Catatumbo Bari – The Zipper

To fall onto the top of a Colombian kapok tree and watch the sun rise—that’s a good way to get over yourself. Watch the jungle steam. Pick at the roots of the baby tree growing on top of the big tree. Wave at the scavengers staring at you while they chew.  With the southern sun at your back walk towards them on the carpet of plant life on top of the trees and marvel as one of them doesn’t fly away as you approach. It sort of hops in a half circle and flaps its wings once, twice, stares at you like, “I’m salivating here.” You kick at the remains of the carrion’s hip bone, the notched remains of a human pelvis.

“What is this doing here?” you ask the eagle.

It looks away.

“Why is there a human being on top of this canopy, a dead one, the skeleton of a dead one?”

The eagle vomits a mordant rebuttal, gobbles it up again.

“The salient question is whether this person died here or was moved here after the dying. Oh – did you move her here? Do jungle eagles team up to carry dead animals to the tree tops so the ants don’t get to them? Ow!”

A gigantic ant, big as a baby’s thumb, is digesting a hunk of your calf. Shake a leg, shake it, 100 oscillations per second, move! Yow that hurts! Smack that vicious baby thumb away and try to smash it! The mean Old Testament ant scurries away before it’s finished landing and then disappears into a crack between the foliage and what looks like a two-foot-tall zipper head. Blood-specked gut-specked feathers gum up the air as the eagle launches a meaningful poop earthward while departing.

The oddest aspect of this zipper head is that nothing is growing on it. Set something down this close to the equator, you can expect it to be digested and/or grown upon in the space of a sloth stroll. But this zipper head is gleaming silver with nary a speck of plant or animal life on it.

No, it’s gold. Or is that a trick of Colombian sunlight? A moment ago it was the most striking shade of silver. Now it’s…orange?

You turn around to look at the rising southern sun and it is its bright, stolid self, not particularly colorful, then look back toward the zipper head to find it almost gone, only the faintest outline of it remaining, half-vanished in front of a photosynthetic backdrop of timeless jungle. Bend at the waist and reach out without expecting to touch anything with your perfect fingers. Your ass is lovely, truly it is, especially in those light jungle pants, but the odd son of a cabdriver might find it too lean and muscular. Your shoulders stop insect conversation—when you bend and reach for the zipper head the shadow that appears under your shoulder actually yowls with regret when it must leave—but it could be argued that they are too wide and by comparison make your hips appear narrow. But your fingers are perfect, this is incontestable fact, and they must never age, this must not be allowed to happen. The tips of them warm perceptibly as they wrap comfortably around a smooth zipper head of indeterminate composition that is shaped like a baby’s tennis racket with no strings. It is the color of your skin.

You pull and with less resistance than hair swept back over a freshly kissed ear the zipper parts and all the leaves in the jungle jangle twice. Pull again, they jangle again. Back and forth you sweep the zipper, back and forth back and forth, and the jungle’s leaves harmonize with the resounding shush of the first waterfall. Close your eyes and feel the present swell: shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh until pic-pic-pic-picah! an irreverent bird sounds her annoyance.

The zipper is wide open, wide as your (sigh) shoulders at its widest point. Retie your hiking boots, untie one again, shake out an invisible pebble, retie it. Take a breath and look down between the zipper threads, see the opening that leads straight down the heartwood of the kapok.

In the span of a moment, a drop of water wets the back of your neck and ripples appear in the zipper opening. A “plonk” sound and a little splash. It’s raining, you see, it’s the language of water falling from the sky onto neck skin and zipper openings. This little zipper opening already seems filled to the brim with water or gin or tears—each raindrop causes a lovely backjet and ripple that radiates outward towards the tree bark. You extend your hand and flutter your fingers 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, tap tap on top of the liquid. It feels like water, seems like tears, smells like beginnings. Another raindrop falls, then another, then four in rhythmic succession. Leaning over the opening you see your reflection, see the knuckle-sized mole that proves it’s you. Put a finger in your eye, watch the bleariness radiate outward.

This lovely person stands, wipes the back of her freshly wet neck with perfect fingers, rubs her hands together. Looks up at the sky and says hello. Pinches her nose and hops feet first into the zipper opening. And the last thing she sees as the liquid splashes onto the canopy is the well-nibbled remains of a human pelvis.

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