My heart began racing the moment I reached the entrance. We hadn’t seen each other for a week, and after so long your absence was almost unbearable. Occasionally we were able to meet more often; sometimes it just depended on the weather, for if the sky opened up with a fury of rain, there wasn’t much chance of bringing off an open-air rendezvous. And it’s not like we could go anywhere else: the circumstances weren’t right, and we were each under surveillance. Of course, many other factors kept us from being together as often as we wished. We had to take care not to draw the attention of the authorities, for in this country our love was banned, it counted as a crime, and one did not recover overnight from the legal consequences of discovery. Corporal punishment was not only sanctioned, it was idealized: according to the prevalent ideology, physical confinement wasn’t worth a thing without physical punishment. And so the years of one’s sentence were complemented by a corresponding number of lashes. Not that the cane found the ripe flesh it sought, no, it had to settle on the marks left by earlier beatings. Only by permeating the flesh does guilt really take hold in the guilty: such was the thinking of the authorities. Just as love, too, is only true if it permeates the flesh. Your touch did much more than simply permeate my flesh, though; it was verily scorched into me with a branding iron. No longer could it be driven out of me without a trace; it had left its mark forever, for a lifetime, and if somehow it could have been cut out of me nonetheless, I myself would have ceased to exist, I would have become nothing but an evaporated thought. Only from out of you did my body, my soul, my life draw meaning, exist, become realized. Time, for us, was defined by that ponderous weight of the days that passed between our rendezvous; everything else had meaning only relative to this. As soon as I stepped through the zoo’s front gate I felt my cells once again come alive, my pores open up, my senses spark into action with an almost impossible precision, as if under the influence of some drug. Even from afar, before my eyes could take you in, I could smell you. You were close at hand, I knew, and that in and of itself was enough for my sense of smell to transcend not only the time that had passed since our most recent meeting, but also the space that stretched so tightly between us still, allowing me to breathe in your fragrance. Above all, I loved sniffing behind your ears and at the curve of your neck. Everything I found there made me feel I could snap a wildcat’s neck in an instant, tear apart its living flesh, climb a thirty thousand foot mountain and slowly, leisurely lick the snowcap off its top, the flakes melting on my tongue. Smelling you, I sensed I’d finally found my way home, that I was in that secret inner home where I always should be, and that from there I could go even further, deeper and deeper inside, to the depths of that silky darkness from whence there is neither a way back nor a reason to return, for nothing exists outside of this, or rather, that which does exist is but an empty shell.