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…