Last weekend a friend and I went to a big outdoor market to jump start our holiday shopping. As we rounded one section of the vendors, we happened upon two alpacas.
The alpacas’ chaperone stood nearby, quietly spinning yarn from their soft wool. Naturally, I asked if I could pet them and much to my delight, she said yes.
So there I stood at the outdoor market, stroking the beautiful fuzzy brown alpaca, gazing into his soulful eyes, picking off dangling shards of hay that the November breeze had blown into his thick furry coat.
He bleated at me – the best word I can think of to describe his sound, which really was more of a throaty hum and mumble, but with clear intonation - and I responded the only way I knew how, with words. I told him how handsome he was and that his fur felt so soft and that I was lucky to meet him this fine day. I admired his alpaca friend, the white one who stood next to him, clearly skeptical and not really up for visitors.
My own friend stood nearby, watching from a distance, slightly bemused and probably a little bit bored. She was patient nonetheless, as good friends are, especially when one has fallen under the spell of a handsome brown alpaca.
My exchange with the alpaca continued; he seemed to enjoy the conversation.
“He never does that,” observed his chaperone, still twirling fibers, the yarn growing longer and thinner between her fingers. “He usually doesn’t make much noise, let alone to strangers. He’s having a whole conversation with you.”
“Oh, I’m not a stranger,” I said, even though the alpaca and I had just met.
“I’m a friend.”
Not wanting to try my human friend’s patience, I gave him a final rub and scratch behind the ear and bid him goodbye, as he bid to me. Turning to go, I wondered why my friend the alpaca did not often speak to others, but had so much to say to me that afternoon.
It probably never occurred to anyone else to converse with him in the first place, I suppose.
Which is a shame, because you never know what will happen until you open the conversation, even, or maybe even especially, if it’s with an alpaca.