Let me just start by saying, I’m not proud of anything I’m about to write.
I can’t blame it on the storm. Before we ever lost power – long before – I felt “done” with the gecko. I’ve tried to get rid of him, but someone always talks me out of it. But this storm that took out the power, that catapulted The Teenager out to some friend's heated home for days, that left my husband stranded in Boston a little longer than he planned, seemed like just the Unfortunate Event that might set me free.
By the third day without power, the house was cold – colder than the outside air. I think it was 52 degrees inside and the gecko was barely moving. He’d been looking sickly to begin with – for weeks he had an opaque quality to his skin and yucky stuff on his toes. He barely opened his eyes, which made him look even more grumpy than usual. His tail, an indicator of virility, was far too thin.
“Just so you know, I’ve decided not to take any extraordinary measures with the gecko,” I said to my husband in one of our thrice-daily phone calls during which I mostly complained about how cold and unpleasant life here was.
“You can’t do that,” he said. “You have to bring him somewhere warm.”
I reminded my husband about my injured shoulder and how taxing transporting a gecko tank would be. “You have to,” he said.
So I did. I took the gecko over to a friend who had power and heat and a big heart. I grumbled, even as I set up his warming lights, knowing this was just going to prolong his miserable life. And then, in for a pint, in for a pound, I drove to the pet store to get him crickets.
I could have just asked for 10 crickets, as I always do, but for some reason I launched into a confessional speech about how I really didn’t want to “save” my gecko, how he was ill and how I would have happily let him freeze to death, but I didn’t, I moved him to warmth and now here I was, needing to feed him crickets.
The two guys behind the counter were speechless. Both in their twenties, and obvious animal lovers, I’m sure they didn’t know what to make of me, a middle-aged lizard hater.
“How do you know he’s ill?” one finally managed to ask.
I told them about his skin issues and his tail and his surly demeanor and they gave me a bottle of emollients for him. “He’s not molting properly,” one said. “He’s probably in pain.”
“What am I supposed to do, spray him with this?” I said.
No, it goes into a basin. Lukewarm water, preferably distilled. The gecko was to soak in it for 20 minutes and then I was to gently rub off his molting skin.
“Are you kidding me? You want me to give the gecko a bath?”
Had they not heard me when I said I was hoping he would just die?
One of them talked about how much he was probably suffering and that if I was going to let him perish, I could at least make him comfortable in the meantime. This reasoning would normally make no sense to me, but the storm had really rattled me, so I entertained their pleas.
I turned the bottle over to see how much it cost.
“Look,” sang the guy with two earrings as he wagged his finger at me, “someone cares a little!”
“If you buy the Reptile Bath, we’ll throw in the crickets for free,” said the other.
“Ok, but I’m not bathing him at my friends house,” I said.
No, of course, whenever your power comes back on, they said.
I took the crickets to the gecko and unceremoniously dumped them into his tank. He seemed neither grateful nor joyful and I wondered whether it was possible that he might just die of scorn.
Geckos can live for 20 years, the pet saviors told me. Ours is seven. I try to imagine myself thirteen years from now, gray and liver-spotted, inquiring whether I can get a Senior Discount on crickets at the pet store and it’s not a fantasy that I care to engage in.