Pictures from Senegal

Friday, May 20

Eradicating Steve

Once upon a time there was an adult woman who joined the Peace Corps, moved to another continent, and started living with undomesticated animals. Colonies of flies, deadly mosquitoes, and insolent mice were the worst of the offenders. There was an adjustment period where household improvements were made in the name of preventative entry. A new screen window, a new tiled floor, and a new toilet where gradually installed. But most recently our heroic (for the sake of the “fable” we say heroic, but she isn’t really) volunteer took what she hopes to be the last measure to barricade herself into her hut…

Wait, wait, wait... this isn’t like Custer’s last stand or anything.  And the point of this story is actually all about lizards, or ounk as they say in Wolof.

Steve Ndaw
The lizard population in my room started as one. The first time I saw it I freaked and made one of my older brothers come in and kill it. I did the same with the one who came after that. But they seemed never ending, so eventually I had to accept that it was the Mefloquine convincing me this animal was going to somehow ruin my life. But in reality, the only thing it was doing was pooping all over the place forcing me to clean my room on a regular basis. All things considered it wasn’t that bad a house guest. I talked myself into the benefits of having something hungry for the mosquito population. Unfortunately, just because I was ready to put the pineapple away for my house guest doesn’t mean I was ok with his sporadic leaps from one shadowy corner of my room to the next. I kept yelling out, but my sentence (Damn it...) didn’t seem complete. Something, a name, needed to be added. “Damn it Steve” became the go-to expression for the speedy lizards movements.

So Steve came and went as he pleased. Soon, though, Steve got fat, then lighter, then shrunk in size. Hmm. It became clear that Steve was actually more than one lizard over the months. Then there were two at a time. They started coming around just about the end of afternoon siesta but didn't actually spend time together. They just ran in circles around my room six inches below the ceiling, each on an opposite wall from the other. I told myself they were courting each other and Steve had brought his girlfriend, whom I called Stella, home for a visit. But then I’m afraid, she moved in. I think the relationship went bitter fast. Steve took the bathroom cubby. Stella took the painting and wardrobe area. It was as though these areas of my room were the result of a division of assets in my lizard roommate’s divorce.

At this point is it necessary for me to explain to you once more about Mefloquine making me crazy? Crazy nightmares and apparently crazy daydreams to boot! Lizard divorce. Seriously.

Anyway, now one point five years later, we recently started counting three lizards taking refuge in my sanctuary. I say we because by now my youngest brothers had become accustomed to rushing to my room when I would return after dark to see if they could spot the lizards. I opened my door, threw on the lights and I-Spy had nothing on my lizards. I almost became (Mefloquine) paranoid that my family was going to charge me extra rent for the long-term house guests. But that’s just ridiculous, right? This is what I would call the height of the lizard rein for Chez Ndaw.

The Hardware Store, or backyard.
The turning point was my brother demanding that my mom come to see Steve. What is Steve? Look, see, he lives in Soda’s room. That’s his house. Ok... what? And at this point, I explained to my mom that I’d been living with the lizards because they just kept coming back, no matter how many were killed. When she asked where they were coming from I pointed to a gap in the sheet metal plating of a roof over our heads. The next day my uncle was commissioned to patch the gap with cement materials we have “stored” in the yard. Cement is still littered about the walls, trapped in my mosquito net, and stuck to the floors (because my uncle is not a mason by trade)- but the roof is patched. Afterwards we tracked down the single Steve left in my room, killed him and buried him in the back yard.

The Last Patch
Since arriving in the land of critters, I’d been turning on a light when I got up to pee in the middle of the night. I would spend a few seconds locating Steve on the wall (and actually all the creatures) so that in my haze of stumbling to the toilet I wouldn’t be caught off guard by his scurrying. Too many occasions had passed where I’d find myself so spooked from his sudden movement through the shadows that my racing heart wouldn’t allow me to return to sleep for a minimum of half an hour. Steve wasn’t worth losing sleeping over, so I’d search him out, then pee, then sleep. I slept easy that night after we saw to Steve's gateway to heaven. With the screen in the window, the tile floor, the new toilet, and now a patched roof there was no possible way Steve could come back. He’d been evicted.

Go away, Stella!
Yeah right. Crafty foe that he was, Steve found a gap in the wall by my sink and was able to scare me awake two nights later. We patched the hole and killed him. Steve was becoming desperate at this point; he wasn’t taking our breakup well. He found another hole between the roof and the wall leading to the neighbor’s house and proved determined to stake his claim in our fake divorce. But I pulled out a pre-nup and this time I was holding my ground. Once more my uncle came with the cement. He had bludgeon Stella as she tried to enter, but was able to successfully close the door. Then we buried Steve once more, with his other selves, in the back yard.

And again I slept soundly.

And again. In fact, we haven’t seen Steve since. My brother Saliou asks every day where Steve is, but no answer satisfies him. He went home. Where is home? Is he in Dakar? I don’t know but he won’t come back. So, I’ve successfully barricaded my room against all undomesticated enemy animals. A part of me feels guilty for killing him so many times, but I gave him plenty of chances and he took a mile from my inch when he invited his friends to stay. Although I’ve always secretly longed for the eradication of Steve, looking back on it I’m a better person for having had him as a house guest. I over came the guilt of eviction, bouts of paranoia, and an irrational fear of small quick moving lizards. Goodbye Steve.


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