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This Great Society
 

The night I met Ruby I had this terrible dream. It was one of those dreams where you’re half-awake, so I was conscious of being in bed, but all these unusual things were happening. My room was filling with bunnies. I know this doesn’t sound frightening, and at first I didn’t think so either—who doesn’t like bunnies?—but the problem was they were eating everything. They rifled through my clothes, consumed my shoes, and took apart my bookshelf, piece by piece, swallowing novels whole. They kept multiplying too, filling up every corner of my small bedroom. The little ones started nibbling on my blanket, then my toes. I though this would tickle, but no, it stung with a muffled dream-pain. The bunnies were piling on top of each other, reaching the ceiling, so that bunny was everywhere. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I was gasping for air. I woke up.
               I knew right then that she was a bad idea.

I called her the next day.
               Do you want to go to the zoo?
               Yes, yes I do.
               Good.
               We met at the gate. She was there when I arrived, standing on the sidewalk in a green blouse, jean skirt and purple tights, with her knees touching and a half-smile on her face, like a gift, waiting to be unwrapped.

Ruby teaches art to animals. At first I thought she had made this up to sound hip and creative, but then I showed up at her apartment one day and there they were, all these pets she spoke of like classmates or coworkers: Pepsi the white terrier, Boston the black lab, and Tiki the turtle.
               How do you do it? I asked her later.
               What?
               Teach animals to paint.
               I talk to them. Show them how.
               So it’s just like teaching people?
               No. It’s easier than that.

We met at a party.
               She was dancing with her elbows tucked in and her arms jutting out at obtuse angles, wiggling her skinny little ass and skipping every now and then. It was like a Bird of Paradise mating ritual, and would not be deemed attractive by the general population, but it worked on me.
               The friend who brought me there caught me staring at her from a couch and forced me onto the dance floor. I am the most insecure dancer I know, so I wouldn’t let my friend leave my side. Instead of dancing with wiggle-bum, I ended up dancing adjacent to her, in this awkward side-glance shuffle.
               Later, when I still had not said a word to the girl, my friend put two drinks between my fists and shoved me in her direction.

I tried to kiss her when we were sitting in front of the penguin cage. How could I not? She was beaming with her love of penguins, of all things animal. She let me, for a few seconds, before she pulled back and walked off toward the pandas. At the time I though she was being a tease, but now I realize she was cold and feline.

 
This Great Society
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