The Cure for Solitude
Tiana Yasmin Nowzari
© Copyright 2022 by Tiana Yasmin Nowzari
was another hot day in the savanna. Harley laid under the large green
whistling thorn trees that shaded his black and orange fur. Tigers
get hot during this time of year. The other animals, like the zebras,
elephants, and hyenas, also spent their days looking for a way to
avoid the burning sun and retreat to comfortably soothing
temperatures. Harley did not often join the other animals in finding
shade. He did not join the communal circle of animals that came
together during the hottest days of the year. Often, Harley envied
their bonding friendships and envisioned himself as part of their
group. He thought of how Caro the elephant frequently visited Jerry
crocodile to play in the water, and Hugo hyena brought homemade food
to the family of cheetahs that lived a few streets away. But Harley
was different. He did not interact with the other animals like he
would have liked. Instead, he remained alone where he could mingle
with his lonely thoughts.
Earlier that morning, Harley groomed his fur for the upcoming festival that night. Every year, the animals gathered at the main village hut for a Yhedli celebration. Yhedli was a special holiday symbolizing the hottest day of the year in the savanna. The ritual was to stay up all night and eat food prepared by different animals in the community. Its importance stood in the belief that if the animals could stay awake throughout the night, they would have a prosperous year of good harvest and health. Harley attended every Yhedli with the other animals. He always came alone and remained that way throughout the night’s festivities. This year, Harley knew it would not be much different. He tried to look his best and went off to the grand celebration.
Harley sat at his usual spot, on the far left corner of the celebratory circle. The middle held a large fire pit where everyone remained warm during the cool night. On every corner, animals laughed, conversed, and danced. Yhedli was a night for fun and joy. Harley watched as animals carried on conversations about cubs, hunting, and upcoming plans. Everyone had something interesting to say, except for him. Harley did not move much and said even less. He was invisible in the crowd. While sitting calmly, he was startled by a sound emerging from behind him.
“You should be celebrating with the rest of us,” said Frankie baboon.
Frankie was a known member of the savanna. He was among the family of baboons who lived in the tall leafy trees that looked like they could touch the sun. Among him were his eight other siblings. Frankie came from a large family and was notorious for causing trouble. One time, the siblings set out a plan to distract Janice gazelle from her fruit market so they could steal the bananas when she was not looking.
“I’m fine where I am,” Harley replied hesitantly. He knew that if Frankie addressed him, it was probably for mischievous reasons.
“You know, it would be a lot more fun if you mingled with the rest of us. It looks so boring to be by yourself when you could be playing.”
“I guess so. Maybe another time,” Harley reclined himself a little further into his seat this time.
Frankie shrugged his shoulders with an aloof look on his wrinkled and dotted face. “Doesn’t it get lonely sometimes? I never see you with anyone else but yourself.”
Harley felt uncomfortable with the question. Of course, it was a lonely life. It was not like the tiger did not want a companion to share his time. He just did not know how to attract them. Solitude was his only friend, and it was a sad reality he had lived most of his life.
“It would be nice to have a friend, although I’ve gotten used to it.”
The baboon’s face changed with a smirk stretching to the side of his cheeks. With a snarky tone, he replied, “Maybe I can help you. Meet me tomorrow morning by the edge of the stream. I usually get my bananas from the surrounding trees. There’s something that might resolve your problem.”
Before Frankie could say his farewells, he jumped through the array of empty seats positioned beside Harley and went into the dancing and jittering crowds. Harley stood there somewhat stunned and excited. Who knew what tomorrow could bring him.
woke up early that morning. He barely slept because his mind flooded
with what Frankie said the previous night. Perhaps this is another
prank from a troublesome monkey looking to cause chaos. Or could it
be a ticket to resolving the isolated feeling lingering for so long?
Regardless, the tiger was willing to find out for himself. He quickly
ate his breakfast before heading out the door. He reached the stream
shortly since it was near his home and saw the brown-haired baboon
peeling bananas off a tree.
“I hope I didn’t come while you were busy,” Harley said as he startled Frankie.
With a slight look of surprise that settled into delight, Frankie turned towards him, “I’m glad you came! I wasn’t sure if you were really going to come.”
Frankie balanced himself on a thick branch before jumping onto the ground. He still had a banana in his palm while grabbing Harley’s furry paw with the other. That was the benefit of being a monkey; he could multitask with his four paws. “Come, I have something to show you.”
Together, they headed towards the stream where Harley could see his own reflection. He looked at himself through the mirrored blue water and saw a sheer sadness paint his face. The years spent all by himself showed in his melancholic features. It had been years since he could remember a moment where he genuinely smiled or laughed. An emptiness lurked inside him, and a tormenting sadness from his loneliness ate at him. His thoughts were interrupted when Frankie pulled something out from behind when Harley wasn’t looking. The baboon retrieved a small golden cup contoured by green and red jewels.
“My brother found this when a group of explorers travelled through the savanna. He told me that he overheard them saying it was a magical cup where the water inside can grant a wish when you drink it,” Frankie’s eyes sparkled at the golden prize, “so he took it from their bags when they had camped out for the night.”
Harley’s face contorted into a questioning frown. He did not believe him. How could water become magical? If magic existed, then everyone would have everything they could ever want. But, that is not reality. Harley’s expression shifted into irritation. He should have known that Frankie had only invited him as a prank.
Based on the tiger’s look, Frankie tried to reason with him, “I’m not joking! I tried it for myself. I poured water into the cup and wished for banana trees around the water, and look around for yourself. It worked!”
Harley’s facial expressions barely changed as he remained unconvinced. With a final plea, Frankie says, “Just try it out. You would never have to be lonely again.”
Despite his lack of faith and confidence, Harley thought why not. He had nothing to lose. Even if the magic did not work, which he did not believe would, he would not lose much from trying it out. At least he would have gotten a glass of water to defeat the heat of the sun. He grabbed the cup from Frankie’s paw and filled it with the glistening water below them. He filled it until it was full, thought of his wish, and drank it entirely. The tiger looked at the baboon with doubt clouding his mind but hope lingering in his heart.
meeting with Frankie was cut short. Harley went home convinced that
he had merely wasted his time by trusting him. When he got back, he
did not feel different. Life felt the same, and he assumed that his
daily routines would remain in solitude. That morning, Harley went to
the local market to buy his weekly groceries. Once a week, he made it
a ritual to gather all the food he needed until he would run out the
following week. Tigers get hungry, and Harley was no exception. After
brushing his teeth and eating his breakfast of eggs, ham, and orange
juice, he headed off to shop. When he arrived, he reached his
favourite station: the fruits. Although tigers do not normally eat
fruits, Harley loved them. His favourites were pineapples, cherries,
and raspberries, which were all sold by Janice. She knew Harley very
well since she sold him fruits every time he came.
“Hi, Harley! How are you today?” she said with a gleaming smile.
“I’m fine, Janice. How about you?”
“Phenomenal! Such a lovely day.”
Harley picked pineapple and looked at the cases of raspberries to choose the best batch. He was typically very particular with the ones he wanted as he liked to pick the darker coloured ones since they were the juiciest. While he was observing intently, Janice pulled out a large case of raspberries and cherries from behind her stand.
“We just got these this morning, so they’re extra fresh! Why don’t you have them, Harley? I know how much you like fruits.”
This had never happened before. Janice was always kind and friendly, but today was different. There was a tone of excitement that Harley did not recognize. The gazelle continued to look at him with an elongated smile while the basket of fruit still reached toward her customer. Harley was not sure what to think.
“Thank you, Janice. That’s very kind of you. How much do I owe you?”
“Just pay for the pineapples. The rest is a gift.”
Astonished, Harley paid what he owed and took his fruit basket. That had never happened to him before. Before he could move away much further, Caro stopped him.
“Hey, Harley! We’re having a party tonight at my place. Are you free to come?”
Harley was becoming more confused. He had never been invited to a party before. Why was everything different now? Could that magical cup have really worked? Feeling overwhelmed and confused, he ended his shopping trip early and took his purchases to head back home. On his way, he saw two neighbourhood cheetahs passing a soccer ball to each other.
“Harley! Over here! You want to play with us?” the larger cheetah yelled from afar.
The tiger was startled, “I’m on my way to put my groceries back before they go bad in the sun. Maybe another time, though.”
He walked even faster to reach back to his comfort. The attention was becoming overwhelming. Usually, the animals did not pay attention to him. Harley was often a shadow in their presence and barely tried to remind them he was there. He had become so accustomed to his invisibility that he was unsure what to do about this new spotlight. While swinging through the wind, Harley rushed home and laid his things on the kitchen counter. Behind him, he heard a shuffling noise.
“So, is it working yet?” asked Frankie, with his hand resting on his hip. He had a smirk on his mouth like those ones where they want to say, ‘I told you so’. He probably snuck inside the house through the window like he typically does when he wants to cause trouble.
“I don’t know if it’s that. It can’t be.” Harley stared at the wall inquisitively. “But everyone’s been interacting with me this morning.”
“You’ll be coming to Caro’s party, then?”
With all that was going on, Harley had almost forgotten that Caro had invited him to the party. He had never been to a party and was unsure how to respond. “I guess. Maybe. I don’t know, honestly.”
“I’ll see you there,” Frankie winked with a little grimace. He then opened the door behind him and left.
decided to attend the party. Although he was nervous, he could not
deny his excitement. He had no idea what to expect. Maybe other
animals would talk and converse with him. Perhaps, he would meet
like-minded animals that could relate to him. Harley combed his long
soft fur and headed out.
When he got to Caro’s driveway, he recognized the large bushes surrounding the house. The place was massive, but elephants needed more room to maneuver around. Animals from all over the village were in attendance. He saw the hyenas laughing and shrieking with their drinks. Rhinos grouped together near the trays of appetizers that sat on long tables draped with pink tablecloths. The party was lively, and Harley did not know where he could fit. He awkwardly marched towards the living room, which was the nearest room to the entrance. Suddenly, the whole room was staring at him without spouting a word.
Hugo interrupted the silence, “Everyone, it’s Harley!”
“Hey Harley!” said an animal from one direction.
“How’s it going, buddy?” asked another from the second floor.
Suddenly, a crowd was forming around Harley. All the animals were huddling together, trying to talk to him. Drinks were being spilled from different directions, and voices trailed on from every corner. Harley became anxious. It was all too much. He did not know what to do or how to respond. Instead, he pushed through the crowd, ran up the stairs, and locked himself in the nearest room. He rushed to the corner where he saw that he had barricaded himself in the bathroom. Harley sat on the ground where he pressed his knees to his chest, trying to control his breathing. He put his head down into his legs, where it felt like the world was closing in on him.
“You’re not enjoying the party?” projected a recognizable voice from the corner of the room. It was Frankie. “It’s a little rude to barge in the bathroom when someone’s in there.”
“I wish I never drank from that cup!” Harley exasperatedly protested. “I was better off alone. Everyone suddenly wants to be my friend, but they don’t even know the first thing about me. All of this feels insincere.”
“First, you were upset that you were alone. Now, you’re upset that everyone wants to interact with you. What is it that you want?”
Harley barely waited for a second to respond, “I want sincerity! I want them to like me for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m popular. It matters that I’m valued for the person that I am!”
“Did you ever question if your loneliness also came from your unwillingness to socialize with the other animals? Sure, you must get lonely, but you also have to put in the effort too.”
The tiger stayed immobile in his position. He hugged his knees tighter and slowly felt his breathing reach a normal pace. He learned something from this experience. Harley always wanted a friend. He longed for someone to share his experiences with him. But Harley had not valued how those friendships are created. There was always a yearning to be with others, although he did not initially understand that he wanted companions that appreciated and respected him. His perspective in life had changed that day. His priorities shifted into an honest concern for truth and sincerity from the animals that valued him.