Friday, October 23, 2009

The one with the waggly tail

It’s a legal thing. I signed a bit of paper saying I can’t, so I don’t. But there are always loopholes. I read the small print, and I accepted it, but I have my own small print- so small in fact, that it is like the ‘zee’ in the Cat in the Hat’s hat.

It comes down to definitions- a pet is a domestic animal. No arguments there. Some landlords don’t allow domestic animals being cultivated on their properties. Fair enough. But wild ones- they can colonise at will. My friend, the completely wild and undomesticated gecko likes to twitch across the walls in the cool of the evening, starting skinny, but eventually bulbously-bellied as he feasts on the smaller wild creatures shacking up in webs and cracks.

He’s pretty cheerful- always grinning, and happy to nod hello when he catches sight of me. In act, it seems as though he’s surprised to see me, as if he was the one with the doleful music on the CD player, sitting on the couch with a beer, and I was the creature figure-eighting on his ceiling.

Familiarity breeds contempt, so I try not to get too close. No names, no details. We opt for a healthy distance, a begrudging respect. He admires my toast-making ability, I am secretly awed that he can cling to vertical surfaces with his webbed toes. But he is not a pet. He doesn’t come and cuddle on my lap, and in return I don’t have an online photo account with pictures of him in amusing poses.

You could argue that a cat, for example, is not a domestic animal. That cats tend to haunt the outskirts of our lives, or tolerate our presence with undomesticated aloofness. But the problem with a cat is that you think everything is cool, the boundaries are there, when one lonely evening, you’ve maybe had too much to drink. You unthinkingly reach out and cuff her under her chin, slide your fingers over her furry spine, and the dynamic is ruined. You can’t return from that. Once you’ve kissed her with your fingers, you are lost. Maybe you have both slipped into the wilds, the remote forests of emotions of distant epochs, rather than domesticated her, but the legal implications are clear- you have violated the lease. No cats for me.

So Gecko can stay, for now, or come, as he wishes. I don’t set a place for him at the table at mealtimes, or make tiny gift-wrapped parcels on his birthday. I am careless when I open the back door; if he has slipped into the cracks and is crushed, it will not be on my conscience. He’s welcome, anytime, his smile, his wide-eyed amity is comforting. His presence is part of me, his powdered tangibility made soluble by the liquid of my loneliness.

I have no idea what that last sentence means, either, but it was oddly arousing.


  1. oddly is a pretty good modifier for arousing in this particular usage. Yes, cats are that way, but they use hypnotic mind control.

  2. @Herb: Waaaaatch the swinging cat, you are feeeeling veeeery sleeeepy...

  3. Dude... "his presence is part of you"? You need to spend more time on line!

  4. @angel: I was just thinking the exact opposite!

  5. Haha that last line was hilarious.
    enjoy your not-pet

  6. @Sally-Jane: Thanks, I'll tell him you said hi.


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