He wrote on the pages about his mother’s neighbour. A woman from one of the countries that China had occupied. She blamed the situation on the Chinese bourgeois, spoke of businessmen paying top-dollar for captured monkeys. Her father told her how he saw them tie these monkeys to a butcher block and carefully carve a cap from the top of their skulls with a small electric saw. They would heat oil over a stove until boiling point and pour it slowly onto the creature’s fully intact, still-functioning brain. The men would attempt to spoon as much of the brain as they could into their mouths before the monkey went still. She said this is how she knows they weren’t eating it for the taste, no matter what spices were added to the oil. They just liked the game of it. Her father told her about one time they played Jim Croce’s “Time In a Bottle” on a cassette as the monkey squealed.
I think to myself that it seems too easy to blame everything on a cruel other in a faraway place. The heat of the oil would kill any lingering disease anyway, right? Yet I can’t stop imagining the texture of it between my teeth, the taste… I wonder if they ate it so quickly because the fear coursing through the creature’s body altered the flavour. The next morning, I begin to notice inconsistencies within the everyday. The signal on my phone dropping here and there as I make calls, the two cars on the way home leaking liquid from their exhaust. It feels as if everything is seeping out of itself, ready to fall apart entirely at any moment. I pass a teenage couple riding an electric scooter. The boy holds onto the girl by her waist as she keeps the handlebars in place. She has a steadiness in her face that he lacks. His—devoid of any expression—is betrayed by the way in which he grips her, the noose-like tightening as she pulls forward.