From the book, “Sex, drugs and Junior High.”
“I love you Manta Ray,” Monkey swooned.
“I love you too Monkey,” cooed the Manta Ray as she looked at him with an easy smile.
Never had a love been so strong, so determined as the young love that existed between Monkey and the Manta Ray.
Now Monkey was not actually a monkey at all, he was a Silky Lemur. His name happened to be Monkey on account that’s what his parents named him. He spent the bulk of his childhood and most of his adolescents explaining to others he’d meet, the entirety of the matter. “Well, see I may look like a monkey, walk like a monkey and am often mistaken to be a monkey, but the fact is I’m a Silky Lemur whose name happens to be, Monkey. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover and all ya know?” he tirelessly clarified, always with eternal hope for acceptance. At most usually he’d get a blank stare halfway into his rant. After his time and effort spent qualifying his name and lineage, his reward was typically reduced to someone chiming, “Ah, you’re just a good old monkey aren’t you!” But the Manta Ray knew exactly who and what Monkey was.
The two lived on the coast of Madagascar in a blue lagoon, Monkey on land and the Manta Ray in the water. It was a curious event when the two met, when their worlds collided if you will. See, Monkey, being a Silky Lemur was land based. The Manta Ray lived her entire life in the sea, she could not survive on land, just as Monkey would perish in the water.
Monkey, being the dreamer of a Lemur that he was, got enthralled by a floating feather one day. It was a small, colorful, lofty feather that hung in the air above his head. He swatted at the feather and it danced in the swish of air. He’d get under the feather and as is it descended near his face, blow the greatest puff of air he could so to have it flying high once again.
This went on for some time before Monkey realized he was nearing the beach. The water is dangerous for a Silky Lemur, they can’t swim and they’re a favorite appetite for the local crocodiles. A breeze caught the feather Monkey was playing with and unwilling to break focus from his joy, he soon found himself in the lagoon. Upon this realization he was immediately alarmed and turned his view to the clear water he was standing in.
“AAhhh!” He screamed as he noticed a blurry but real figure in the water below him.
“I don’t wanna get eaten by a crocodile,” he wailed while running to shore. Once on solid ground he turned around to eyeball his nemesis of the ankle-deep H2O.
There were no gnashing big teeth from a croc chomping at him at all, but a beautiful pair of dark green, jewel like, eyes staring at him from right below the water’s surface.
“Oh, you’re no crocodile at all, you’re just a Stingray.” He said sheepishly.
“Manta Ray, I’m a Manta Ray not a Stingray,” she confidently clarified.
“Sorry, I stand corrected.” His lips curled up as he realized how beautiful the Manta Ray was. She effortlessly floated on the surface and swam near to Monkey.
“That was so cute, watching you.” She delighted.
“Okay, let me have it. I screamed and ran like a little girl. I ran out of the water like we had a tsunami coming. I’m the goofy guy who’s name nobody can understand. Here it comes,” Monkey bemoaned.
“No, that’s not it at all. I was watching you when you were playing with that feather, it was really cute.” She batted her beautiful dark eyes.
“Right, cuz that’s what I’m totally going for, cuteness.” He pouted.
“Okay, if you don’t like being cute, how about adorable. I found you adorable.”
Monkey blushed and was intrigued by the vision of loveliness before him.
“My name is Monkey, what’s your name?”
“I don’t have a name; I am what I am. I am a Manta Ray, call me Manta Ray.”
“No name huh? Well that sure would make things a lot easier. Wow, that’s really smart, not having a name. You know how much energy I’d save by not having a name. How is it you’re so smart anyway?
She coyly shrugged. “Besides, I wasn’t laughing at you running from the water, it’s only natural, you’re a Silky Lemur. Of course, you want to avoid water, same as I avoid the ground you’re standing on. I was watching you with that feather, that’s what was adorable.”
She playfully splashed him with water. They both laughed with excited heart beats.
“What were you thinking of when you were blowing that feather?” She asked with earnest interest. “You looked like you were completely lost in its simplicity. Like you couldn’t take your eyes off of it had you wanted.”
“I couldn’t… Take my eyes off it that is. I really wasn’t thinking, I guess. I’ve been told I’m a dreamer who gets distracted easily. I hear it from my Dad all the time, you gotta get focused Monkey, it’s time to start taking life seriously… Look at your little sister Giraffe, she’s already thinking of collage! Blah, blah, blah.” He mockingly rolled his eyes. “I love my folks but sometimes, aahhhh!” He curled his paws up to the sky with his outstretched arms.
“I know,” she agreed. “But if you weren’t a dreamer you wouldn’t have ended up in the water and if that didn’t happen, then we wouldn’t have met,” she said turning his frown right-side up.
“That’s right!” He beamed. “And I think you’re terrific, so; here’s to dreamers,” he proclaimed with a twinkle in his Silky Lemur toes. When Manta Ray said she thought he was terrific too, a warm goodness in his belly joined his twinkling piggies.
After a long afternoon together in the lagoon they each had to get back to their clan, Monkey’s in the jungle and Manta Ray’s in the sea.
“I don’t know Monkey, sounds like a real strange name, Manta Ray. I’ve never heard of a girl called Manta Ray. I mean, it’s the name for a sea creature not a name for a land-based animal like a lemur.” Said Monkey’s best friend, Martin Worthington, another young lemur in his clan. Martin Worthington was loyal to Monkey but it was his nature to be skeptical and very anxious. He was a tightly wound Silky Lemur.
“That’s not her name, that’s what she is. And I don’t care, strange or not, I like Manta Ray.” Monkey fumed.
“A Manta Ray, a Manta Ray? You got a girlfriend and she’s a Manta Ray, are you serious Monkey. Your Dad’s gonna kill you. You can’t have a Manta Ray as a girlfriend. That would never work!” Martin protested nervously. Eternally practical, Martin the Silky Lemur knew nothing of dreams, he focused on how he appeared, his image was his concern. He would never throw caution to the wind; he was practical to a fault.
After a short while word spread to the guys in Monkey’s neighborhood. When they heard of Monkey’s girlfriend, the Manta Ray, they ridiculed him mercilessly. “Hey Monkey, how’s your girlfriend the fish!”
“Manta Ray, how could you possibly like a monkey, or a lemur or whatever the heck he is. You could have any manta ray in the sea. You are the smartest, most beautiful, interesting Ray in the entire ocean! Good golly what are you thinking girl.” One of her girlfriends cried. And it didn’t stop there. Once others heard the gossip about her new beau, the Manta Ray got unprovoked disparaging glances from the other girls in school. In fact, she got the stink eye from many judgmental older adults as well.
Blossoming love shielded the two from the unapproving sentiment of others. At least for a little while.
The pressure really heated up when their folks determined theirs was not a passing fad. Monkey and the Manta Ray were both decidedly heartsick in love. They had to tell white lies in order to meet each other at the edge of the lagoon. There the two would walk, flipper in paw, at the very edge of the blue lagoon, where their worlds merged. Monkey would compromise and fearlessly walk in the shallows, and the Manta Ray would swim in as little water as possible, feeling the gravely sand under her belly. They talked for hours about anything and everything. The edge of the lagoon, this new world for the two of them, was their paradise, it was there they discovered united, exquisite bliss.
“I forbid you to see him anymore!” The Manta Ray’s father demanded.
“Monkey, you are going to stop wasting your time with that fish and I’m gonna help you find a part-time job.” Monkey’s Dad insisted while pounding his paw on a coconut husk tabletop.
That evening the two secretly met at the waters edge, each lamenting their impending doom of separation. The heat from their parents was foreboding, they were determined to keep Manta Ray and Monkey apart.
“Why can’t anyone see that we’re happy, we’re in love. Why care if we have differences. Everybody’s stupid.” Monkey immaturely blurted.
Manta Ray was quietly calculating her thoughts.
“Just stupid,” Monkey emphasized.
“If others saw us from a distance…” she thought out loud. “We would be the same.”
“Others see our differences because they’re so close to us, physically close. Most see a Silky Lemur when they see you, and when they look at me, they see a Manta Ray. They see what we are, they don’t see who we are. If I were a lemur or you were a manta ray there would be no discord from our friends and family. But, if someone sees us from real far away, they’ll see our similarities.” The Manta Ray whimsically said.
“How far do they have to be before they would see our likeness and love? Monkey curiously wondered.
“I don’t know. But if someone stood on the African coast and saw us they may see us as Madagascar Ans. If someone saw us from North America, they would see two Africans. If someone saw us from the moon Monkey, they would only see two Earthlings. We would be almost the same.
“What if we were on the moon, would people say we’re Moonies? He gaily asked. She affectionately smiled. “Manta Ray, what if we were out beyond the Moon, what if we were in space, others would only know us at Milky Way’ers. Up there nobody would know a Silky Lemur from a Manta Ray, isn’t that right? They would only know us as being the same, you know. Funny, down here nobody knows a Silky Lemur from a Monkey.”
“That’s a dreamy thought Monkey; us together forever, exactly as we are, accepted for who we are.” The Manta Ray sighed.
“How can we get up there Manta Ray?” Monkey pointed to the sky.
“When we leave this place Monkey, when we pass on to our next phase of existence.”
“Leave the lagoon?” he stumbled in thought.
“When we leave this life Monkey. When we are free.”
With stars in each of their eyes and love and hope in their hearts, Monkey and the Manta Ray knew what had to be done. They were compelled to be free at that moment. And after a soft kiss and affectionate hug, with flippers and paws, Monkey walked into the sea while Manta Ray worked herself further and further onto shore.
“I’ll see you soon Manta Ray,” Monkey called from chest high water. “I love you Manta Ray!” Up there we’ll be perfect.” Monkey called from the now, chin high water. He was transfixed on the sky above and beyond.
Working her way further onshore, with the last store of her breath she called to Monkey and said, “I love you too Monkey, up there we’ll be beautiful together, forever.”