Sightseeing in Amsterdam
Although it was 23 years ago, I can still picture the caged hyenas at the zoo in Amersterdam. It was an overcast day, no rain, just low and heavy clouds that threatened to burst. We’d spent the night before eating pizza and getting stoned in a café. This should have put us in a good mood but we were jet-lagged and I had an aggressive head cold—by the time we opened a bottle of bourbon back in the hotel room, it was bound to devolve into a circuitous fight.
So next morning after coffee, croissant and apologies, we went to the zoo. Why cages of unhappy animals was going to cheer us up is anyone’s guess. The peacocks were pretty, and the penguins tried their best to frolic. But the hyenas really brought us down. They were all males, seven of them desperate for female companionship. Their huge testicles hung so low they almost touched the ground. They all looked like they were in pain, frustrated, pent up.
One hyena, apparently the pariah of the group, stood off to one side by a pile of boulders, looking out at us from behind the bars of his cage. Pleading with his liquid eyes, it seemed, though I know I am too given to anthropomorphising. I remember wondering if he preferred to be miserable alone, rather than in company. Perhaps he had ostracized himself. I could understand that.
Well, that was long ago and in another country, as they say. The man I’d travelled with eventually left me, then came back, then moved to the opposite coast as if he needed an entire continent between us. That’s something, I guess. At least I’d made him run.