“Luna” by Sarah Bensemana

Kenya. 

From the never-ending, dry landscape rose twenty trees in my field of vision. Some were brought down by elephants, but most were left brittle and weak, dying of thirst. It had been my first day in the African Bush and the clouds carefully shielded me from the sun.

#

Friday night dinner. 

The generations sat around the table in soft, sinking chairs. My square-shaped father situated himself at the head with a bible at a thirty-degree angle from his hand. He laughed as he told vulgar stories from his childhood: the constant reprimanding of teachers and his dying need to contest elders.     

And that is when Kayla materialized: the self-deprecating part of myself that I would never truly be able to understand.

#

Zoo. 

As the sun broke free from the morning clouds, the blazing ball of fire seemingly engulfed me. The black pavement warmed my feet, through the soles of my shoes. I hear the cries of a child, a parent, a zookeeper and the gorilla.

#

Award Night.

The evening started nearly twenty minutes ago and I have not yet heard my name. So I guess this is what it is like to be average. To sit here, waiting while seemingly everyone has been called up and congratulated four hundred times. 

Kayla grew short in the past few years, but her presence was nevertheless aversive. She stared at me as she danced in a tribe-like manner. Her deafening screams filled the room, yet no one turned to look at her. 

Why is it that she was not getting any attention?

Why is it that she was looking at me like I was some sort of monster?

#

Kenya.

Kyle, our tour guide with fiery hair he hid under a hat, felt the incessant need to document everything. He insisted that we remain quiet as to not reveal our location. Luna, the lioness, slowly entered the open valley.

#

 Zoo. 

It stared back at me. The only separation between it and I was the tall, rigid glass wall. The glass wall that was tall enough to tower over my father. The glass wall that seemingly rose for miles… 

Perhaps it was not only the gorilla that was enclosed.

#

Friday Night Dinner.

I was filled with joy, surrounded by the bizarrely comforting walls of my childhood home. As soon as anybody walked through the glass door, the light browns and blood reds made it feel as though you were in nature. On the entrance wall hung endless welcome signs in a million different languages. I always found this bizarre since anyone who ever came in only spoke the same three: English, French and Hebrew. Yet, my father bought more and more. 

The walls were once made of cement, but now only glass. My transparent house left nowhere to hide. 

I often wondered if people were watching me.

#

Award Night.

It had been twenty-two minutes, and the secondary four awards were coming to a start. A boy in my class had just been called up for the Awardfor Mathematics, a subject in which he received endless amounts of recognition for minimal amounts of effort. It always came so easy to him.

Kayla grew. 

#

Kenya. 

“Animals are fascinating,” Kyle said.

“Can you fathom how lucky we are to be witnessing this?” he repeated.

“I cannot wait to sell this footage to a documentarist,” he encouraged.

I began to understand the omnipresence of racist colonialism and white peoples’ need to exploit a land and people that is not their own.

#

Award Night. 

“It is with great honour that we grant the award for Scientific Excellence to Rachel Wolf.”

#

Zoo.

I stared deep into the gorilla’s desperate eyes and felt my mother looking back at me. I slowly raised my hand to touch the cold glass. The gorilla started beating against the heavy walls of its enclosure until its hands streamed blood. It yelled and screeched until it sank down. 

Exhausted.

#

Kenya.

The tension was prominent. I felt as though its weight was both pushing down on my chest and forcing the air out of my lungs. I could not breathe. As the two lionesses surrounded the limping cub, Luna followed with silent, soft strides. Despite the deep mating calls of the male behind us, her established confidence radiated through all of us.

#

Award night. 

I ran up there trying to contain my explosive achievement. One would never be able to see it. Unless that one was Kayla.

Only Kayla can see the atoms and compounds of my body exploding and coming back together again. Only Kayla would be able to feel the chemical reactions of endorphins being released into my body. Only Kayla would be able to share this moment with me, yet I could not see her anywhere.

#

Zoo.

A wave of anger came over me. I looked at my father and he became the enemy. The enemy of the gorilla. The enemy of my mother. 

I charged at him and bit into his wrist. I watched the blood stream from his arm.

The gorilla looked back at me.

#

Award Night. 

I held my award close to my stomach like a pillow during a frightening film. 

As I made my way toward my seat, that same boy approached me. All he managed to mutter through his big mouth was that,

“My parents did not think you deserved that award.” 

All of a sudden, that award that I once held so closely, began to suffocate me. It stretched and tightened itself around my lungs like a boa constrictor.

Tighter and tighter. 

#

Kenya.  

I will never be able to understand how two animals of the same species can be programmed with completely disparate mentalities. The male cared for nothing more than establishing his dominance, destroying all of what could never be his. While Luna, covered in scars from battles she fought to protect others, was being punished for a crime that should not exist.

As the male walked toward them, Luna stood still. The sky started raining glass and in her eyes, a reflection of her executioner materialized.


SARAH BENSEMANA is an eighteen-year-old girl who has always had a passion for literature. While she has not shared her work with many people as she find her writing to be very personal, she hopes that her audience can find some comfort, intrigue and familiarity within her short story, “Luna.”