Spirit Animal

Och Gonzalez

Philippines

We stare at each other with unblinking intensity, this tiny brown primate and me. I’ve come to the Bohol Tarsier Sanctuary early this morning, a place I know I shouldn’t be in, but my voice isn’t strong enough to override those of the people in my group. 

All around us, tourists are chatting loudly and taking photos. Click, click, click. Flash, flash, flash. I send the tarsier a message – do they not know you loathe them? That sound, and light, and human touch can drive you so insane to the point that you’ll bang your head against your tree until you die? 

The tarsier says nothing. Instead, it goes on staring with eyes as wide as saucers, barely breathing, its long, bulbous fingers gripping a branch ever so tightly. 

On the way out, I spot a sign I’d missed before. It says, “Please observe silence.” As we walk back to our white van, I think about the tarsier’s dead-eyed stare and white-knuckled grip and marvel at how, for all our supposed higher faculties, sometimes we’re the ones who fail to understand.

Och Gonzalez is a Contributor at Panorama.

Och Gonzalez is a freelance writer and editor. Her work in nonfiction has earned a Palanca Award for Literature, as well as 1st Prize in the 2019 Coalition of Texans Against Disabilities’ Writing Competition. Her writing has appeared in Esquire Magazine, Brevity Journal of Literary Nonfiction, Lunch Ticket, and elsewhere. She is one of the featured writers in the craft books “The Practice of Creative Writing” and “Advanced Creative Nonfiction: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology.” She is also the author of “Every Sunday”, a children’s book on deafness and sign language.