She stared at the creature, her eyes running over its long graceful neck covered in a jigsaw like pattern, the pieces not quite fitting together. The zoo was almost empty that morning. The wind blowing with a ferocity usually reserved for December, whipping the rain about on an invisible leash.
If only she had evolved from fish and not from monkeys she mused. Then she could have flip flopped about gasping for air when he took her away from home, insisting she be thrown back in her tank. But all she could do was fix accusing eyes upon the rapidly expanding bald patch on the back of his head as she served him dinner every night.
“Why don’t you go out today? Explore the city?” he had said that morning, leaving £30 on the dining table as he took his lunch box. “St. Pauls, Madam Tussauds – they have Shah Rukh and Ash there now you know” She had winced inside. Ash. As though he knew her intimately. More intimately than his own wife who he insisted on calling by her full name. Drawing out each syllable in that unbearable nasal twang of his.
But she had come to see the giraffe instead. When she told him where she had been it would annoy him, and that was reason enough. But she was glad she had come here. The faint smell of animal dung, popcorn and candy floss. The shrill squawks of brightly plumed birds and the grumbling retorts of the other animals. Why, if she closed her eyes she could pretend she was home.
The giraffe stood so still, she was unsure if it was real or not. She did that sometimes too. She would sit motionless on the sofa, convincing herself she wasn’t even there. That she just did not exist in this cold miserable excuse of a country. The giraffe looked sad. How she knew what the giraffe face for sad was she was not sure. But she knew. After all, how could anything be happy in this place? Giraffes. They were from Africa weren’t they? That’s where they were meant to be. Ambling along the … she racks her memory for 7th standard geography… pampas? No… steppes… plains. Something. Ambling along somewhere in Africa. Not fenced in, looking over a street somewhere behind Regent’s Park. Did its skin, intended for sub Saharan heat protect it from the cold? Or like her flimsy Garden sari, did it let the biting wind in? She wondered what would happen if she magically let the animal out, like they showed in the movies. The idea filled her with a sudden rage, why should she let the stupid thing out? It was dumb enough to let itself be caught and brought here. It could help itself. It wasn’t a child anymore. What excuse did it have to look so sad? The rage passed. She sighed and walked on, her legs shivering under her flimsy Garden sari.