The barber says he’s been listening to music by Bonobo. He adds, ‘Bonobos are my favourite animal’. The barber might be in his late thirties. Among the cluster of customers and colleagues in the small barber shop he’s a dominating presence . He wears serried earrings, his bright blue eyes gleam as he snips and trims and talks. His voice booms from the depths of the shop. All in the shop can listen in and enjoy his witty and erudite monologues. Invariably I do.
Greg – for lack of better knowledge I call him that I my mind – has a stoop, a marked forward hunching of his upper spine called kyphosis. I wonder about the voice; is Greg deaf? Beyond the earrings he wears no visible ear prosthetic. No matter the cause Greg speaks audibly and entertainingly. For the duration of my trim Greg’s subject is monkeys. The previous client (I believe that is the correct term) received a Ted talk on the football draft. My successor will hear Greg on the structural instability of the Chinese stockmarket.
‘Bonobos’, says Greg, ‘Are identical to chimpanzees but they are separated from the chimps by the Congo River. The Congo is a great river’ (who knew that?) ‘so the separation is complete. Unlike the chimps, who live in a patriarchal society, a monarchy in fact, the Bonobos are matriarchal. The chimps are fascists and the bonobos are hippies. They practise free love while the chimps – the young bucks – will kill for fun. Chimps use tools, the bonobo use sex, a sedative upon the male, whom the females fuck into a state of blissful passivity. No competition, no aggression, they live on lotus. Unlike the chimps who’ll eat meat the bonobo is a vegan. No meat, no aggression, no adaptation to the world of the tool, which is the world of weapons.’
In extreme cases of kyphosis pain is constant, breathing a struggle, circulation embarrassed and life shortened. Barber Greg is not such. A vivacious man, hunched like a gorilla, bright, full of energy, supercharged with conversation. I wonder if he lives with a deaf dog and comes to work for conversation. If so I’m glad for it.
Greg moves on to Margaret Thatcher: ‘They called her “PMT” you know.’ A twinkle, a grin, careful snipping around my ears: ‘Prime Minister Thatcher!’
Arrived at my own work I google bonobo. What follows is a series of remarkably unerotic you-tubes all showing copulating primates. Foreplay, invariably initiated by the female and always in the form of violence, is followed by energetic thrusting on the part of the male – who is smaller – accommodated by the female – who is hospitable. She accepts him from behind where the height differential doesn’t matter (useful tip for the short man?); or she invites him to enter face-to-face, hoisting his rump, providing her palms as a bum support while he ruts away. The male then slumps, tranquillised, until next commanded to perform by the pummelling of his lady friend.
There must be a lesson here. Time for me to revert for good to my (preferred) vegetarian diet? The image persists of the male bonobo, released for the nonce from service in the marital trenches, who toddles down to the river (the great Congo River?). He lies on his back, his slim white phallus perpetually semi-erect. He dangles his left foot into the stream, idly splashing water upriver. Sunlit, the grasses a brilliant green, the bonobo’s fur a rich auburn, the simian foot, large in proportion to the skinny leg, swings across his lower body, splash, swing, splash in the sunshine, Mister Bonobo awaits his mistress’ call.