Saturday 6 June 2020

'Lesser Known Facts About Sloths' by Hannah Storm

'In Spanish, the sloth is called oso perezoso'. You are reading from an Amazon travel guide, your limbs stretching across the sofa to the polished Peruvian mahogany table. I want to tell you to move your filthy feet from my friend's furniture.

'It means lazy bear', I say, knowing the truth. They're not bears, or lazy, rarely sleeping more than 10 hours. But you're not listening.

'Did you know sloths only shit once a week?', you reach for one of the beers lined up on the table, because you're too lazy to go to the fridge. 'And they shit out a third of their body weight'.

There are two kinds of sloth, this much I know. The two-toed and the three-toed. One can turn its head 360 degrees. I stick my middle finger up at you, relieved you can't spin your head right now.

I smell the beer leaking onto the Quechua carpet. I've reached the kitchen, grabbed a towel, soaked it, wrung it out, brought it to you and rescued the book before you're even upright. You stretch out an arm and for a second, I imagine you are two-fingered.

Sloths have a symbiotic relationship with algae. Their absorbent fur gives the algae shelter and water; in return it provides camouflage. When we first met you were obsessed with wearing camo, or DPM as you called it in the army. You said you'd got used to sleeping in a hammock in a tree, and sometimes I'd come back to yours in my lunch break to find you hanging there asleep in your greens.

You've been doing much the same since you got here. You told me you'd missed me so much you decided to surprise me with a two-week visit. When the fortnight was up, you admitted you were between jobs, and would look when you got home. 'I needed a break', you said, suggesting the jungle. 'I've always wanted to swim in the Amazon'.

Sloths can move three times faster in water than on land. I suspect the same could be said of you.

I pour myself a glass of wine, wonder what I'm doing here in my mate's apartment, with this lay-about who shows me as much affection as a sloth shows its mate.

We've only had sex once in the fortnight that became four weeks than six. That was two weeks ago in our ecolodge near Puerto Maldonado, after we had finally seen a real sloth.

In bed tonight, I'll hold my breath and count to forty. The number of seconds a sloth can hold her breath. The number of years a sloth can live. Then I'll walk through to where you're drinking your beer, and tell you it is over.

Later I will dream of giving birth upside down.

Tomorrow I will wake to the early morning Lima grey, in an empty apartment. On the table, the Amazon guide will lie open, one sentence underlined informing me sloths can retain their grip after death.

'Lesser Known Facts about Sloths' was originally published by Virtual Zine on 14 August 2019.

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