These days I have been very stationary.
I sit and I stare and I watch.
The snake outside of my window watches me back.
The snake is long and dark and sleek and lives in the right back corner of the backyard. Her body is thick and muscular. Her fangs glitter in the sun and gleam in the moonlight. She looks at me and I look at her, but only for minutes at a time. Her eyes pierce right through me and I have to close the shades before she sees too much of me.
Snakes used to be my favorite animal. When I was in kindergarten, I did my end-of-the-year project on snakes. I liked them mostly because the fact that I liked them made me different from my other female classmates, who cowered at the sight of a picture of even a garter snake. But this snake scares me.
She never leaves.
When I “go” to school in the morning, (also known as walking the six feet from my bed to my desk), my back is turned to my window so I don’t see it every time I look up from my desk.
But when I get up from my chair to use the bathroom; to get a snack from the kitchen; to talk to my sister from the doorframe of her room, I get a glimpse of the window. Just seeing it sends shivers through my body. All I can think about is those yellow eyes glaring back at me.
They are yellow just like the hazard signs on the side of the road.
Warning: danger up ahead.
My bed used to face the windows, but now I’ve rotated it so that it’s up against them, facing away from them. When I asked my dad to help me move the bed, he didn’t understand why I wanted to.
“Why do you want to move it? It’s perfectly fine this way, and if you move it up against the windows, it’ll be hard to open them in the summer!”
I’m not going to open my windows. Never. But I didn’t want to tell him that. I was afraid that he would make fun of me. So I said:
“The light from the windows is too harsh coming in in the morning. Plus, if I move the bed, then I’ll have more space to fit my books.”
“Okay. Whatever you say, man. I don’t really care. But this is the last time we’re moving the bed, got it? You take the headboard, I’ll get the foot. One, two, three!”
Flipping the bed helped, but it didn’t solve the problem. For maybe five hours a day I’m stuck in my room doing classwork, and then another five or more doing homework. It’s around ten hours every day just in my room, and given the small space, I’m bound to look towards the window at some point.
And once I see it, I can’t look away. It scares the life out of me, but it captivates me, it pulls me in. Once I’m facing the window, I have to look out of it, I have to see if the snake is still there.
She always is.
I don’t actually know the snake’s gender. Maybe it’s male, and I should say he instead. But it feels female. The way it stares into my eyes and knows everything about me — no male could ever do that.
It’s a pretty snake, there’s no doubt about it. She has large, smooth, shiny black scales that catch the light in a perfectly menacing way. She’s long too, maybe seven feet, maybe more. I’ve never seen her stretched out all the way. She’s always curled up in a neat pile. Her eyes are the worst part, perhaps. Her bright yellow eyes with black slits for pupils. When I close my eyes, I see her pupils, those sharp black lines, slicing into my body, sucking every ounce of life out of me.
I try to break eye contact quickly when I’ve spotted her in the grass outside. I always look for her, but I try to keep the search brief. Just to make sure she’s there, and then I leave. But it always turns into more than that. Once I catch her eyes, I’m gone. I’m sucked into her gaze and I cannot get out unscathed.
Her eyes follow me throughout the house. Not just in my room, when I know she can see me, but even when I’m downstairs in the living room, or in my mother’s room on the other side of the house. Even then I can feel her presence.
And it’s even worse then because I can’t see her, I can’t watch her, I can’t keep tabs on her. When she’s out of my sight, I am vulnerable.
I try to go outside, try to socialize, but no matter how far away I get or how many people I surround myself with, I cannot escape the snake.
My mind always comes back to her.
I made a plan to see my friend in Prospect Park last week. We were going to take a walk around the whole park, which isn’t even very far. Prospect Park is about one-third the size of Central Park. The loop around the park measures 3.35 miles. For a park, it’s not huge, but not tiny either. Bigger than some, smaller than others. Just like everything else except the smallest thing in the world and the largest thing in the world.
The park is a convenient place for me. It’s maybe a ten-minute walk from my house to the park. I’m very lucky in that regard.
The day rolled around quickly. The day I had to go outside. As soon as I stepped out of the door and started walking towards the park, I started to feel strange. My footsteps got slower and slower. I became exhausted and felt like passing out. I stopped for a moment to catch my breath against my neighbor’s fence. As I stood there I felt a pull. It came from deep within me, not somewhere I could locate on an “Operation” board game.
It was pulling me back home.
The longer I stood there, leaning on the fence, the stronger the pull became. After a few minutes, I could no longer see straight. My vision was faltering. All I could see was yellow. Hazard sign yellow. And then I heard the hiss, pulsing through my head, ringing in my eardrums.
And so I went home. I called my friend and used some lame excuse to defend my introverted manner, citing feeling under the weather, (which is a perfectly good excuse to use nowadays), and returned to my room. My room?
And I sit and I stare and the pull has gone away now.
I sit on my bed, facing away from the windows, and pull up the covers, relieved and ashamed and scared. I am safe in my bed, in a room that is my own, in an apartment with heat and water and ventilation and family members and yet I am terrified. I am still, afraid to move.
I am no longer really a person. I am just a little mouse trapped in my little hole, afraid of climbing out because I know what’s waiting for me.