Not a Zebra, In the Zoo
I am in the zoo, specifically because I am not a zebra. They tell me I'm not, anyway. I've always believed myself to be at least 15% zebra, but they tell me that this isn't the case, and that I am here for that.
I am looking through bars at all of the creatures walking by because I am not a zebra. Perhaps if I were a zebra, or partially a zebra, as I have always felt myself to be, I'd be on the outside, looking in here at some poor shmoe who was not a zebra. Instead, I am inside looking out at the others. I think that I am the poor shmoe. I've never wanted to be some poor shmoe. I've always thought I was better than all that.
The stars do not look the same to me now that I am not a zebra. Or maybe it's just now that I've been told that I am not what I've always felt myself to be. As I lay here at night, under the clear, open sky and the multitudes of stars jiggling around up there, I see them as more spectators, enjoying the non-zebra. The zoo is closed to spectators at night, they say, but I think that's just so that all the stars can know exactly which creatures to laugh at. If everyone were here in the zoo at night, zebras and non-zebras alike, the stars might look at, point at, and enjoy everyone in here, thinking us all to be non-zebras.
The stars, then, are zebras. I am not a zebra and I'm sad.
Old men come to the zoo early in the morning. It is cold and dewy then; I usually wake up hurting and sniffling. Then I might see a couple of old men, or just a single old man (but always at least one, unless there is rain,) standing with his hands in his pockets, or sitting on the bench just across from my cage. I'm never even sure they are looking at me. I sometimes fantasize that they are just being glad that they are, at least partially, zebras.
One morning I decided to ask one of them. "Are you a zebra?" I asked. The old man, standing very close to the bars and looking at my habitat, only focused his eyes more clearly on mine, but said nothing. I repeated myself. "Excuse me, sir, are you a zebra?" I asked.
Still nothing. I could see he was looking at me differently. He was more attentive to my eyes. Why won't he answer me? I wondered. Have I discovered something? Is he also not a zebra? And if he's not, should I tell someone, or should I let him stay out there with all the zebras? Part of me really wanted to tell - this wasn't fair, that I should be inside the cage because I'm not a zebra, while he remains outside.
"Why won't you answer me?" I asked. He cleared his throat and looked over my head again, shook his own head a little. Then he walked on. When he was out of sight, there was no one else around. No other zebras to watch me. Rarely, during daylight, do I have a moment of peace. I wonder if I will miss the crowds when it is winter. Surely they won't have me sleeping out in the cold, then? What if it snows?
I can't help that I am not a zebra. I think I believe them now. That's the saddest thing to me. I've let them convince me that i'm not a zebra. What a terrible person I must be, having so little confidence in myself. And this just reinforces what they tell me. Surely a zebra would never let anyone convince him that he was not a zebra.