It’s a Sunday and I don’t have plans so I decide to spend my day assisting in the search efforts of the local authorities. I make my way to the Calgary Zoo, where a check-in tent is stationed at the facility’s entrance to facilitate the search.
“Do you have a search location preference?” A lady in red asks me.
“I have a vehicle and can drive anywhere.” I respond.
“Terrific, thank you. We have the least amount of volunteers at Fish Creek Provincial Park. Can you go there?”
The lady hands me a mesh bag, six lure biscuits, a pair of binoculars, a card with the telephone number for the animal rescue department, and a colour photo of the monkey. I start back towards my car, when the registration lady interrupts me.
“Oh, one more thing, sir. There is a boy across the way that has requested to help but has no means of transportation. Would you mind taking him with you?”
I walk towards the boy, who is wearing red sweats, a black hoodie, and a cheap pair of blue mock Ray Bans, despite an overcast being present. He is sprawled out on a bench, gazing up at the single grey cloud covering the sky.
“Hello,” I greet.
At this, the boy rises and faces me. I guess that the boy is around 16. He is pretty tall; probably just below 6’, and patches of facial hair pepper his jawline. His face makes no movement and the sunglasses blocking his eyes disallow me to interpret his expression. A moment passes before he responds to me.
“Are you here for the search for the Tamarin?”
“If you mean the Marmoset, then yes. That’s what the news is calling it.”
“That’s what the news is calling it because the news is comprised of journalists. I’m a Zoology major and that monkey is a Tamarin.”
An awkward silence fills the air between us, before the boy continues, “Tamarins are tiny. And they eat insects. And they have canine teeth, like a dog. Did you see the picture of that monkey? Its lower teeth were visible in the photo. It’s a Tamarin.”
Still, the boy’s face shows no display of positive or negative expression. I decide not to argue and leave matters alone.
“Okay, the Tamarin,” I say. “That’s what I’m here for, to search for the missing Golden Lion Tamarin. The Zoo tells me you’re here for the same and that you need a ride?”
“Right. So you’re my ride, then? Okay.”
The boy finally shows some expression but I still can’t pinpoint exactly what he’s thinking or feeling. I typically have above average recognition of emotion, but in this case, my detection skills are failing me. He walks ahead of me as we enter the parking lot. When we get to my car, he stands by the rear seat door.
“You can sit up front if you’d like,” I offer.
“Thanks but I’d prefer to sit back here,” he says. “You’re still a stranger, no offense. I’m taking a risk riding with you, so it’s my responsibility to take my own safety into account.”
A wave of annoyance washes over me as I open the doors of the vehicle. On the way to Fish Creek Provincial Park, the boy puts his window down and watches outside as wind pushes his blonde hair back.
“Is it too hot in here?” I ask.
“Too cold, actually, but I’m searching for the Tamarin,” he says in reply.
My eyes roll in their sockets as I continue driving. A couple minutes pass before the boy puts the window up and fixes his position. I look back moments later and notice him sifting through some pages in the backseat of my car.
“What are you doing?” I ask him.
“Reading,” he says. “March 9th, 2014: MH370 unexplainably goes missing. No leads. April 25th, 2018: Notorious Golden State Killer caught. DNA matched to genealogy websites. July 9th, 2018: Mysterious black sarcophagus opened in Egypt. Possible curses imminent. What the hell are these?” he asks.
At this, I become instantly angered.
“Please don’t read my journal.” I say with blatant austerity in my voice.
“Why would you leave it open like this, then?” The boy retaliates. “What is it?” he asks again.
I look in my rear-view mirror and see him using his cellphone to take photos of various pages.
I raise my voice this time, “if you want me to continue driving you, listen to what I say and stop it. Now.”
We are sitting at a red light and when the light goes green, I stay stopped, causing a woman in a minivan behind me to honk loudly. I put my hazard lights on and she angrily switches lanes to pass me. I think about the boy’s demeanour and wonder what type of parents would raise a child like this.
“Fine.” The boy concedes.
I continue towards Fish Creek Provincial Park and an awkward aura fills the car before the boy cuts it open like a knife to margarine.
“They say that serial killers often assist in the search parties for their victims.” He says.
The awkwardness gives rise to hostility at this and my body stiffens. We are minutes from the entrance to the park and I opt not to engage any further. I determine that this would be meritless, and foolish on my part. This vow is broken though, when the boy continues, “the news groups didn’t give any insight regarding what the perpetrators might have been thinking did they? What do you think? Or do you only care about the facts? A Golden Tamarin is missing—no further postulation, just an acceptance that this is morally wrong and a stubborn declaration from people like you to correct it.”
“You’re here too, aren’t you?” I accuse.
“Indeed I am. Good intuition.” The boy says sarcastically, before continuing, “I’m curious, how it might feel to be alone in a caged space. I can’t imagine it would feel good. This car, for example, how might it feel to be trapped in this car your whole life. What do you think?” he asks me. I don’t answer, so he repeats his question louder, “how would you feel if you were trapped in a cage alone the rest of your life?”
My skin is boiling; my rage is fiery, and the vehicle is radiating heat. When we arrive, I get out of the car and proceed to gather my items in a daypack. I stop when I notice the boy looking up at me from the backseat making no effort to get out. I face him from the outside, tap on the window, and speak loudly so he can hear through the window, “are you coming?” I ask with irritation.
The boy then uses his cellphone to take a photo of me through the window, and quickly gets out of the car, slamming my door shut behind him. He is standing directly across from me now, giving the same sort of expression when I walked up to him at the zoo; the undetectable type. A lady in red polka dot-style dress steals glances at us as she fishes with a leash attached to a beagle. I turn around and walk into the park, ending my obligation to the boy and continuing on my way. When I witness the boy enter the park in the opposite direction, I deeply exhale in relief.