June 15, 2024

Wrong Jungle (True Story)

It had been a long night in Brooklyn, New York. I was out having some late-night drinks with a few friends at a bar that was much farther away from my neighborhood than I usually care to venture. But it was Friday, and I was content to be anywhere outside of my apartment with enjoyable company.

As 2 a.m. came around, I decided to begin my long return to my neighborhood. I spoke my words of departure to my friends, and made my way to the nearest subway entrance.  Being that it was long after midnight, it took me nearly twice as long to return home than it took to make it to the bar originally. A sluggish two hours of desolate public transit later, and three fourths of through my trip, I arrived at the first of two stations needed to return to my apartment. In order to transfer from the first station to the second, I had to walk for just two blocks.

As I made my descent from the subway platform to the sidewalk, the streets were completely empty; no cars, none of the usual AM-vagrants; just me. The whole block ahead of me laid in stillness like I had never witnessed in such a place before.  I continued forward in disbelief. This is New York City! Even when there are no people walking, there’s always a car in the road, folks resting on benches, youths out way past curfew, shady characters on corners or in between buildings, and even when no people are visible, there are always sounds of life! But not on this night. The only sound to be heard was the mellow hum of streetlights and the pangs of litter made mobile by the otherwise discrete breeze.  The street maintained its familiar black-asphalt hue while everything around it was tinged a golden orange by the countless streetlights.  Everything below the deep violet sky took on only one of three colors; black, brown, or gold. It was surprisingly beautiful.

About half way through the second block of my walk, I noticed the only other living creature in the vicinity exploring the sidewalk across the street.  Large, beige, and moving on four legs; at first glance I assumed it was a pit bull. After further examination of its size and movements, I realized it couldn’t possibly be that. Sauntering about the sidewalk without a leash and swerving its weighted head, looking upon every feature of the street with alien curiosity. Then, it focused its wandering gaze upon me. It was at this point that I made the distinction that the creature was in fact a lion (well, it was a large mountain lion to be exact). Our eyes made contact. Suddenly, the wandering lion shifted its course and proceed to make its way undoubtedly toward me. I (still dumbfounded by what I was seeing) had yet to break our shared gaze. I noticed the lion’s eyes maintained the same look of wonder as it tilted its head to the side.

After it had stepped about 6 feet in my direction, my mind’s judgment returned and I decided that I should make my way away from the lion immediately. Knowing that running would likely excite it, I opted to walk calmly across the intersection; all the while keeping my eyes focused on the lion. Once I made it across, I began to go up the stairs into the second station.  About half way up the staircase, I sprinted into the station and encased myself behind its heavy wooden doors. Once inside of my safe-haven, I looked out a window to see what the lion was up to. Turns out, it had not followed me at all. The lion was simply standing in the middle of the intersection looking up at me still. Our eyes contacted once more; still eyes of only wonder. Once our gaze ended for its final time, I noticed that a line of three cars had formed behind the stationary lion. The driver of the first car seemed to be petrified by what he was seeing in front of his vehicle, while the drivers behind him exclaimed “That’s a lion, son!” and veered frantically from behind him, and sped past the large feline blocking the road. Even in the midst of all of the commotion around the lion, it stood calmly in the intersection, looking up at me still.

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