“The Rainforest Room is just up here, let’s go!” Skye skipped, her long breezy skirt swishing.
She caught my hand and tugged me along. I blushed with pleasure.
Opening the door to the Rainforest Room was like stepping into a steamy, animal-musk filled sauna: Hot. Moist. Pungent. Noisy. Somewhere, Macaws cawed, monkeys screeched, and humans chattered, their voices echoing off the walls and high ceiling in the huge building. In between the vast and various animal enclosures, the building was stuffed to the brim with realistic, plastic recreations of rainforest trees, bushes, and other plants. It felt like we were actually in a rainforest. Immediately to the left of the doors was a display of panels with pictures, explaining why the rainforest was so important, why it was endangered, and ways we could help save it.
At the end of the panel display stood two mobile carts. One was a small refreshment stand filled with ice and chilled drinks. Behind it sat a young, dark skinned woman on a stool. Her whole being just radiated pure Rasta. Dreadlocks have never appealed to me; I cringed a little behind Skye. The young woman wore a green t-shirt with the Zoo’s logo on it and khaki uniform shorts and shoes. The other cart was piled high with merchandise on display, mostly stuffed animals and t-shirts with cartoon zoo animals on them. Most of the shirts were small, kid-sized, but some underneath those lurked some larger ones; maybe for older siblings or matching parent-child outfits. Stuff that would appeal to little kids, who in turn would beg their parents for the goodies; smart advertising.
Skye’s eyes lit up when she saw the female worker. “Kadija!” She hollered, rushing over. She held my hand, so I was dragged along. The worker immediately perked up from her bored, half asleep slouch.
“Skye!” She waved back, all bright white smiles. I groaned softly; one of Skye’s on-campus pot head friends. Figures, just my luck one of them would have a job out here. “Got that bag I told you about? Good! Save your coupons, these ones are on the house. I still owe you for letting me copy on that test. “
She plucked two plastic bottled beverages from the ice, handing both to Skye, who passed one to me. Skye opened hers and drank while she chatted with her friend. I just held the cold bottle in my hand, staring. Part of me was appalled at them for cheating on a test, but another part was just resigned. Of course, Skye would not see it as cheating on a test; she was just helping a friend out. And now that friend was paying her back by giving her free drinks without taking the coupon. Nothing shady going on here. Sure.
“Gavin, try it. It’s really good.” Skye reached over and opened up my bottle, deftly twisting the cap off.
“So this is Gavi-poo?” Kadija leaned forward on the cart to get a better look at me. “Skye, you’re right. He is a little cutie.”
I blushed at her assessment, looking down and quickly raised the bottle to my lips. I froze when I read the label. “Baby Formula?” I quickly held it as far away from me as I could, as if it had morphed into a venomous snake. I glanced at Skye’s; hers read “Mother’s Milk”. “Is this some kind of sick joke? It’s not funny!” My cheeks burned and I glared at the two girls.
Skye laughed but Kadija snorted, rolling her eyes like she thought I was over reacting. That made me feel like a small child throwing a tantrum. “It’s a marketing ploy. Goes with the whole “Mom and Cub Day” thing. It’s a new product some company paid the zoo big wigs to test drive or something. I don’t know; I’m just paid to sell it. The Mother’s Milk is good, I’ve had it. Dumb name, but tasty stuff. Also healthy. It has….” Kadija looked down at a little plastic card. “Nutrients, vitamins. Probiotics? Lactotics? Whatever that science-y shit is. It’s healthy and tastes good. That’s all you really need to know.”
Skye already had her milk half gone. “It’s kinda creamy, like a vanilla milkshake. Forget the name; it’s probably still in beta phase.” I rolled my eyes at her use of gaming terminology. I still wouldn’t drink something called ‘Baby Formula’. That was way too humiliating to even contemplate.
“It’s just a name. Get over it, Gavi-poo.” Kadija rolled her eyes at me again. I glared at her, my cheeks red. I hated how she took Skye’s lovey-dovey nickname and turned it into a degrading insult.
“Umm...I’m not crazy about the name, either. But it is really, really tasty.” A second vendor spoke up. “Once you umm... try it, you won’t even worry about the… uhhh.. name... anymore.” he stuttered on nervously. “It really is that good. Even better than those fancy drinks at Starbucks.” My eyes widened at the sight of him. He was young, about my age. He, like Kadija, wore a green t-shirt with the Zoo’s logo on it. He, unlike Kadija, wore a big white diaper plastered with colorful cartoon zoo animals. I thought only the poor clowns were diapered. My eyes shot to the kid oriented merchandise. Maybe that was just part of the promotional package? Poor bastard. He shifted shyly on the stool, the huge diaper crinkling and rustling noisily like a flock of plastic grocery bags.
“Come on, Gavi. Just one tiny sip?” Skye wheedled, taking the bottle out of my hand and holding it up to my lips while staring at me with puppy-dog eyes. Maybe just one sip wouldn’t hurt...and it would get everybody off my back….
“Fine.” I acquiesced. Skye smiled and without waiting for me take hold of the bottle- maybe she thought I would chicken out again- she raised it to my mouth, tilting it. I hurriedly parted my lips as cool, creamy milk rushed in. I had to swallow or it would come out my mouth and dribble all over me like a baby covered in spit up. I had chugged almost half the bottle before she relented.
“Well?” Skye smiled. “I knew you’d like it. I can tell by your face.” She purred in satisfaction. Both vendors stared at me, smiling just as Skye did.
“It….it’s not...that bad…” I grumbled, looking down at my sandals. It was a flavorful explosion of creamy dairy delight. My tastebuds tingled and even my stomach rejoiced. Already, I wanted more. They were right. Make an ice cream flavor out of it and stores would sell out.
“What does yours taste like?” I asked, reaching out to steal a sip. Skye raised her bottle up out of my reach. I lowered my hand, blushing. Even standing on tippy toes, I wouldn’t be able to reach that high up. I pouted up at her.
“No, no Gavi. This is mine. You still have some of yours left. They taste just the same ” Skye added hastily after a pointed look from Kadija.
“You don’t want that stuff, boy,” Kadija said pointing to Skye’s pink bottle of Mother’s Milk. “That stuff is specifically formulated to benefit a woman’s body.”
“Yeah,” Skye hastily added. “Kadija told me it’s supposed to give me easier periods and stuff.”
“And,” Kadija chimed in, “helps with older women going through menopause.” I immediately withdrew my hand from reaching for Skye’s bottle.
“Yours is more like uh..an...an energy drink, if you know what I mean” Kadija grinned and winked at me conspiratorially. Then she smiled big. “It...it really makes you….ahem... get up and go!” she chuckled under her breath. “You crazy kids have fun with that stuff,”
“Wait,” the guy in the diaper said, smiling like an idiot and blushing “do you...do you...uh...do you mean?”
“Kadija,” Skye hissed under breath. I saw her throwing her friend a serious case of side-eye.
The diapered man and I just threw each other unknowing, uncomprehending looks. Holy shit, was I drinking liquid Viagra just now?
“Drink yours all gone and we’ll get some more.” Skye turned to me. “We’ve got all day to enjoy them.”
“Baby Formula….” I muttered, mulling it over with this new information then smiling a little. “It’s like it helps with making babies. So, Baby Formula! I get it now.”
“Yeah, it really helps with making babies” Kadija bit her lip as if trying to hold back laughter.
More people came into the Rainforest Room, forming a line behind us. I tugged on Skye’s hand. She turned and looked. “We’d better get going.” She waved by to Kadija and the diapered vendor boy.fc
“Call me later and let me know how it goes!” Kadija waved as we walked off towards the first Rainforest exhibit.
We rounded a corner, stepping deeper into the jungle. Plastic trees- lifelike, detailed replicas of the many varieties found in the Rainforest- stretched high overhead, their shiny, broad green leaves intertwining to form a canopy. They blocked the harsh artificial light, creating dappled shadows on the cement floor, which had been painted to look like jungle ground. A fresco of brown dirt, twigs, and green grasses paved our way to the first exhibit. Shiny metal plaques told the common name, scientific name and a brief blurb about each rainforest plant represented.
“Feels like we’re in the Jungle Book.” Skye said as soft, plastic fronds gave way to the heavy, smudged glass of a big tank. The walls were painted with jungle scenery. Rocks, dirt, grasses and a small but deep pool of green tinged water filled the bottom of the enclosure. Twisted, heavy barren brown branches and logs took up the rest of the space. Whatever was in here liked to climb; a tree dweller. I glanced down at the information plaque. Green Anaconda, dwells in the tops of trees. One of the largest and heaviest snakes in the world.
Didn’t those kind of snakes eat people? I shivered, stepping back quickly from the glass. I hated snakes. Especially ones large enough to eat people. I recalled horror movies with snakes that did just that. Oh, I really, really hated snakes. I took another step back, eyes wide and glued to the glass, pinging around the thick barren trunks in desperate search of a reptilian body. Where was it? It couldn’t have escaped, could it? My body was stiff, pulse starting to pound. My stomach tightened with nervousness. I suddenly felt the need to pee from my tense bladder.
A flash of movement at the back of the tank, just behind some rocks rimming the small pool, caught my eye. Greenish-brown coils blended in perfectly with the brown branches, dirt, rocks and vegetation. The snake was coiled up at the back of the big tank, it’s body thicker and wider than my thigh. Nature’s deadly camouflage at its finest. I shivered again, slumping against a sturdy, decorative plastic tree trunk as my body went slack with relief. I blushed, feeling ridiculous. Okay, so I was a little anxiety prone. So what? Skye still liked me despite it. My bladder relaxed, the urgency to urinate receding.
“BOO! I’M KAA, AND I’M GONNA EAT YOU!” Skye hollered behind me, fingers jabbing into my sides. I jumped and screamed, a high pitched little EEP. My slack bladder tensed; I had to go again, bad. Like a little kid who pees their pants when frightened. I clamped down hard, slamming the gate on the potential flood. Skye’s laughter echoed in my ears.
“Skye! It’s NOT funny!” I glared at her, huffing in annoyance. She can be so juvenile sometimes. She knows about my herpetophobia, my fear of reptiles and amphibians. Hey, if you grew up with a stepdad who thought it hilarious to wake you up by throwing a rubber snake in your bed you’d have a few mental scars from the experience, too. I never told her about that; I was too ashamed. But she knew about my deep fear.
“I’m-hah-s-haha-sorry.” She sputtered, choking on suppressed laughter. “I….ahha..you were just...hehe...so damn cute. I..haha...couldn’t resist...heh…”. Her arms slipped around me, pulling my shorter, tense body to hers as she enfolded me in a warm embrace. My face pressed into her bony shoulder. The soft, feminine musk of her perfume enveloped me in a sensual cloud mingling with the apple scent from her shampoo. She rubbed my back, kissing the top of my head. Her body shook with amusement; slowly her laughter died down to quiet chuckles. I stayed stiff and unyielding as she smothered me like a python. I shivered, then shifted my weight to my other foot as my bladder protested the movement. I didn’t really have to pee, not yet; but I would have to find a bathroom soon. It had been a long drive, and I hadn’t gone since we left my place.
“Gavin. Baby. I’m sorry. I got carried away.” That was part of the problem; Skye always got carried away, drifting on the winds of life. Live in the moment. Consequences be damned. That attitude was what had, in part, attracted me to her in the first place. And she really was sorry; I could hear the apology in her voice, in her soft caresses and tender kisses. I relaxed a little but kept quiet, basking in the attention. Hey, if she could have fun at the expense of my phobia, then I could milk this moment.
“I’m really sorry. I won’t do it again. Gavi-poo. My sweet baby.” Skye cooed, voice soft as a lullabye. A warm feeling blossomed in my stomach and I relaxed even more. She began to sway side to side, rocking me gently. I relaxed even more, leaning against her and letting her support some of my weight. She took it willingly, easily, as if I weighed no more than a bird. I wasn’t a heavy guy, but I wasn’t that light, was I? Maybe she was just that strong?
Her hand slipped under my shirt and a jolt of pleasure shot through me at the contact of skin on skin. Her hand was warm, slightly calloused from pole dancing as it skimmed over my back, rubbing soothing circles and drawing little designs. She felt me relax, her touch light as a hummingbird’s wing. I sighed happily, my resistance fully crumbling. I hid my face against her shoulder to hide my little, contented smile. “It’s….it’s alright…” I mumbled out, voice muffled by her shoulder. Her skin was warm and soft under my cheek; I could feel her muscles and bones shifting with every small movement.
“I love you, Gavi-poo! My sweet baby.” She hugged me tight at my whispered words. Her small breasts pressed into my chest and I blushed even more as blood rushed south and something stirred in my pants. She either didn’t notice or chose to ignore it; this was not sexy time, this was comfort time. Still, I’d take whatever I could get.
“I love you too.” I whispered back, my voice softer, more demure than her happy squeal. I forgave her, so all was right in her world again. I sighed, wishing my life could be so simple.
“Aww, how cute! I wish you’d be that cuddly.” I cracked my eyes open at the unfamiliar female voice. A woman with mousy brown hair slopped up in a stylishly scruffy bun and limbs long and pale, built like a gazelle, watched us with what looked like envy in her eyes. She pretended to look at the Anaconda, but I felt her gaze on me and Skye as she talked down to the little Asian boy tugging on the hem of her sunny yellow sundress. An apple red balloon was tied to the boy’s’ thin wrist; it bounced in the air with his tugging motions.
Huh, that’s weird. Maybe the little boy was adopted? She was cracker white, Caucasian through and through; he was Asian. Chinese? Japanese? I couldn’t tell, but definitely Asian and not from her womb. I studied them through the veil of Skye’s colorful braids covering most of my face. She was still occupied with rocking me and rubbing my back. So warm and comforting; I felt so loved, and after the scare I’d had, I was in no rush to relinquish this moment.
“But, I gotta go potty.” The Asian boy whined, then frowned. He spoke plain English; no Asian accent. Just a toddler’s cute lisp. “Potty.” His lips puckered some more, as if he didn’t like the sound of the word. “Baffwoom! I gotta go baffwoom!” He tugged pleadingly on his mom’s skirt, a desperate little boy trying hard to sound grown up while insisting he has a potty emergency.
“Shh. We just got here. A moment ago you were whining to see the froggies. Now you wanna potty.” She sighed, shaking her head and taking his hand firmly in hers. “You can hold it until we’re done in here. Then I’ll take you potty.” She held a gift bag just like Skye’s. Two bottles, just like the drinks we’d been given, poked out of the bag’s top. She pulled him along, vanishing behind some thick, leafy bushes that jutted out between animal displays. The boy grabbed his pants with his free hand, doing the potty dance. “Baffwoom!” he whined as she dragged him along, his pleas falling on deaf ears.
“We should get going, too.” Skye stepped back, the warmth of her body melting into the warmth of the humid air as she pulled away from me. I sighed a little in disappointment. She took my hand in hers once more and tugged gently while I followed. She gave me a reassuring smile and a peck on the cheek. “Don’t worry, baby. I won’t let any more snakes scare you.” She teased with a wink and I pouted, blushing and looking away.
“Here, you look kinda thirsty.” Skye handed me my partially drunk bottle of Baby Formula. I still blushed at the name, but now that I knew what it was for, it wasn’t that bad. And the drink really was so good I didn’t care much about some stupid product name. She had already taken the cap off before she passed it to me. I drank, distracted, while she led the way, tugging me along by my hand. I let her go first; that way, if there were any more snakes lurking about, we could avoid a full-blown panic attack.
A huge case of preserved butterflies hung from the wall, framed by information plaques and more imitation-jungle plants. We stood, doing more staring than reading. Some of the butterflies were huge; I didn’t know they could get so big. Giant snakes, giant butterflies; was there Miracle Grow in the rainforest or something? There was the beautiful cerulean blue Morpho butterfly, the pretty black and yellow Swallowtail, the pale pinkish-purple Saturn, and the bright green Goliath Birdwing. It was the second largest butterfly in the world. The largest was also there; the Queen Alexandra Birdwing, with a wingspan of up to a foot. Can you imagine something that huge fluttering past? They were pretty, but I think I liked them better preserved and under glass.
Skye oohed and ahhed over the pretty colors and wing patterns, occasionally sipping from her own bottle, while I quietly drank from mine and read the different plaques.
After that came more reptiles like the giant green iguana. I didn’t mind those so much; one of my friends has a pet iguana named Daenerys, who likes to ride around on his shoulder, and she’s never bitten him, even when he feeds her lettuce right out of his hand. I’ve never been able to work up the nerve to hold her, or even pet her, but thinking of Daenerys made this iguana seem not so bad. It was actually kinda cool.
The chameleon was an odd little critter; Skye thought it was cute. I thought it was just weird. Then again, Skye was weird, too. I just shook my head as we moved on. More snakes; those Skye quickly pulled me past before I could give anything more than a quick glance. Next came the small rainforest mammals. Several species of bats were on display, their exhibits mimicking caves and other natural environments. They were numerous, noisy, and extra smelly. Skye exclaimed she wanted one for a pet. I pointed out their smell; she just waved a dismissive hand. “When babies make poo-poos, it’s always smelly, no matter the species.” She smiled at me as she said it, like she knew some secret that I didn’t. I frowned, getting ready to argue the stink wasn’t just from baby-bat guano. Bats stunk, period.
I was much more relaxed in the mammal section, but Skye still kept tugging me close whenever I’d try to drift off to examine some new animal, like the weird, bug-eyed furry little Tarsier. Walking in the rampant humidity took its toll on us. We were barely through the huge exhibit, our bottles were empty, and we were thirsty again. After the small mammals, we came to the aviary section. At the entrance to this was another drink vendor. The zoo sure made their money on beverages in the Rainforest Room. Skye redeemed her coupon for free drinks here.
“Sure, little lady. What strength?” The smiling vendor said. He had glasses, a trimmed black goatee, a green t-shirt with the Zoo’s logo on it, and a big safari animal themed diaper. I blushed at that, edging behind Skye.
“Oh, toddler for him.” Skye casually said as she handed over the coupon. I barely listened to what she said. My eyes were wide, glued to the smiling cartoon animals on the diaper. He seemed way too comfortable in it for my taste. I knew it was rude to stare, that the poor bastard was just doing his humiliating job. I tried to look away, really I did, but my eyes kept straying back to it. What did it feel like? I heard it crinkle with every move the vendor made. It looked so thick. How many wettings could it take? Did all that thirsty padding make it comfortable? It looked comfortable…..a small, curious part of me wanted to ask about it. I bit my lip. I couldn’t stop staring, but I could stop myself from opening up my big, fat, secret-exposing mouth. Still, the questions lingered on my tongue and brain, prodding me to open up.
The vendor caught me staring; he just smiled in an all-too knowing way. Could he read my mind? Did he know what I was thinking? Shame washed over me and I hid behind Skye, again grateful for her tall height. “So, are you two enjoying your visit?” He asked casually as he handed the drinks over to Skye since she was in front of me. She opened mine yet again then passed me the opened bottle while she thanked the vendor and drank from hers.
“We just got here not too long ago. I’m looking forward to this afternoon.” Skye smiled, anticipation in her voice, her eyes lighting up. I drank deeply; walking in the humid, almost suffocatingly damp air made me very thirsty. A small glimmer of suspicion curdled in my stomach. Skye was up to something….she wanted to take our relationship to the next level...she wanted me to move in with her…. Did she want me to marry her? Was she going to propose? My heart skipped a beat and I felt light headed and dizzy. Wasn’t the guy supposed to propose to the girl? Leave it to Skye to chuck the status-quo out the window. I felt rushed, nervous, my guts churning. Was this too fast? Too soon? Would I say yes? Of course I would. Marry Skye. Ride the wild wind, Gavin.
“Ah, the fun’s just starting then. Enjoy your day here!” The vendor called, looking right at me as he chuckled. Lost in my own thoughts and swirling emotions, I ignored him.
I took a deep, steadying breath as Skye tugged me along through the open doors into the Rainforest Aviary. The noise level exploded through the roof with the chatter and shrill cries of colorful birds as they hopped around their vast cages. As we watched the brightly billed Toucans and neon and teal Quetzals, a growing need filled my bladder, aching for release. Was there a bathroom somewhere in this manufactured jungle?
“Skye?” I tugged on her hand. “I need to go the bathroom.”
She didn’t respond right away, too busy staring at a beautiful tropical bird. “Hm? You gotta potty?”
I let go of her fingers. “I’m going to find a bathroom.” She didn’t let go of mine, tugging me back to her side. My bladder ached; I bend over slightly to relieve the pressure, my legs pressing together.
“Skye!” I cried desperately.
“Okay, okay sweetie. I’ll take you potty.” I barely registered what she said, too focused on my bladder ready to burst.
For once, I led the way, taking charge; my only goal was the nearest toilet. Skye lagged behind, tugging on my arm and slowing me down. My bladder twinged; my free hand grabbed at my crotch, trying to hold back the inevitable flood. I didn’t expect the drinks to catch up with me that fast.
“Skye?!” I whined, tugging on her hand, trying to make her hurry up. Why was she going so slow?
“Gavi-kins, slow down, baby. You’re going to fall, and I can’t read the signs when you keep tugging like that.” She said, so calm and matter of fact, like she thought I could hold it until she found the bathrooms.
“Skye!” I cried, shaking her hand off. I couldn’t deal with this now. I had to urinate, badly. What part of that didn’t she understand?
“We have to find the potty so you can go, honey.” Skye explained in the patient tone you’d use with a toddler. She snagged my fingers, tugging me back to her again, forcing me to go at her pace. Slowing me down.
The need to go grew with every step. This was now a bathroom emergency. My stomach ached with my need for release. “Skye!” I tried to break away again, but she gripped me tightly, forcing me to slow down. Her words made sense, but I didn’t have time for that. I needed a potty NOW. “”I REALLY gotta go!”
“I know, baby. Hush. Ah, here we go. This way.” She made an immediate left into the amphibian room, suddenly in front of me and taking control. She tugged me along, forcing me to slow down. I paid no attention to the people or displays we hurriedly past. They were just tall and small blurs, the displays and decorative plants green blurs. She still didn’t move fast enough. I tried to surge ahead as my bladder twitched and spasmed painfully. I gripped my crotch tighter and bit my lip with my effort to hold back the yellow tide bearing down on my poor bladder.
“Skye! Hurry!” I pleaded. Her grip was iron; she practically crushed my fingers as I tried once more to pull away. I winced. I couldn’t break away from her, but I needed to rush. As we left the amphibian room, we heard the sound of running water. A small spurt almost squeezed out; I squeezed my pants hard, whimpering. It took all I had to clamp down on the leak. “Skye.” I whined, voice squeaking in desperate fear and pleading.
“Gavi-kins, shush. We’re almost there.” Skye slowed, forcing me to slow as well. We passed a jungle themed seating area with yet another group of vendors. There was a drink cart and a snack cart. Plastic tropical flowers in bright pinks , oranges, and reds bloomed all around us. Broad, shiny green plastic leaves swayed in the moist air, stirred by the small fountain that merrily splashed down into a pond full of bright orange and white koi fish.
I could’ve peed myself right there. My knees buckled as my bladder twitched painfully. I whimpered loudly. I bit hard on my lower lip, teeth pressing into the soft flesh and sending waves of pain out in contrast with the pain and urgency of my bladder. It distracted me, just a little, from my need to pee. Gave me the edge I needed to keep from wetting myself.
“Here’s the potty, baby. We made it just in- oh.” Skye’s reassuring coo fell flat. Her hand tightened around mine; she helped me stand up. If it wasn’t for her hold on me, I’d have collapsed to the floor in a yellow puddle. Something in her tone brought me up short. I was almost trembling in anticipated relief but the abrupt cut off of her words jerked my head up.
Just ahead were the restrooms. Closed for repairs. CLOSED. All three bathrooms- men’s, women’s and family. Yes, I was so damn desperate I’d have pissed in the women’s toilet. Better there than in my pants. Sadly though, it looked as though I was running out of options.