The monkeys in Sri Lanka are something else. Sometimes you catch these sweet and tender moments between monkey families: mum, dad and baby all cuddling up together on a rock grooming one another and having a picnic. Just trying to spend some quality time.
Then some tourist enters stage left and shoves an iPhone in their faces, hungry for that wholesome content. It makes me nervous that one of the monkeys, understandably enraged on account of the disturbance to their leisure time, is going to do something they’ll regret. It’s not worth it, mate.
I’ve heard that some monkeys are so advanced that they’ve taught themselves how to catch the train to the busy tourist areas, where they pilfer food and water from whiteys. They know what they want and they aren’t afraid to go out and get it, an asset in any boardroom. I picture the monkeys on their way to work on a Monday morning with a strong soy latte ready to clock on for a long shift, all like, ‘Wow work stinks, I wish I could stay in bed all day watching The Sopranos. I hope someone brought something decent for morning tea, not that fucking banana slice again…’
I sit down to do some work in peace, when I spy a couple of monkeys on the roof of the house next door. I forget who I am for a moment and go out to capture some footage, fancying myself an amateur David Attenborough. A monkey clocks me, bare its fangs, and start running in my direction. I scramble inside, dropping my phone in all the excitement. The footage is very Blair Witch Project, all shaky hands and screams of fear, and then the screen goes blank.
I lock the doors, hide all visible edibles, and try to keep a low profile, but the monkeys grow increasingly antagonistic.
Two of them are having a brew-ha-ha, running back and forth along the tin roof and hissing at one another. Another is gorging on something foraged from the bin. I catch his eye, and he drunkenly dares me to look away: ‘I’m proud of what I did and I’d do it again.’
If you’re wondering why I’m deferring to the male pronoun to describe this war-mongering monkey, don’t think it’s not purposeful. I’ve heard the monkeys here are sexist. They can tell the difference between genders and are half as respectful towards women.
Plus, I can tell it’s a fella by the way he’s sticking his face menacingly to the glass and grasping to pry it open. A lady would never do such a thing. I notice an open window up high, mercifully covered by tiny bars. But what if monkeys are like mice, able to squeeze themselves through even the smallest of spaces?
They are mobilising to overthrow their colonial overlords, and it is only a matter of time until they succeed. The night closes in, and with every patter of tiny feet I am certain that come daybreak they will find my skeleton surrounded by banana peels and broken glass from smashed windows. The cause of death will become a riddle for future generations, like Romeo and Juliet found dead in a pool of water and broken glass in a room with an open window.
Photograph reproduced courtesy of the author.
Tara Kenny is a writer and editor whose work has been published in The Guardian, Overland, The Lifted Brow, Catalogue Magazine and numerous other independent publications. She’s currently living in Sri Lanka learning about mysticism, folklore and the Sinhala language. She tweets from @wordsbytara