A Toast To Guy the Gorilla

Blog / Friday, March 23rd, 2018

As I tread across London in the few days before my study abroad term, I decided to hop into the Natural History Museum. It was like any free and amazing Museum: full of people, full of really cool things.

I walked past glass cases, side-stepping strollers and people taking photos. Dinosaur bones glinted in the overhead lights, heartbeats pounded against the walls in the Human Anatomy exhibit. But the first thing to stop me in my tracks and grip my attention was in the Marine Invertebrates exhibit.

Funnily enough, it had nothing to do with the Marine Invertebrates, but the vertebrates inside of it. The people, small children stomping around with their small hands raised above their head. Parents rushed to them and admonished them in languages I didn’t understand. I stood there, staring blankly at my reflection in the glass and realized that the Museum bustles life besides the ones captured in placards. Life I’ll never understand.

I exited the Marine Invertebrates, continued walking, and found another life I’ll never understand.

Guy the Gorilla, sitting stoically inside a glass box. I swiped through snippets of info about him on a small touchscreen computer. When he arrived on Guy Fawkes Day in the London Natural History Museum, lending him the name Guy. The fireworks scared the baby gorilla, and it took a staffer lying next to Guy to make him fall asleep.

I stood there, blinking down at the screen. “What was it like to lie there on the ground?” I thought. A baby gorilla the size of a loaf of bread clutching your shirt, it’s little head nestled under your neck. You wonder why it’s so comforting. You wake up the next morning believing a little more in evolution.”

But that wasn’t what got me the most. I read that Guy would pick up small birds that flew into his exhibit, examine them, then release them into the air. This brought tears to my eyes.

It was the shattering of stereotypes, the dust stinging my eyes. Of course a gorilla can be gentle and sweet. Of course he doesn’t have to adhere to the savagery we assigned to him. It was a pleasant shock all the same, the thought of a tiny squawking bird in Guy’s rough hand. The pressure just firm enough to hold the bird still, nothing more.

Here’s to you, Guy the Gorilla. I hope there are many beautiful birds where you are. I hope they fit perfectly in your hands.

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