The first time our eyes met I was waking up from a mid-morning nap, slowly taking in the light of the room. I turned my neck to the side and there he was – perched on the edge of the throw pillow my head was resting on, bathed in a patch of sunshine, and staring down at me inquisitively.
“Well, hello there,” I said, self-consciously wiping the drool off my chin. He didn’t run away like the others normally do; he just sat there, holding my gaze. And my obsession with him began just like that.
Over my nearly 10 years of island living, I’ve known a lot of lizards. I’m mostly an anole girl, though more by default than actual preference (the geckos and skinks are much more skittish as species and therefore harder to observe close up). I shamelessly anthropomorphize the crap out of them, giving them names after minutes of our first meetings, playfully chastising the shower lizards for their Peeping Tom-ery. But up until this point, the lizards have always been a relatively stand-offish bunch. Though I bestow them with individual monikers, it’s not like they stick around for any noticeable period of time. At least not until now. Not until Little Dude.
It’s been over 4 months now since our first encounter that day on the couch, and Little Dude has become a day to day companion in my life. After our meet cute, he continued to appear to me in various places in our living room/office/kitchen space, though he seemed to settle on the bamboo tree next to my desk, where I spend the majority of my time, as his home base. I was honored, though tried not to get too attached at first, figuring he’d leave within a day or two.
But Little Dude stayed. In the beginning, he alternated between prowling around the house and staring at me while I worked from the ledge of the bamboo pot. I would coo and chat at him and as per usual, I felt compelled to feed him, hoping to bribe him into deeper friendship (aka the kind that would result in me getting to touch him). Unfortunately for me, he wasn’t interested in any of the food I had to offer. My vegetarian pantry lacked the arthropod crunch he preferred to munch on, so I just settled for water.
I set him up with a water dish on the ledge of the bamboo pot to encourage him to stay, and watching him drink from it each day makes my soul burst. He puts his little lizard hands on the edge of the dish and glugs it down, while my eyes turn into hearts like a lovesick emoji.
For a short stretch of time, Little Dude cavorted with a slightly smaller lizard, whom I dubbed Little Lady. Little Lady was much more flighty than him, and never let me get close to her. Their torrent affair lasted a couple of weeks, then we never saw Little Lady again. Random lizards come and go, but Little Dude just chases them away. He’s quite territorial and seems to have decided that I’m enough. Now, it’s me he bounces on his little legs for and dances at. The first time he showed off his bright dewlap in my direction, I have to admit – it made me blush.
“Oh, Little Dude! I love you too…” *cue lovesick emoji eyes*
After that, he has had even fewer boundaries and now chooses to be as close to me as possible (sans food bribery, it should be noted). He runs across my desk, hops onto my keyboard while I type, sits on the couch with me whenever I nap, and I even have to shoo him away while I work out, afraid I might accidentally jump-jack on him since he insists on staying so close to my feet. I find it pretty astonishing how near this little creature is willing to get to my mouth. I often set my chin down on whatever surface he’s sitting on, smile like a doting goon, and blabber on about how much I adore him. He holds his ground, mere inches from my bright white predator fangs, and looks me straight in the eyes without a trace of fear. Does he somehow know I’m highly opposed to eating animals? Or does he actually understand me when I tell him I’d never hurt him?
I, of course, am convinced Little Dude is head over heels in love with me. David, in his signature bubble-bursting logic, infers that the reason Little Dude sticks so close to my side is simply because all the mosquitoes are drawn to me. I am, pragmatically, bait. Such a romantic, my boyfriend.
About a month ago, I witnessed Little Dude run out the gap under the screen in the early morning and I panicked. I didn’t see him throughout the day and when he wasn’t back by nightfall, I was devastated. I would love to blame a particularly stressful work day, but in full disclosure, I will admit that I went to bed stifling the tears of the jilted.
But the next morning, there he was. And that’s when I decided to up the ante. I was not about to lose my little lizard man. I needed to make his life in our house even sweeter. I needed bugs.
As it turns out, I’m much more adept at catching bugs than I would have ever imagined. Perhaps it’s all these years of savage mosquito slaying I’ve been engaged in, or maybe it’s just my catlike reflexes. Either way, when I started stalking the insects around our house, I was cognizant that I was crossing a line. The line I so precariously walk, generally slipping onto the crazy side more often than not. This was definitely more than a slip. More like a devil-may-care leap. But I was in too far already.
Little Dude does not like bugs that are already dead, which definitely adds to the challenge. Moths, beetles, aphids, crickets, cockroaches – I must creep up on them, trap them quickly in my cupped hands, then grasp their wings between my fingernails, careful not to crush them. I then rush over, bow before my Lizard King, and present them with exuberant pride before his face. And this is the best part: Little Dude whips his neck around, narrows his eyes at the fluttering bug in my fingers, twitches his tail, and in a flash, he hops INTO MY PALM, snatches the bug in a chomp, and hops back off. Once he finishes eating, he licks his lips in satisfaction. Satisfaction that I created.
It’s addicting, but I do force myself to hold back and only feed him sporadically. I don’t want him to lose his own hunting skills completely and rely on me as his sole food source. I’m just not sure I’d be able to maintain that level of hunting pressure. I want him to stay wild. Well, wild-ish.
My texts to David have transitioned from the standard couple fare of “miss you”‘s and “what’s for dinner”‘s into neurotic updates on Little Dude’s daily affairs:
And yes, you read that right. I caught and fed him a scorpion (they’re not poisonous here). And it was every bit as awesome as you are imagining.
In an unexpected turn of events, Little Dude has also started attacking us. He’s tiny, so it doesn’t hurt. And his audacity just adds to his charm, in my book.
Napping on the couch the other day, I woke up to him nipping at the tip of my finger. Perhaps there was a mosquito there, or perhaps he was just remembering the beetle I fed him earlier. I pulled back my hand and looked at him, “And just what do you think you’re doing, Mister?” He just looked at me and licked his chops.
The next time, I was typing at the computer, and he stationed himself on the edge of the keyboard, and kept lunging at my fingers. Another instance of him seeing them as a food source, I imagine. And once again, adorable.
Most recently, David was sitting on the couch reading and I heard him say, “Hey!”
Little Dude had bit David’s earlobe and proceeded to clamp down and hang on, as David waited for him to finish, looking Bowie-esque with his new little lizard earring. “I can’t believe he did that.” he said, looking at me, aghast.
I shrugged. “Well, you are sitting on his pillow. What did you expect? Ya gotta respect The Dude’s territory.”
“His territory, huh?”