Yesterday was the worst day of my life. Life has tossed me into some truly alarming situations, examples of which include losing my passport in a foreign land and being stranded in stormy ocean waters. But yesterday 10th July 2020 surpassed them all. So why am I choosing to tell you a story of (more) horror and (more) suffering, when the last thing the world needs right now is another sob story? Well that’s because it’s not all bad, and ends reasonably well. This story is one of combatting and conquering personal turmoil, fighting inner (and outer) demons, and rising from the ashes unscathed. Okay perhaps a little bruised, but you get the drift. Enjoy the saga~
I woke up yesterday feeling merry and on top of the world, injected with energy and endorphins. It was Election Day in Singapore, and a national holiday had been announced a few weeks ago. The long weekend came as a welcome surprise, and I started my day with a rather relaxing session of stretching and Pilates. I was determined to make my house squeaky clean. I remember telling my husband, “I feel so energetic, I could run up a mountain right now”. And so I start cleaning furiously, whizzing past the room with our brand-new vacuum cleaner. Feeling superhuman strength, I pull out the couch with one hand when I see it.
A small, index-finger length lizard, scurrying from behind the couch out in the direction of the balcony.
You know how some things yield such power over you, that they potentially overturn your entire state of mind up until that point? Effortlessly at that, almost laughing at your helplessness. For me it’s lizards. I hesitate to speak the L-word out loud, so let’s call this one Lily.
Fine. I am herpetophobic, and harbour a particular hatred towards the common house gecko. Especially because they seem to like the houses I live in, and barge in like uninvited guests. I mean, I want to respect all of nature’s creations, I do. I am sure that there is a role that these things play in the ecosystem. I just wish they could play it outside my house. Also, no offence but sometimes I question whether intelligence is one of their strong suits. At least it wasn’t, for Lily here.
I squawk at my husband, and after a lengthy chase trying to get it out on the balcony, we see it disappear underneath the couch. In a sudden stroke of inspired genius, we move the entire couch out to the balcony, hoping it would understand the obvious hint. My determined spouse even camps outside on the balcony, keeping a close eye on the balcony-side of the couch while eating his oatmeal. After an hour or so, we assume it’s gone and move the couch back into the house. ONLY to see it running inwards and disappearing underneath the other couch. God, Lily!!
After another half hour of pushing and pulling couches, we finally give up. Lily has somehow turned into Tom Cruise from Mission Impossible and is probably upside down right now, hanging on to the couch from underneath. However, my original spirits remain relatively unaffected, and after almost 3 hours of deep cleaning, I decided to cook a batch of vegetable pulao for a few friends coming over for dinner that night. I started chopping up onions, tomatoes, cauliflower and lady fingers. Next, I light up the gas burner and put the pan on, when. WHEN.
I see something brown and tiny crawl across the stove. The goddamned stove. Lily’s cousin, Rick. My face turns pale, and my heart literally stops beating. Short of breath, I run out and scream for my partner-in-crime to come into the kitchen right away. We stand there watching that disgusting piece of s*** slither away into one of the gas burners.
Walls, floors, ceilings, couches, windows all seem like intuitive places for lizards to be. But gas burners, are you kidding me?? Anyway, ridden with fear, we cover Rick with a plastic container, fervently hoping for it to emerge out of its own lockdown for some sightseeing. 2 hours, still nothing. In fact, we see it (or parts of it) moving slightly inside the burner. At this point, time is ticking on the pulao, we are expecting people to come over in an hour. Out of desperation, I call my parents who of course, have a hearty laugh first. They then suggest luring it out of the stove using certain hacks and tricks that I absently acknowledge. Nothing registers, at this point.
Paralysed and unable to obey instruction, I call my guests and inform them that takeout might be the strongest contender at this point. I tell them why and share my grievances, to which they take pity on us and come over to get rid of it together. You know, teamwork. Soon we find ourselves — all four of us — in the kitchen, trying to closely study it and devising a strategy forward. We bang on the stove hoping for it to come out, one of us holding an insect repellent ready for attack. Nothing. An idea! What if we blow a hairdryer on it? That should shock it to sense. Again, nothing. Suddenly, we see its repulsive head emerge out of the burner, but it has decided to stay there. Next, we splash cold water on it, giving it a version of waterboarding that it never expected, ha! And yet Rick surprises us again. He has turned the lemons life threw at him and made it into lemonade. The burner has now become a jacuzzi of sorts, and he continues to cruise in it.
Enraged, we splash more water on it. You wouldn’t want to drown now, would you, Rick? Finally. Turns out, it’s a lot, even for Resilient Rick and he scampers out of the stove, completely. Hurray, we cheer. We then spray him with the repellent and Rick starts to dance around helplessly. A prisoner of war. For the next 30 mins, he puts up an impressive fight, but our heavy weaponry proves too much for him, and he concedes defeat. We deftly put him on a dustpan and, saluting his indomitable fighting spirit, deliver him to the outdoors, a hero.
We congratulate each other, overcome with feelings of accomplishment and relief. Energised again, I volunteer that we stick with the Pulao plan. Not a big deal if dinner happens slightly later. And after all, if Rick taught us anything it was his tenacity and go-getting spirit.
Fast-forward 30 mins. The pulao seems to be doing great, and I step out to take a breather when. WHEN.
I SEE LILY again. The bugger has finally decided to abandon its commando adventures under the couch and finally emerge out onto the wall. I cannot believe my eyes. Another one? What is this some kind of message from the universe? I watch as it tries to make its way towards the bedroom.
But not this time, Lily. Not this time. We just survived war and won. No messing with us this time. Husband and I promptly spring into action, spraying it with insect repellent. Lily jumps in shock, almost betrayed. She had taken us for granted: weaklings. All hell breaks loose and she starts running out towards the balcony. Great going, Lil. Keep going, keep going.
Of course, if only this were a perfect world and Lily were the Einstein of lizards. Unfortunately she isn’t, and she foolishly decides to disappear into the slit between the two sliding balcony doors, along the minus Z axis. Drugged with the chemical spray, she eventually loses the strength to emerge out, and withers to death in an insignificant coil. Now, the problem: how on earth do we get her out of there? None of us wants to touch the unnamable horror, not even with a clip. And honestly by now, we are tired and fed up. We would rather socialise with anything non-reptile at this point.
And so we make a bold decision. One hand each placed on the handle, we vacuum it. That’s right. Suck it right up, sucker. Bam! And just like that, Lily is gone. Of course there remains the question on who cleans the vacuum, but that’s a decision best made another day. We high-five each other, and go wash up.
The pulao is done, ready for ravenous consumption. Our friends come over again, and we intentionally avoid the lizard (not) in the room. We talk about everything else under the Sun until the wee hours of the morning. Over a glorious bottle of Rosé. The evening ends on an optimistic note, and I think to myself, “cousins of Rick and Lily, if you’re out there and listening, peace out, live and let live. But if you plan to visit, be scared. Be very scared.”