The first time I heard the sound, I thought a bird had flown into the house, although none of my regular feathered folk chirped like that. I searched and searched, remembering how one time a little dove had come in and had been frantically trying to escape while I tried to guide it to the open window in the kitchen. My efforts were just increasing its anxiety and I had to leave it alone to simmer down until it mercifully found its way to freedom.
This time, there was no bird and eventually, as the sound repeated itself, I spotted the culprit. It was a lizard, a gecko, and although we have co-habited in different houses since I was a child, I’d never heard one of the buggers speak. That was a couple years ago, and curious to know if this was a mutation of the creature we called “24-hours” on account of the myth that if it fell on you, it would stay there for an entire day, I went looking for information.
It turned out that these are really house-loving critters. They prefer to be indoors and are harmless, and might even be regarded as useful. I learned that they feed on insects, cockroaches, termites, wasps, flies, spiders, moths and poor butterflies. I’d decided that I would just have to get used to the unusual sound—the most apt description on Wikipedia was “tchak tchak tchak”, which it said was often sounded six to nine times in sequence. I have a way of seeing words in shapes, and maybe sounds as well. Every time I hear the gecko chirp, I would see the sound like a fairly squared-off pellet. Perhaps it is because the sounds are evenly pitched and last for roughly the same length of time. I don’t know, but I have tried to get used to it suddenly rapping into my consciousness.
At first, it was restricted to my bedroom and my study, but now it seems the lizards are everywhere. Whereas I found it an occasional interruption, now I feel there are colonies of them living in my house and even though I hardly see more than one at a time, I feel that they have taken over.
It is one thing to adjust to the sound they make—tchak tchak tchak is far more bearable than the abrasively loud grinding from the welding next door—but these discreet urban dwellers leave their little droppings everywhere. Everywhere. Not only do I have to clean them off the floors, especially at the base of the walls, but the area that really trips me is by my bedside table and on my bed. Yesterday, I washed my sheets and replaced them. As I prepared to turn in last night, I spotted the droppings on the edge of the bed. I suppose that’s why I am bringing them up now.
I would dearly like to know if other householders are experiencing this increased presence that is now forcing a whole different level of housekeeping. I have been getting faint whiffs of urine as well, and it drives me crazy, because I am washing cushion covers, curtains, sheets, everything that could be contaminated, and mopping the floors far too often.
It’s not just being finicky, which I am, but for some time now, my eyes have been unusually sensitive and gritty. While it is true that I am spending a considerable amount of time reading and writing in front of various screens, and that the presence of Saharan dust has been exacerbating things, my ophthalmologist says there is evidence of some kind of persistent irritant, or allergy affecting my eyes.
Naturally, I am mindful that it is possible that the creatures overhead who seem to like my bedroom might be doing numbers over my bed and that might be messing with my eyes. I am not trying to gross anyone out, it just seems that it is likely that there is a growing population of the lizards, which I think we also call woodslaves, and that while we might be adjusting to their presence and their noises, we might not be aware of the side effects.
I’ve never had a problem with lizards. When we were children, the whole brood of about 15 to 20 cousins on any given night would gather in my grandfather’s living room to look at television shows because nobody else had a TV.
We’d start streaming in when the news programme, Panorama, began at seven o’clock. That was when he would turn on the black and white beauty with the wooden cabinetry. Afterwards when some other show began (the real reason we were there), he would sit there with us, and if there was any sign of anything remotely inappropriate for us, like a kissing scene, he would suddenly exclaim, “Look, look, look, the lizard up there!” Naturally, we would all momentarily turn our heads away from the screen at the unexpected shout. Sometimes there was a lizard, but more often not, and he would say, “Ah, he run away!” But his distraction worked well enough, or so he thought.
But I feel something has changed. There are more, they are loud and though they love being indoors, they are not house-trained! This might sound creepy though I say it in jest, what if I am now the interloper in the house of the lizards?
—Vaneisa Baksh is an editor, writer and cricket historian.