One thing about living in Guatemala is that, even though I live alone, I’m not really alone. There’s always some sort of living thing walking or flying around. Sometimes they’re harmless little flies or ants. Other times they’re annoying mosquitos. Occasionally there will be some winged insect that will repeatedly charge into the wall or ceiling. Like a bird trying to fly through a closed window, except these slightly less intelligent creatures just keep colliding in the same, non-transparent spot over and over and over again. It’ll stop and rest for a bit, but then it’s right back at it. At first these noises, unsure of what they were, concerned me. I’d hear it and wonder if a rat was walking around, if it was a mosquito buzzing, and so on. But now, I just laugh when I hear the gentle thud made by the fly-wall collision. When, however, it’s the big, loud June bug – then it’s gotta go. They’re just too big, too loud, too bothersome. Using the good ol’ cup-and-paper method, I’ve harmed a few June bugs but I do my best to keep them healthy and intact. Once I removed about five in one night, but now that June has started, there aren’t so many June bugs… go figure.
I’m talking a lot about the little guys, but the real fun is with my furry friends living above the ceiling tiles. For the most part, they’re fairly courteous neighbors, keeping to their share of the apartment, not letting me see them, and keeping pretty quiet. We even have the same sleep schedule, which makes early nights so much nicer! I don’t mind these little rodents – I just imagine them as cute little mice. But occasionally they do decide to have a party, and that’s not so much fun for me. I hear them jumping around like they’re bopping to the hippest rat-tunes. They also try to convince me to join them for a morning jog, but I much prefer listening to their scurrying feet while I roll around in bed a few minutes longer. Between the sun shining through my near-transparent curtains, and the little rodents above, I couldn’t sleep past 6am if I wanted to. And just to make sure I know they’re there, in case the parties and morning jogs don’t do the trick, they ensure some of their droppings make it through the cracks – landing on the floor in my bathroom like little brown gifts of love. Thanks, roomies!
Speaking of through the cracks, let me take you back to the night I heard a scraping sort of sound coming from the kitchen. It doesn’t sound quite like the self-mutilating flies I normally hear and is definitely too delicate a sound to be the rats, so I go to check it out. Upon investigation, I discover a scorpion squeezing itself through a crack between the ceiling tile and the wall. A little concerned at first, I search my apartment for something I could poke it with. This doesn’t take long given that I have one backpack worth of possessions in a barely furnished apartment. Most people own a broom. I don’t. I considered asking my neighbour to borrow his – “Charlie, come save me from the evil scorpion!” But, being the strong, independent woman I am, I decide to deal with this myself. So, I proceed to stand in the middle of my tiny kitchen, half asleep in my PJs, staring intently at this stinging creature, as if my eyes might shoot deadly laser beams at it. I feel a lot better knowing that scorpions here aren’t poisonous. But their sting, so I hear, hurts like a motherfucker – a pain I can surely do without. And after learning last summer how my body reacts to bee stings, I’d rather not find out how it responds to scorpion stings. So, I continue to stare intently. Dealing with it myself.
At one point, it looks as though the scorpion might fall, even without lasers beaming from my eyes. It holds on with just a couple of its tiny legs – like a human dangling from a cliff, with only a few fingertips secured in place. It surely isn’t happy with my brightly lit kitchen and quite obviously wants to get out. It has walked so far from its point-of-entry that it can’t get back out. It tries every couple centimeters, but the crack just isn’t big enough over there. I find myself rooting for my new scorpion friend – not only because it’s trying to get out of my kitchen, but also because I’ve begun to feel a little connected to it. They say staring into someone’s eyes will do that. Well, staring into a scorpion’s stinger has a similar effect, apparently. C’mon little buddy – you can do it! It keeps trying, and I’m still shaking my head like, No, dude, you gotta go further that way! There’s no way you’ll fit there! But, like one of my students trying to prove me wrong, it doesn’t give up, and begins to disappear through what I never thought would be a big enough crack. I’m amazed at how it pulls itself up and how it squeezes through a mere sliver in the ceiling. Goodbye little friend. It’s been a blast, but please don’t come back.
For the next week, I compulsively check the ceiling tiles for signs of scorpion activity. I’m happy to report that I’ve found none, and I remain un-stung. I keep my cool, knowing that if I do get stung, I’ll just be glad it’s not a bullet ant… Well, I suppose it’d be kinda cool to know what it’s like to get shot by a bullet, without actually getting shot by a bullet. But still, I’d rather be stung by a scorpion.
So now when I hear a small noise, I smile, knowing I’m not alone, and wonder what creature is lurking around my apartment tonight. Quite fittingly, there’s something flying beside me right now, trying to get itself off the ground. I’ve never seen this bug before and don’t know what it is, but it has somehow injured itself; I almost feel bad for it.
And to think, I used to be so very afraid of tiny Canadian spiders.