a lot of happy memories come to mind when i think of the zoo — there was that time when i was about 6 or 7 years old holding my mom’s hand with such ferocity not because i was afraid to get lost in the bustling crowd, but because i was petrified of the snake hissing inside cloudy glass tanks and looking at me with such menacing eyes i swore it had already memorized my face and my smell. it was just a matter of time before it slithered out of its cage and track me down, relying only on its photographic memory of the younger me with my face displaying nothing but sheer childish terror. “watch your back, kid,” it hissed, as it lazily coiled upon itself with the smoothness of a mafia don adjusting himself after shooting a man dead.
some childhood beliefs you outgrow. some grow with you. unfortunately for me, the image of that snake hunting me down stuck. twenty years later, i am still that kid who’s deeply terrified of snakes. only this time, my fear has expanded to include harmless creatures like worms and caterpillars simply because they crawl and slither the way snakes do.
like i said, nothing but happy memories. and because i couldn’t remember the rest of the animals i saw on that day at the zoo with my mom except for that f*cking snake, ram and i went to the new cebu zoo last week after wondering and debating between ourselves if it still exists.
yes, it still does.
this parrot is the first to greet you with its cage right by the entrance. it talks (don’t all parrots talk by default?) or does it? i can’t remember, as i never heard it talk.
this mayna did all the talking though, greeting visitors “hi!” even if some of those visitors were on their way out.
i was busy taking pictures of the birds when, the moment i turned around to follow ram who decided to sight-see ahead of me, i stopped dead in my tracks. literally, as i automatically took a step back before gathering enough courage to prep myself, “chill. it’s just a snake.”
“oh but it IS a snake!,” screamed the 7-year old me.
ram doesn’t have a problem with snakes. (i figured he doesn’t have a childhood.) he petted the damn thing like it was some kind of furry dog! well, furry dog, my ass! i ain’t touching that thing. not now, not ever!
but the zoo personnel’s convincing powers finally got the best of me. he said the only way to eradicate my fear of snakes is to personally acquaint myself with one. i’d rather be touchy-feely with a female aedes aegypti loaded with dengue!
manong was very polite at first, offering me the yellow snake like a branch of laurels. he was like, “here, hold this yellow one. it looks friendlier.” wtf! even if that thing was blessed with a pastel pink color, i still wouldn’t go “oooh… a pink snake!”
the pressure, of course, was on. manong became relentless. he was on a mission to singularly convert me. so with my body on full-alert standing about a meter from the writhing specie manong held loosely with his trained hands, i reached my index finger out. there you go, i touched it already. he’d let me off the hook now.
but oh no, he wasn’t done with me yet. he wanted me to hold it. like really REALLY hold it. at this point, ram was laughing his f*cking head off. i looked at ram with the deepest love and hate i could ever have for any guy, with the hate part winning the internal battle. before my sanity had any time to react, my pride was already holding snakey, feeling its cool dry skin against my unsteady palms.
it took about three tries before manong gave up. (i gave up before the first.) i couldn’t hold the snake longer than 3 seconds before squealing and begging (and i mean really begging) manong to please, please! take the snake off my hands now ‘coz i was this close to dropping it on the ground, aggravating it, causing it to attack me; as i mentally run in zigzag motion screaming for help so it wouldn’t catch up with me but it will. oh yes, it will. because it remembers me…
and even if it remembers ram, it remembers ram with fondness. a courtesy that will never be extended to me just because i’m his girlfriend. snakes’ code of conduct doesn’t operate that way and i don’t expect it to.