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The Human Zoo
I saw the man there, every day.
He came to the Ménagerie in his tight gray suit with a packed lunch and sat on the bench that faced the elephant’s enclosure. Whatever the weather, Monday through Friday (yet not weekends or holidays), I saw the man in the suit watch the elephants, and one elephant in particular.
This particular elephant walked in an endless circle around his pen, stopping only to sleep or feed. He lumbered as close as he could to the imitation rock barrier bordering the moat that separated the pack from the herd of visitors. I know he did this every day, including weekends and holidays.
At times the beast moved slowly, plodding as though his legs were trees he was constantly uprooting against their struggle to take hold. Other times he would almost run until the ground shook beneath the shoes of the businessman, as though he were racing against the reality of his confines.
Every day, from the opposite side of the enclosure, I watched the man in the suit watch the elephant for forty-five minutes. Through the spaces in the bars, I watched as he finished his lunch and resumed his long walk. I watched from the other side of the pen, like looking through a net, like looking through the hole in a net. Like looking through a net into another world and suddenly seeing the net is not around the world, but has been around me the entire time.
All photos are from Paris’s Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes.