You can’t imagine what it feels like to have lost something so important in such a moronic way. The glass surrounding the beast captivated me more than the beast itself. I would tap the surface and tiny sparkles would emanate on the floor, of course my chaperone would restrain me by curtly pulling on my shoulder. She would tell me “Little lady, do not do that”. Her name was Esparanza and her voice was chocolate. She had golden brown ringlets that escaped from the exaggerated banana clip holding her hairdo together. Because she applied too much blush on her cheeks, you could see tiny fingerprints of rouge on her face. She was always in a hurry, chuggling along, keeping track of every misbehaving nine year old while never stopping too long to genuinely grow attached to any of them. We always listened to her because to us, she was an exotic queen. Money was never a problem for my family but time was. My mother never had a conversation that lasted longer than the time it would take to inhale a parfait, and my father simply never came home. So when Esparanza saw me, a frail child, starved of attention, the bones of loneliness beginning to show, she took me under her wing and opened up to me. She told me stories of Itzapalapa. The yowling street vendors and the screeching parrots. She told me that when I got old enough, I could go to Mexico too, and that I could climb Pico de Orizaba. I held on to that. Dreaming of the blue ridges, and a snowy dormant peak.
“Little Lady, I told you to leave that glass alone.” I grinned mischievously, and followed the group away from the aqua tank containing a lower view of the Gharial crocodile. The tour guide began to lead us up to a metal staircase. Every stride I took caused the step to heave and wheeze. I almost wanted to apologize, the tour guide must’ve seen my expression, “Oh, sweetie, don’t worry, the steps are completely secure, just watch your step, we wouldn’t want you hurting yourself.” I nodded at her politely. I was used to women like her. With their tight buns and overly pressed khaki shorts. Women who wanted to be powerful and fabricated a demeanor that would exude this. It never worked, the moment they let their guards down their insecurities tumbled out.
We arrived at the upper level. “Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, behold the Gharial crocodile. This species is critically endangered, and he doesn’t have many brothers and sisters left. We moved him all the way from India. Little buddy has had a long travel. Now this crocodile is a primarily fish eating species and…” I stopped listening and let my eyes wander over to the beast. It had an unusually long nose and dark skin. It had beady little eyes that seemed to challenge anybody walking by. Wanting a closer look, I calmly walked over to the rail. The crocodile was only a couple feet away now, all that separated us was a tiny stream that fed into a larger body of water. I slowly came closer and closer until suddenly “Little lady I told you to sto-” Esparanza grabbed my shoulder and I spun too quickly, my body buckled over the metal, and I fell forward landing on my forearms and head. Before I could comprehend what was happening, I was face to face with the crocodile. It breathed deeply. Really i never expected a crocodile to have the ability to take in oxygen and have it go so deeply into their stomach. I heard every breath it took. “Stay still, we are getting help.” I didn’t really care. If it killed me, maybe my mother would look up from her yoghurt to check my obituary picture, maybe my father would stay in the house long enough to look over my room and check on my mother. I was ready to die and I hadn’t even lived yet. The crocodile began to walk away, and I suddenly felt a tugging urgency, somehow, deep in the cavities of my stomach I knew something wasn’t quite right. That’s when I heard the snap. A boulder that had been positioned as decoration in the crocodile home had slipped and landed square on my foot. Everybody screamed and clutched one another. I simply blinked up at them and tried to understand. I did not know what had just happened. I felt no different, I simply felt wrong. As if every molecule of my being had switched places. It was when the medics came and lifted the boulder off my foot that I felt the pain. They told me that the bone had been completely crushed and that my foot would need to be removed. I didn’t care. All I remember thinking was how I would never be able to climb Pico de Orizaba. That was what truly crushed my insides into powder. My dreams had been for nothing, I’d never be able to manifest them.
I now dream about what would’ve happened if nobody had been there, and I had been laying in the containment with the beast. What would’ve happened if the boulder had stayed on my foot and I simply remained there, laying in the damp pebbles and grass, the sound of the tiny stream whistling in my ears. The vinesslowly pulling me closer to the center of the earth and the loudest sound in the world would be the Gharial crocodiles breathing.