This One Time, 33

This one time I was a lizard, a gecko, running around on a stucco wall of a tiny church stalking moths and houseflies.

I don’t really have any explanation for it. Suddenly I was just a guy, though, blinking in the brightness of a tiny, tiny church on an island. The bright sun was outside and the church should have been dim, but it didn’t seem like that. I was sitting on a harsh hewn bench, blinking in the brightness, with no memories at all except that the inside of my mouth felt funny, clothes felt funny, my hands and feet felt funny, and I was hungry.

I looked up in the corner of the high ceiling and there was my old self. Eyes closed. Inert and resting, if not asleep. Below the no-longer-me gecko was what must have been the worst religious painting in the world, painted in faded tempera directly onto the plaster wall. Thematically, it looked like the Devil was having yet another very rough day. In the child-rendered lines of his face, he looked more resigned than anguished. Saint Michael’s spear was a fork giving a complicated nipple piercing. His tongue was hanging out in concentration. The Devil was like, whatever, in desperate need of coffee.

I remember not understanding the painting underneath my feet. It was just a texture of muddy colors that insects — and occasionally other geckos — would hide in. I remember the dry tackiness of my hands and feet, curling them and wiping the dust off against my ribs, licking the dust off. I missed my tail.

I was alone in the chapel. I put my hands into the front pockets of the khaki shorts I was wearing. One pocket had thirty-seven dollars and fourteen cents. US currency. Another pocket had six small stones of different textures and colors. I recognized coral. At least two different forms of lava. A large lump of olivine. All of the stones had rough holes in them, natural-looking, but hand-smoothed by years of fidgeting.

I didn’t want to go outside because it was so bright, but I could no longer eat bugs. I left the chapel, stalked quickly down the hill to a shaded thicket. I found papayas on the ground, fallen from their tree. I opened them with a sharp rock. I ate two of them, drying the juices off my hands with dust and then rubbing the dust off. I left the pits in the thicket.

When the sun moved away from the top of the sky, I followed a narrow, crumbling, asphalt-topped road toward a small group of houses. I knocked on a door and told them I just woke up in the chapel, and that I didn’t know where I came from or where I was supposed to be. The woman there let me sit in a chair on her porch and gave me some water. She went back inside to make telephone calls, and later came back out with a plate of rice and beans with some sausage in it, and a couple of tiny bananas that were orange inside, and she gave me a blanket and said I could sleep on the bench-swing until the morning. She left me a small pitcher of water. She said someone would come by in the morning to take me to town, to see a doctor.

Eating didn’t put much strength back into my muscles. I went to sleep, wondering if I would be a gecko again when I woke up. Instead, I was still me. A policeman woke me up, let me go off behind the house to pee, and then took me into a small town, where an old man I could barely understand looked me over and explained to me that I had survived a very bad fever that had damaged my brain, probably. He looked my shorts over for signs of diarrhea, shrugged, and said that was the best he could think of. He stuck me with needles and took blood. He gave me a bottle of something salty to drink, a handful of vitamins that he put into a small bottle and gave me back to the policeman.

I sat in the policeman’s office for hours while he made calls on his telephone. Eventually he told me that someone had offered me a place to stay, with food, in exchange for picking coffee cherries, and that he would give me money as well. He asked me if that was okay, and I just nodded.

Since then I have been Gecko, living a life as simple as a gecko, picking coffee cherries, eating, sleeping, and sculpting beads from stones I find. Beyond that I have nothing, and I think I am happy.


February 2, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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