Lizard snatcher: A tale of youthful ignorance

My fingers get twitchy whenever I see an anole. My dad calls them chameleons. Don’t tell him this, but I was so sure he was wrong about that, I googled it. Turns out he’s right (don’t tell him that either).

Advertisements

anole

My fingers get twitchy whenever I see an anole. My dad calls them chameleons. Don’t tell him this, but I was so sure he was wrong about that, I googled it. Turns out he’s right (don’t tell him that either). You know the lizards I’m talking about, with their slender bodies and smartly chiseled heads, transformed a bright green or muddy brown depending upon their conditions.

I’d never seen one until my family rented a house for a week on Neptune Beach near Jacksonville. I don’t remember much about that week other than the Belle Barbie doll my mom bought me, the scratchy faux-grass carpeting that covered the patio floor, and the lizard that bit my thumb and held on as I swung him through the air. Dad had discovered him and scooped him up and handed him to me. I was wildly curious until the little bugger latched on with his nubby little teeth. Mom was pissed.

You might wonder why my interest in these chomping chameleons prevailed after that poor first impression. I do, too. But when we moved to the beach soon after our trip, I kept my eyes peeled for them. And when I was old enough to run about the yard by myself, I started catching them. I’d stalk them in the bushes, moving quietly, quietly, until THERE! There it was, squirming in my dirt-streaked fingers. My cronies—two girls who lived next door—and I would place them in habitats we’d put together in buckets, or just stroke their soft little bodies for a few seconds before letting them go. I’d watch their tails whip out of sight, a little sad to see them go.

Back then, when I was eight or nine or ten, I didn’t feel bad about snatching these creatures out of their worlds and placing them so self-assuredly into mine. I was pleased with myself. Now, I’m admittedly a little disgusted by my old pastime. It seems cruel. And, after moving north before slowly creeping south just a few years ago, I hadn’t touched one in more than a decade. Until yesterday.

I wasn’t going to do it, told myself not to, but when I saw it sunning on the deck, I couldn’t keep my hands to myself. I delicately plucked it from the railing and cradled it in my hands. The smooth, reptilian skin was a sun-baked grass green. I released my hold quickly, but the guilt pooled in my brain as its webbed toes skittered up my arm before daring to leap from my bicep to the wood. It landed with a slap and still it ran, sweeping around a balustrade. It was gone and had taken with it that twitchy, must-touch feeling. For good, I hope, but only time will tell.

I’ve seen one since then, but I let it be, I swear. After all, what could I do? Mom was standing right there.

Resonance imaging

It was somewhere between stuffing my belongings into a plastic bag and being wrapped in white cotton blankets that I decided the tech’s daughter was my new favorite person. “She thinks the world is all unicorns and rainbows,” the mom said. “When I told her it’s not, she said, ‘Well, it should be.’”

mri1

The radiology technician who ran my MRI has an 11-year-old daughter. Naturally, when she found out I wrote for a magazine called “Girls’ Life,” she peppered me with questions. For every “What do you write about?” that escaped her lips, I asked what she was injecting into my IV and when I’d be getting the contrast solution. After we weighed the merits of American Girl and Seventeen, I inquired about the thumping noises in the next room.

It was somewhere between stuffing my belongings into a plastic bag and being wrapped in white cotton blankets that I decided the tech’s daughter was my new favorite person. “She thinks the world is all unicorns and rainbows,” the mom said. “When I told her it’s not, she said, ‘Well, it should be.’”

Yes, it should be. But I had to agree with her mom—it’s not, and today, mine comprised contrast barium fluid and magnetic resonance imaging.

I think unicorns and rainbows end with The Talk, if you’re lucky. That’s when childhood ends and adolescence begins. The way I figure it, The Talk is right about when you realize the hair on your legs is something to be gotten rid of. It’s when you worry about wearing white, especially if you think that twinge in your tummy might just be the sign of your very first period. It’s when you figure out where babies come from, and, more curiously, wonder why on earth anyone wants anything up there in the first place, whether it’s a tampon or a boy’s mysterious pants-covered parts.

The radiology tech had The Talk with her daughter a few days ago. “Are we gonna talk about this all day?” her daughter moaned—I imagined her burying her face in her hands and wrinkling her nose in ultimate distaste. We laughed, the tech and I, but as I lay in the thumping eternity of the MRI machine, I pondered if perhaps the newly minted adolescent was right. The Talk, after all, is an all-day fret fest that restarts at 6:45 and doesn’t have a care for weekends or sleepovers or summer breaks. It’s a psychosomatic combination of Groundhog Day, Freaky Friday and Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret, humming along at a feverish pace until the blaring honk of your alarm jolts you back to reality.

Inhale, a disembodied voice directed.

My fingers grasped the scratchy cotton unconsciously. I felt the yellow foam ear plugs, the weight on my back, the surge of the platform as it slid deeper inside the machine. Unicorns and rainbows, I repeated to myself. Unicorns and rainbows.

Hold your breath.