of any other creature. He moved his face towards mine, he had the nicest smile, I know your going to think that doesn’t sound right, he’s just an animal, I know that, but I told Susie afterwards just what I’m telling you now and it’s true, he had a smile, he had a sweet, sweet smile. Had or has, I don’t know, is he living now? I wish I knew.
And then I touched him again, I didn’t mean to touch him down there, I don’t think I meant to. I had just brushed against him and he was making soft little sounds, he was so hard and he was making these soft little sounds and then I held him close and his arms were around me and then we were lying down somehow beside the termite mound and my wide skirt had ridden up, high up above my waist and then he was inside me, I didn’t want him to be there but I didn’t want him not to be there either, I know tears were streaming down my cheeks but I didn’t push him away, I didn’t tell him no, I held him closer, I held him very tight. Even now I can’t think it was wrong. I can’t think he did wrong, I can’t think we did wrong, I can’t think any of it was wrong. We held each other afterwards and he was still making those soft sounds.
You’re thinking it must be gross, he must have been so hairy, but what I noticed was how short his legs were, those stubby little legs. I might as well tell you that I’d pretty much been there already so far as hairy guys were concerned, I remember how thick it was all over Rick, not just his chest and his armpits and between his legs and the face he’d never shaved, but all over, heavy on his arms, his legs, over almost all his back. He wasn’t the best lover, Rick, but it wasn’t because of the hair, I can tell you.
I blew him a kiss, Bei I mean, as he loped away, and somehow I felt as light as the night sky, with all those stars and the moon. My feet took me back to the sleeping huts but I don’t know where my mind was taking me.
* * *
In the morning I had to go, I didn’t say anything after breakfast but then when Susie was driving me in the jeep to Inogo I had to say something, I don’t’ know why but I thought I had to say something, maybe I was thinking for a second it might not be alright after all, and I said to her they’re just dumb animals, aren’t they? Sort of as a question but it came out wrong, I don’t know why I would have said words like that anyway, and she was angry with me, she told me about some of the bonzees in zoos and places where they were studied in captivity, she had told a lot of it to me before, all about another Sue who was a researcher and another bonzee, Zanzi, who had more or less learned to read, the dumb animals are the human animals, Susie said, she was raising her voice now, the human animals who won’t recognize that we’re not the only ones with thoughts, with feelings, with lives that matter, and she went on like that for quite awhile and then I couldn’t say what I wanted to say, she kept going on, it’s not just these animals that matter, she was saying, it’s all animals but these ones are so close to us, so close and then I could see tears in her eyes and see how much it all mattered to her, and somehow that ended up being the moment when I could say what I had really wanted to say, could there ever be one that was both? was what I asked, could one be born that was half human and half… —like a mule, I mean, and she stared at me like I was stupid, don’t be ridiculous, she said, of course there couldn’t be, the science just isn’t—and besides, can you imagine some guy getting it in his head to—it’s too crazy, there’s no way in a million years that… but I interrupted her, I don’t’ know if I had ever interrupted Susie much but right then I knew we would be in Inogo soon and my bus would be there and I had to know, it could be the other way, I said, it could be…, and there was sort of a funny pause and then she looked away from the road, looked right at me, Lu, she said, you couldn’t. You couldn’t have… and she almost missed a curve, and the jeep swerved and skidded but she gripped the wheel tight and she stayed on the road and she started to drive faster and I didn’t tell her anything more, she’d always thought I slept around too much, she’d never been proud of me, more like ashamed, really, and I just looked ahead and finally I said it wasn’t a big deal, I was just curious was all, a person had a right to be curious and a person couldn’t be expected to know all the things that Susie knew, I couldn’t be expected to know all those things, anyway, and maybe she found it hard having me there but I was glad I had come, really glad, and really grateful too and a lot of that was true, and we were sisters after all.
I missed my period in Mumbai and then I missed it again a month after that in Kathmandu and that was just when I was about to come back home, it was time to come back, anyway. I’d discovered I wasn’t the sort to wander for months and months or even years in places like that, though I met lots of people who were like that and not all of them were 19 years old neither. Once I’d spent the night with one of them, I mean we had sex, it was more like that than making love. But that was after the first time I’d missed my period so I knew it couldn’t have been him. Whatever, I had to find out, so of course as soon as I got back to Comber I headed off again, drove into Windsor where there was a clinic.
And that’s where it gets complicated again, ’cause I never actually made it to the clinic. I think you might have heard a lot of the story from here, this is the part that’s all been in the news and there’s been the lawsuit and all, the Choose Life people suing me for false pretences, whatever, I didn’t pretend anything and I never said anything that wasn’t the truth.
There were two people with signs outside the clinic, Maggie and Linda they were, though I didn’t take in their names right at first. They both had signs about saving lives and that’s what they wanted me to do, they said they totally understood where I was coming from, of course how could they really understand? but they had my attention and they said they didn’t want to push me into anything, what they had was a preposition, that’s what they said, it was just a preposition, a suggestion, and of course I didn’t want to take a life, nobody who thinks of having an abortion wants to take a life, even a sort-of-a-could-be-life like a foetus, people only do it ’cause they don’t see a better way, not for them and their bodies and their life at whatever stage it is, at whatever place they’re in, and not for the child that isn’t yet a child neither. That’s pretty much what I told Maggie and Linda, and I said a lot else too but they kept pestering me and half stepping in front of me and I hated that. It wasn’t anything they said or did that stopped me from going through the door to the clinic, I think it was just all the talking made me wonder what I would tell people inside the clinic if I did go in. I couldn’t tell them that I didn’t want to have a kid ’cause that wouldn’t have been true, I wouldn’t have minded having a kid, even on my own, maybe it would even be better on my own. What scared the hell out of me was the thought of having a kid that wasn’t a kid, that was only half a kid or half a human kid and half something else. It wasn’t so much just the fact of all that I was scared by, or thinking through all the specific stuff, how you’d raise a kid like that, what you’d feed it, what you’d do for school and that, how you’d—really what scared me was just that it had never been done before. None of it had been done.
So that’s when I started to read up on bonzees. Two, three weeks I was some kind of expert on bonzees and how they were different from bonobos—I didn’t know how to say it neither, you say the no stronger, bonobo, not bonobo, and how at first way back in the twenties or whatever they’d thought what they call bonobos now were just a different kind of chimp, a little shorter and all that, but still chimps, and then, a few years after they had finally figured out how different bonobos were from chimps, they started to notice how some bonobos were a little bit different again, a little bit taller and the legs a little less stubby. They thought they were just another type of bonobos, and it wasn’t until—well, there were a lot of details. But they’re a different species, everybody who does biology is sure about that now. Maybe not so very different, but different for sure. Just as friendly, just as into sex. But maybe a little bit stranger in the head—maybe that makes them more like us, eh?
And white. Not the fur—the skin. White skin. ’Course chimps have that when they’re young, even some bonobos have pretty light skin when they’re young. But not white like bonzees. Not really white under all their dark fur.
Giving birth didn’t scare me. It was that small thing, that child, the raising, the child-raising, that’s what scared the hell out of me. But I wouldn’t be able to tell them any of that, not there and not at any clinic, they’d never believe me, they’d think I was some sort of a wacko. I’d just have to say I didn’t want to have the child and not give any reasons.
And then I was talking to Maggie and Linda again, I wasn’t arguing, I was asking. What would they do if I did have the baby?, would they make sure it would be well taken care of?, would they guarantee it would be taken care of, would they take care of it themselves? Yes yes yes, they fell over each other saying they could do everything, they would do everything, they could guarantee that. What was their organization? Could they write all that down for me on paper, write that if I had the baby and gave it up they would make sure it was well cared for, no matter what happened, no matter if it had Down Syndrome or if it had anything, whatever I gave birth to, would they swear to that, sign papers about that, make sure it was cared for just as well as any human baby would be cared for? And sure enough by the end of that week there were documents, and I thought through the wording, I thought it through and through and through and through and by the end of the next week the papers had all been signed and double signed and notarized twice over it seemed. And from there everything was just normal, it was just like a normal pregnancy, I’d had one of those when I’d been a lot younger but then the little one had been stillborn, who knows what would have happened to my life if she had lived? This time everything went fine, I hardly got mourning sickness at all and I pushed all the thoughts of what people would think out of my mind, and then finally I was in hospital and the pain wasn’t too bad, they gave me drugs and I pushed and I pushed, and then he was there.
He was only 4 pounds and he was the sweetest little one, with his sweet round eyes and his wide mouth open to me and soon his little mouth was making sucking motions like he wanted to suck on a candy and I thought of candies, of bonbons they used to call them when I was little in Montreal and I thought of bonbons and bonzees and his sweetness and I knew with his mouth and his sweetness he was Bonbon and that was what I named him. But everybody at the hospital looked worried and they tiptoed around me and then the doctors came and they told me that the baby was vigorous, well, anybody could see that, but they said it as if it were some kind of disease, vigorous, and then they said they didn’t want me to be too concerned, there’s nothing life threatening, they said, but there is some concern about the health of the child, and then they paused and didn’t seem to want to say more, we’ll need to do some tests. I kept crying and crying and they must have thought it was because of what they were telling me and because he didn’t look like the other babies but it wasn’t that, it was a feeling that now that he wasn’t a part of me anymore, and that wouldn’t be as it should be with a mother and a child, not any longer, he would not be mine, and how would he be raised? Suddenly I ached with fear for him, I had signed all the papers but I had not thought it all through. With him looking like he did, of course there wouldn’t be any family that would want to adopt him, and when the tests came through and no one could figure it out and then there would be more tests—of course it would have to come out in the end, all of it. How had I thought it would not come out?
It wasn’t more than a week before the news people started calling nonstop and the Choose Life people were appealing to this principle and that principle, and provision this or clause that, whatever, they were trying to make out that they hadn’t said to me what they had said to me, that they hadn’t lied, and for me it went on and on, it is still going on. But for Bonbon it was worse, they took him away when he’d only had two days with me. For a little while he was in a foster home, but then they got the results of all the tests and that was that, they couldn’t believe it but they had to believe it, and they all agreed no foster parents could be expected to raise something like that. He’s very lucky, they all said, the Toronto Zoo is one of the best in the world and there going to have a special unit for him, they’ll take care of him, they’ll study him, and a lot of the science people got all excited, they were falling over themselves, they’d be able to test him for language skills and for his thinking and all of that, it was a big deal. And quite a few people went further than that—not the scientists but other people—went further and said what a miracle it was, it’s a miracle they kept saying, and a lot of the news people wrote that down. But the Choose Life people did not put it that way, for awhile they said they were considering a lawsuit and they kept asking how could I, how could I, how could I do such a thing, and in the middle of the night there kept being phone calls, how could you do such a thing? And what could I tell them—that it was just a strange moment in a faraway place when things had gone wrong between me and my sister, but I couldn’t tell them that because then it would sound as if I regretted it all, as if I thought what I had done had been wrong.
And I didn’t. Even now I don’t think I did wrong. I think the world is wrong, the world run by human animals, I think the bonzee world is the way it should be. But it doesn’t really matter what I think, I’m just one person and besides, the whole world will end anyway, we’ll blow it up or we’ll burn it up or some meteor will hit us and we’ll all end that way—humans, bonzees, all of us.
Susie wouldn’t talk to me after she heard what had happened, not except for one time, just one time on a crackly phone and that time she just said the one thing all the others said, how could you! She said it in different ways quite a few times but it was just one thing and it wasn’t a question, it was horrible.
I couldn’t get a job, not anywhere. Not once people put too and too together, Lu—Letitia—you’re that woman who, and that would be that. Would it be like that my whole life? A person had to wonder and it was pretty depressing, I can tell you. I had to move, I had to start a new life. Have to, I should say; I’m just about packed now. They did let me see him again, there were some people who said that no matter what I’d done they had to let me see him, and there was a nice woman with him who said soft things and told me how much space he had and how happy he would be and how they were going to get other bonobos soon, and maybe she was right, I could see a lot of space there but his eyes looked smaller and his knuckles, he had been rubbing his knuckles against something, on both his hands, they were all raw, I asked her about that, she said yes, he often rubbed his knuckles against the wall, it’s normal, the woman said, it’s normal in the circumstances and I couldn’t say anything, I couldn’t make any sound except for the crying.
I can’t go back to Comber, I’m going to drive on, maybe west, maybe down south to New Orleans, I’ve heard you can be different there and it’s alright. I have to stop now. I have to stop.
* * *
No, that’s not all. I can’t let that be the end, I want to say one more thing. I know maybe when you hear how I talk and all, when you’re looking at how I spell sometimes—there, I was careful about that one, y-o-u-apostrophe-r-e, but maybe I don’t always remember all that, and somewhere way down you’re thinking how could she? but you’re also thinking its what you have to expect from someone like that and a lot of you I guess are thinking that whatever I say’s not worth taking seriously anyway ’cause didn’t I take money for telling my story? Well I did, but I don’t think I have to say sorry about that, it was a few hundred lousy bucks from that paper and a thousand from the TV—a thousand, not a million—and this thing you’re reading now they’re paying me five thousand, but like I say I have no job, I can’t get a job because of this. I just want you to you to look in the fucking mirror, sorry, I’m a little bit angry here, didn’t you ever get carried away and make a mistake with some guy? Maybe even sometime when you knew there could be something happening, when you knew it was that time of the month when something could happen and you hadn’t done anything to make sure it didn’t happen and the guy wasn’t taking any precautions either but you wanted him anyway, maybe you even wanted him a little bit because of that, because of how reckless he was, maybe it turned you on if he was a little bit heartless too, a little bit of tough guy, a bit of a nasty with those arms and those tight pants and that open shirt, maybe it turned you on a lot, and think what could have happened, think of what you would have been letting in that little baby’s jeans if it had happened. That little baby you would have had from what had happened with mister tough guy, mister nasty who would have passed on some of his nasty to your baby, maybe a whole lot of his nasty.
Bei wasn’t like that, he isn’t like that, of course I don’t know him like a person knows someone if they’ve been with him lots of times but I know Bei, I’ve seen what he’s like, I know him a lot better than some hunk you meet in a bar you’ve never seen before. And there’s no nasty in him, I mean that—not one bit. You compare that to guys who—I nailed her, they say, and they don’t stick around to find out if there are going to be consequences, to find out if they’ve gotten someone pregnant, and if she has the kid then some little one will be carrying his jeans but it won’t mean anything to him that he’s the dad, he won’t carry around his little one like a bonze dad does and make sweet little noises in the kid’s ear. I mean it, I’m serious.
And what about my little one, what about Bonbon? It’s not his fault if he doesn’t look like Tom Cruise, maybe that’s not the best one for me to pick as an example, but they say Tom Cruise is short, so maybe it’s a little bit similar after all, anyway none of it is his fault, Bonbon’s I mean. Just because maybe he’s a kid whose not going to be able to do calculus and all that, does that mean you have to keep him behind bars?
Hell, I can’t even do calculus. And yes, I gave him a silly French name like a candy and maybe that was stupid of me to do that but he is sweet, he’s a sweet natured little thing, and for how long?, you can knock that out of anyone, you’re knocking it out of him now, every day that goes by that he isn’t nuzzled and held and hugged and loved helps to do it, if there’s no one who will…. I’ve said this before and I mean it, I made a mistake, I made that first mistake and then I made a mistake when I gave him up. I’ll take him, I’ll take him now, if you’ll let me, I know I signed those papers to make the Choose Life people the guardians and I guess now it’s the zoo or the foundation or whatever that has final say, but I have to have a say in this too, don’t I? And there not going to love him, they’ll hold him and say nice things, sure, and I bet they’ll be better ’n than some of those foster care places, but they’re going to go home at night, they’re going to go off shift, they’re not going to love him, he’s just little and they’re not going to love him, can’t you see that?
It all ties together, all of it, what about the people who are mental and they’re on the streets and they’re there because somebody nailed somebody else and nobody cared, and whether it’s something in their jeans or the way they were brought up or not brought up—whatever it was, it sure as fuck isn’t the children’s fault, excuse my French as my Dad used to say but it isn’t. What about them? And maybe you’ll say I’m getting off track here, none of this has anything to do with me being stupid and not thinking and all that with Bei and Bonbon, maybe you’ll say I’m missing the point, but what is the point?, sometimes the point is what you make it. I mean that. The point is whatever you fucking make it.
[Transcript of handwritten statement provided by Lucinda Banks to the National Courier. An article very loosely based on the information Banks provided, entitled “Ape Woman—Why I Did It” appeared in the Sept. 12th edition of the Courier. The following month, news reports indicated Banks was living in considerable financial distress, and two foundations that had provided support for the Bonbon experiments in Toronto began also paying a monthly stipend to Lucinda Banks.]