The orang-utan may have been male, I suppose, but let’s assume not. When I pushed Mombat’s wheelchair up onto the quiet, deserted balcony it was late, and most of the zoo’s visitors had already left. We were the only people in the area, and the enclosure looked empty of life.
I almost missed her, curled into a dark corner, one eye peering out of a mound of sacking. She lowered her cloth, perhaps intrigued by our movement, and observed us curiously. I stopped and, I know not why, lifted both arms over my head, palms towards her. She stood, and swung the five metres or so over to the glass where we stood. We looked into each other’s eyes, hers sad yet curious, mine, I hoped, sympathetic and reassuring. A flicker of understanding passed between us. I laid my hand against the glass, a gesture of friendship. She placed her palm against mine, separated only by the thin layer of silicate. She pressed her lips to the barrier between us, and I kissed her.
The moment was shattered by a group of young rowdies entering the balcony. She returned to her sacking, while I pushed Mombat back out into the sunlight. Behind us we could hear the raucous laughter of the youths, who commenced to make loud monkey noises. The moment of understanding was over.