When I was traveling in Costa Rica, there was one thing I wanted to see above all else.
I wanted nothing but monkeys, lots of monkeys. They’re like little sun-shriveled human babies all hairy from testosterone injections. They’re the animal equivalent to Dennis the Menace, the fauna of frenetic energy, the closest creature to us and yet somehow still cute in a gross sort of way.
I’d never seen a monkey in the wild, and I’d heard good things.
In Costa Rica there were lots of places to see monkeys, apparently. But only one was on my radar: Quepos, the gateway city to the Manuel Antonio National Park. It might be the smallest park in the country, but it was supposed to be the richest in biodiversity.
So I made my way there.
From Quepos I hiked along the highway to the entrance so that I could camp in the jungle.
I had to bushwhack a bit, and ford a small stream. The jungle was thick and full of noises.
On a hill away from the denser foliage I pitched my tent. When night came, so did the howling voices of night creatures. I lay in my tent, listening and sweating. In all my travels, I always wondered how my mind would’ve observed the world had I taken different collegiate routes:
Sleep set in. Tomorrow I’d get to see my monkeys. My sweet, adorable, mischievous, rude monkeys.
Something jolted me awake.
The jungle was eerily quiet. Not a peep from the horny masses. Sweat had me pasted to the sleeping bag so that when I moved, it sounded like I was peeling myself free. What woke me up?
Suddenly there was another jolt, and my tent shook as though someone was yanking the cords. It could only be one thing.
“Hey! Stop it!” I screamed.
For some reason I became an angry Alabaman farmer:
They stopped jolting the tent.
But then it started up again, violently this time. I thought oh crap the monkeys are territorial. I thought they were hungry. I thought they smelled my tortillas. The tent shook like crazy.
“GIT GIT GIT YOU FUCKERS, GET OUTTA HERE YOU MONKEY ASSHOLES!”
The shaking went on for a good 10 seconds straight, all the while I was too nervous to open the tent because as far as they knew there was no way in, and I wasn’t about to give them one.
Then as quick as it began, it stopped.
Not a peep.
No sound whatsoever. I never even heard them wail.
I barely slept the rest of the night, on guard for the next wave of murderous monkey mayhem.
By the time dawn broke through the canopy, I had resolved to get back on the road. I stood with my pack, breathed in the humid air and peered off into the thick bush.
I hiked out and got back on the road.
Later that day I found myself eating a meal of rice, fried plantains, beans and chorizo at a roadside restaurant. A small TV glared in the corner. The news was on. The broadcaster was pointing at a big map with red rings superimposed over it.
I squinted at the epicenter.
The goddamn monkeys was a goddamn earthquake.
Still, the only thing I could think as I furled my brow and ruminated was:
“You win this round monkeys, you win this round.”