The grown-ups smoked, the children tanned, we all ate red meat, and everybody thought they would live forever. But by the summer of '67, my hometown of Detroit was burning around us, and—thanks to James Earl Ray, Sirhan Sirhan, and a war we were assured was winnable—the shelf life on forever officially expired in 1968.
Suzie Gale eventually became Suzanne Rubini, an Atlanta attorney with a lovely husband, two terrific kids and a major aversion to Curious George. Because my cousin is a charitable soul, and because she understood that I would do a much better job of beating myself up than she ever could, and mostly because her hair grew back, Suzie still speaks to me. Of course, these days the conversations tend to include a lot more about politics and eye lifts than we ever would have imagined back when we played shuffleboard at our grandparents' condominium.
The monkey story does occasionally come up, because it turns out you can't really have a monkey take a swipe at your head without mentioning it from time to time. But for the record, Suzie laughs when she tells the story. She's always been slightly sunnier than me—on a bad day, I can make Sylvia Plath look like a rodeo clown. And I've always been slightly funnier than Suzie—though she might argue that this is because I've never been attacked by a giant spider monkey.
I still struggle with impulse control and guilt and the deeply unsettling truth that I am actually quite capable of hurting the people I adore, that, given the right set of circumstances, we all are.
Suzie and I are both a lot older and a little wiser now, and we've learned to pay close attention when a warning sign is posted right there in front of our eyes. We fasten our seat belts, we leave the tags on our mattresses, we refuse to operate heavy machinery after a tablespoon of Robitussin—and under no circumstances do we ever feed the monkeys.