the visitor

img_8129OLD NOTEBOOKS: BKK: I had a job as an illustrator many years ago, 1985 I think, part of a lifetime spent shading-in with a Rotring pen, and touching up with typewriter correction fluid, whiteout liquid. No computer enhanced imagery in those days – no computers. Cut and paste was not the metaphor it is today – it was done with a real pair of scissors and glue. But usually I’d sit for hours at the desk without much movement, only the hand holding the pen, carefully searching for form… a happy silence in the room on the top floor of a Bangkok shop house with door leading out to small roofed terrace and bougainvilleas in large old clay pots, red and pink blossoms everywhere. Very little traffic noise, blue  sky, and few people came to see me there; I was happily alone in this self-contained apartment for many days at a stretch.

The small lizard (gecko) came to visit me one day and I hardly noticed it at first, a small rustle and clink sound from somewhere on my art table, covered in all kinds of drawing equipment, books and discarded papers. The clink sound again got my attention and I just sat still and waited to see what it was – so completely still, a spider could have spun a web in the spaces between my fingers. Then another rustle in the bits of papers on my desk, discarded sketches and cut paper crumpled up and trashed… and there it was!

Aiming for the cup of coffee gone cold, forgotten, but it was the spoon for the sugar, stirred into the coffee; it was that that it wanted – lying there in a tiny spill of wetness on the surface of the table. It must have come here before, it knows about the coffee spoon. I see its small head get nearer and nearer to the spoon, alert and aware of any movement. But I am a mountain, unmoving. The tongue extends out, lick, lick, and it gets into the hollow of the spoon with its tiny front feet, there’s the same clink sound, caused by the weight of the small creature.

The next day, around the same time it came back and sure enough, headed for the coffee spoon, lick, lick, lick, and it was gone. As the days went by, I got accustomed to it arriving, always around the same time. Then one day it didn’t come, in fact I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen it. Sometimes I’d see it moving up the wall by the door and out through an open window to the roof terrace and the bougainvilleas outside. So I got up from my chair and out to the terrace also to see if the plants needed any water from the storage tank… and there it was, in the tank! Not in the water but standing ‘on’ the surface of the water!

Surface tension, amazing! I didn’t know lizards could do that. So I backed out of the terrace and left it for a while. When I went out again the lizard was still there in exactly the same place. I looked at it and there was something about the way it looked back at me: Get me out of this predicament, please? Hmmm was it not able to move because the surface tension would give way and it would sink? I went inside again and searched for the plastic mesh container for A4 paper and all kinds of junk, emptied out the contents and went out to the terrace.

Carefully sinking the plastic mesh tray into the water then over and down, under the lizard. Slowly scoop it up, out of the water and I placed it down in a shady corner on its side so my small friend could crawl out of and run away and hide. That was the last time I saw it (sad). I worried about the affect the sugar and tiny amount of caffeine had had on the lizard, and felt guilty about that. Maybe it induced a kind of lizard ‘high’ resulting in unwise decision-making and stepping out on to the surface of water. Ah well, if that was the case, I saved it in time…


36 thoughts on “the visitor

  1. I worried about the affect the sugar and tiny amount of caffeine had had on the lizard

    If that’s it in the pic I’d be worried too. It’s eyes look like mine do after downing a full pot of espresso.

    • Well, yes you’re right there, a stoned lizard maybe. No I found the image on the internet and cannot attribute to anyone because I’ve lost the link long ago.

    • Wow, amazing creature running on the water’s surface. This one, I remember was just standing there with the water sort of giving way under each foot with the lizard’s weight. The water seemed more like thick viscous fluid than it usually does. Thanks for the video link…

  2. Oh, I just live this one, Tiramit! One of my favorites of yours. The pictures in my mind, drawn by your words so vivid. Almost snapshots of your life near the terrace. Sounds lovely in that shop building. My husband loves geckos, too, and introduced me to them very lovingly. I am glad you saved the day, poor lizard trapped in collapsing surface tension. A wonderful feeling to the piece!

    • Thanks Ellen, it was the first place I inhabited, a very tall building with many flights of stairs. I had very few visitors because they were too puffed out going up the stairs. Interesting what you say about the words conveying a vivid image. I’m not actually conscious of doing that. It arises maybe in the editing process, cutting unnecessary words and parts of the narrative become disassociated, really the bare bones of it and I have to use what’s there to bridge the gap and make things link up. Yes it was nice in that place, I’d been in India for 2 years and came straight over from there to Bangkok. Wow, it was really undeveloped in those days…

  3. Reblogged this on sonnische and commented:
    Here is a wonderful anecdote from a friend then living in Thailand, so beautifully written and vivid in its descriptions that I felt I was right there with him and the small lizard. Read and enjoy!

  4. Beautiful, Tiramit! I love the way your words paint such a vivid picture of your experience. I could see the careful strokes of the pen, your hearing and listening for the clink of the lizard, your sitting still as a mountain, and how your lizard visitor behaved. I too felt sad that you never saw him again. But then, perhaps he has been reborn as someone who has crossed your path! Namasté, Sunny

    • Perhaps it’s a rebirth, yes, when I look in the mirror and see this lizard looking back at me. 🙂 Thanks for these nice words Sonnische, I’m really happy you found it meaningful…

  5. Love this post T.
    When we are so still to be as one with nature, we make it more interesting with our stories. The sharing of the stories brings we humans together. ☺️

    • Other beings who inhabit these exotic surroundings get a hold of my attention and it’s simply their presence that form the story. I didn’t say of course that I was tanked up on coffee too in the telling of the story…

  6. What a lovely story. I love the whole idea of walking on water.
    I love observing little critters and birds. One can lose track of time when sitting very still sharing the hours with nature.

  7. While you were cutting and pasting images, I was cutting and pasting words. I remember once telling college students that computers would never be able to do what in fact they have been doing quite well.

  8. I enjoyed very much the story of your relationship with the lizard. Your description of the tasting, of the clinking spoon and the darting tongue was perfect. Your discovery of it exercising its natural abilities, but perhaps prematurely. Or without all of the conditions present for success. Sometimes I think we’re a little like that. A perfection that is just a touch misplaced. Somehow we put ourselves in moments that don’t quite fit to match our desire. But we’re not sinking either. We’re just caught in between– standing on the water…


    • It’s true, we recognize the young lizard as uninstructed, hanging out, drinking coffee instead of doing things mature lizards do. Bold initial statements but without all of the conditions present for success. Not quite right but nearly, fortunately, and the situation made it possible for me to put things back in order. Part of me is concerned that maybe it was my being there for days and weeks that created this karma, then I realize I was a little recklessly unafraid myself, back in those days, and this is how the ‘world’ reflects everything…

  9. A long time ago I placed a cookpot under a leak in the attic roof.
    When weather cooperated, the leak was repaired.
    As I retrieved the cookpot containing four inches of water, I was saddened to see a mouse had fallen in it. With no way out and vertical walls, the mouse drowned.
    I’ve never since left a bucket, pail, cookpot or anything else about that, if it could gather water, did not have some kind of stick placed in it, leading to the rim.
    I did not want to witness another agonizing death caused by my actions.

    Thanks for reminding me of this.

    Seek peace,


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