Before leaving for Congo in late August, I vowed to my friends and myself that I wouldn’t just survive Congo, I would conquer it. To prove it, I would hunt down a monkey, look it in the eye, and punch it. If you have to ask why, then you could never understand.
Weeks went by in Congo without me seeing a single damned singe. Even Chad had more monkeys. Driving from Dungu to meet an Indonesian army contingent hacking a road through the jungle, I glimpsed a troop of baboons darting by. The Indonesians told me they had kept a monkey as a pet. A dog bit it and it died. The baboons, they said, are a terror. They jump into the road in front of bike couriers, causing awful accidents. Leaving the Indonesians, I was even more determined to show a monkey what-for.
Two weeks later, still no monkeys. I had resigned myself to just kicking a lizard when, on my last afternoon in Kinshasa, I happened across these two tiny monkeys in a cage at a roadside barber’s stand. I balled my fists. “They’re not mean,” the proprietor said. He was right: the little guys were more scared than petulant. There they were, in perfect punching range … and I just couldn’t do it. Congo might be the third-worst place in the world, but it’s not the monkeys’ fault.
Surprisingly, no one tried to sell me the monkeys.