Two nights ago, Speedy and I were watching TV in the family room when Alex walked in. Wearing an expression that was a picture of disgust and tension, she asked, “May utak ba ang butiki (Do lizards have brains)?”
She and I both knew it was a DUH question and she was just being sarcastic so, with a poker face, I replied, “Oo (Yes)…”
Her voice rising, she said, “Gaano kalaki (How big)?”
I said, “Maliit (Small)…”
With eyes wide in anger, and in a voice that drowned out the TV, she blurted out, “Bakit siya sunod nang sunod sa akin — hindi ba n’ya maintindihan kung bakit ako palayo nang palayo sa kanya (Why does it keep following me — can’t it understand why I keep moving away)?”
It turned out that she encountered a lizard on the stairs. I could almost picture her squeezing against the wall as she walked down with her eyes fixed on the lizard on the ceiling and panicking as it moved nearer. Okay, that might sound like paranoia but there’s an antecedent so Alex’s reaction to the presence of lizards is really the result of some kind of trauma.
When we built a second kitchen in what used to be a gazebo, I mentioned that we stopped using the gazebo as an outdoor dining area. I didn’t tell the whole story back then but it really contextualizes the dialogue from a few nights ago.
One night last year, we were having dinner outdoors. In the gazebo in the garden. Speedy had left the table and there were just the three of us — Sam, Alex and myself. We were almost done and we were just lounging around when Alex noticed a lizard on the ceiling. Next thing I knew, Alex was screaming, her chair tilted backward and she looked suspended in mid-air as her scream pierced the balmy night. I was on my feet, hoping to reach her before the chair fell over backward completely and, in a split second, the chair did fall over, Alex got up (apparently unhurt) and ran toward the house.
I didn’t even see the lizard when it fell on her (on her thigh, she told us later, as she described the yucky clammy cold sensation). But the scream, I will never forget. It was one long sustained scream which I felt at the time lasted for several minutes but which must have lasted only for a couple of seconds. I fell down on my chair, exhausted by the sound of the scream, and Sam muttered that people in the adjacent subdivisions must have heard her sister.
We never ate a meal in the gazebo after that. And so we turned it into an outdoor kitchen.
When Alex was having a fit two nights ago, I told her it was the same lizard from the gazebo and it was following her around hoping for a kiss so it could turn back into Prince Charming. Alex didn’t think it was funny (I think she threw a pillow at me) but Speedy laughed hard. Well, at least, someone found it funny.
I don’t like lizards. But I can live with them. They stay away most of the time. I don’t know why they seem to like Alex so much but they don’t bug me. What I can’t live with are ants, mosquitoes, cockroaches, flies and rats. We rarely encounter flies, rats and cockroaches but mosquitoes and ants, shucks, we have them in abundance. Indoors and outdoors.
Ecological concerns aside, when I see ants, I feel murderous. Literally. There was an episode over then years ago when we were still living in the city that the girls remember very clearly to this day. I saw a trail of ants in the kitchen, I took a pair of scissors and I cut an ant’s body in half. Seriously. I don’t remember what I did with the rest. Probably poured boiling water over them.