Day 361: Having a Hippo Picnic
So Linda and I have ourselves a lovely little picnic on Lake Naivasha to the sounds of hippos laughing. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
Daily Updates are not edited and function more as daily journal entries – so if the plot seems to be all over the place or missing entirely and the tenses changes faster than a kaleidoscope, well, that's just the way it is.
WE WAKE together in the morning.
“I'm going to give my German Princess a completely nonsexual massage,” I tell Linda as we lay on a narrow bed in our empty dorm room.
“Let me get the oil.”
It's not so early anymore. We were up at dawn yesterday to watch the hippos, but today we slept in.
The cold has solidified our low-quality coconut oil, which comes out as a paste as I squeeze it onto my hands and begin to give Linda a massage.
Her skin is soft and warm beneath my hands. I tuck a blanket across her torso and bottom as I move down to her legs.
A few minutes after the massage is done, she's fallen into a deep, peaceful sleep. I'm not tired, but I'm afraid to move. Afraid to wake her.
I lay there, allowing her head to use one of my arms as a pillow. It's a privileged to know someone trusts you enough – feels so safe around you – that they can drift off to sleep like she has.
Linda doesn't wake up until 11 am.
“It's perfect,” she says, with a dreamy smile.
“I'm going to head to the bar for a coffee and to do some writing,” I say.
Linda says she'll join me in five minutes if she can't fall back asleep.
I order a French press coffee. Linda hasn't arrived by the time it's arrived. I rush pressing it, delighted to be able to bring her a mug of coffee. Ordering another for myself on the way out, I make my way back to our room.
Linda is naked, curled up next to the window, sitting in the soft blue light from outside. I can hear her speaking German to her boyfriend.
She quickly puts down her phone when I walk in.
“What are you doing here?” she asks, as if I've somehow come back to sabotage her video date.
“Bringing you a coffee.”
I search for a place to the mug down.
“And I wanted to take a quick shower,” I add.
When I return, Linda's gone back to her video call.
Time slowly ticks by as I work in the common area with a coffee. I try not think about Linda as I work. Try not to think why her five-minute endeavor has turned into the better part of an hour.
Linda's wearing makeup, short pink shorts, and a thin shirt when she joins me.
There's something strange on her face, as if she's balancing a kaleidoscope of emotions, unsure of how to turn things, unsure which one should be expressed.
“Skype sex with the boyfriend?” I ask.
There's the slightest confirmation from her as I make room on the cushioned cuby we've claimed. I keep my distance as I work. I can feel her eyes on my face from time to time. I can feel them looking up, but I don't meet them. I work.
This isn't the first time I've wondered what the fuck I'm doing. It's not the first time that I've had to come to terms with the fact that in some ways I'm simply a prop in some game between the two of them.
She leans in for kisses, but my head turns. Her lips only find a cheek time and time again.
“I spoke with my mom. He brought her flowers yesterday,” she says. Yesterday was Mother's Day.
What a solid dude. I guess we get to an age where we start getting good at all these things if we really care. He's 35 years old. He really cares.
“Do you want to eat your Silly Boy up and leave nothing left for anyone else,” I ask, finally turning my face so I can feel her lips, her tongue, her breath.
She gives me an impish grin.
It's frustrating to know that all I have to do is pull away to make her want me; that it's part of a rhythm. Of course, it isn't always like this, but she comes on so strong when she sees me fading away.
The entire day slips away as we lounge around the common area, neither of us in a rush to anywhere in particular.
“I'm glad we stayed an extra day,” I say, pulling Linda close – we'd considered leaving this morning.
I can't seem to get enough of Linda: her fingers intertwined with mine; her body brushing against me as we walk along the lake; her eyes telling me stories she hasn't put into words yet.
“Should we go down to the lake for our sunset hippo picnic?” I ask.
here's a clearing in a thicket of papyrus where all that is left of a tree is a flat stump, the perfect table. About 60 meters further down, around the tall, encroaching presence of the papyrus we spot a hippo.
This hippo, unlike the ones barely breaking the surface of the lake, is standing on a swath of short grass. Its heavy jaw swings open as its face smacks dips into the green, audibly ripping up thousands of blades of grasses up by the roots.
Hippos are most dangerous when they are out of the water. Well, probably more dangerous when you are between them and their offspring. So, second most dangerous when they are out of the water.
We edge closer and closer to the stumpy-legged beast. Two men on the other side of an electric fence stand about four or five meters away from the animal. I creep closer and closer with my camera.
“I'm done,” Linda says. “Let's go eat.”
“You go back. I'm going to try to get closer for a better picture,” I say.
Linda returns to our stump.
This hippos has come to shore a little before dusk to feed. Photos: Isaac Stone Simonelli
I continue to edge closer. Ever since learning about the deadly power of these chilled out water dwellers when I studied abroad in West Africa, I've been fascinated by them.
This is my first chance to get so close to one out of the water.
In a swift burst of energy the hippo charges toward me. I drop to the ground and slip below the lowest wire of the electrical fence, my heart thundering in my ears.
It was feigning.
It had no real intentions of charging all the way over to me and tearing me to pieces, but its point was clear: if it wanted to catch me, it could.
In fact, even now, if it wanted to it could, as apparently the electric fence isn't turned on yet.
A few photographs later, I return to Linda.
Warm light from the setting sun pours out across the lake, kissing our makeshift picnic table. The grass in the clearing runs right down into the muck and water hyacinth, where the ground is broken and mushed by the heavy footfalls of hippos who came out to graze last night.
BBQ chicken wings with blue cheese sauce and a quesadilla with guacamole sit on the flat tree stump next to our blanket. Additionally, we have a few local fruits and what's left of our box of win.
And, of course, there is Louis who goes everywhere with my German Princess. She gave the name of our fictional unborn son to the dog, while now insisting on the fictional unborn baby in her little belly is Mona. Under normal circumstances or normal mental states, there would be several red flags about this situation. However, in our little world, it's simply another way to show that we care.
It wasn't until later in the night, long after the sun has set, that Linda tells me that she hadn't told her boyfriend that we were sleeping together until today. Yes, he'd already signed off on it, but that's different than being told what was happening.