This still makes me cry, this 24-hour period with a gecko. Why is that so? Why the tears?
First came the discovery:
This entry bellows forth via only my right hand. The other protects something small and valuable. Yet I know not what to do about it.
With an adult beverage held carefully lest I spill its precious contents, I stepped outside so that I might bathe my weary soul in evening’s blessed comforts. Despite uncomfortable weather conditions, that is.
Cicadas sang to me, for me, and did so from all directions. I pondered their future given my local wasp population.
Then I saw it. I could not be certain I had not stepped on it, a situation not too dissimilar from a previous event. I felt certain I had not, though I came close this time.
With barely a sip of ale in my belly, I glanced down and discovered a Mediterranean gecko (a.k.a. house gecko; Hemidactylus turcicus) resting next to my sandaled foot. Were I breath, it would have been inhaled with abandon.
This tiny creature, not much larger than those previously shared, struggled for life from within a wounded body. I could see that immediately.
As geckos are wont to do, its feet held firmly to the ground as I tried to lift it, a frail form clinging to hot concrete with strength so impressive as to be biblical. How might I find myself struggling to pull it free from its own grip? Might the simple explanation be that I dared not try too hard lest I hurt it further?
Now, safely held in my left hand once finally disconnected from a desperate hold to the ground, I know not what to do.
I fear its life ebbs from between my fingers even as I hope for the best. Tiny feet hold miraculously like glue to my skin. What dare I do with such a little one?
Wisps of cirrus paint haphazardly subtle patterns accentuated by dusk’s dim light. Strokes of amber mix with deepening azure in a sky filled with rainbows too understated for all but the observant.
And I hold it gently, carefully, willfully.
This life, this tiny thing unnoticed by too many of my brethren, rests in the palm of my hand, having moved there after desperately holding firm to a single finger much larger than itself.
Do not die, Little One, I think out loud, and do not leave me holding you when last you glance upon this world. Stay with me for a while, a little while, and sup at the board of time’s altar until we finally sleep. Let me cut from my own flesh a bit of life to gift you another moment, another day.
Wounds revealed in agony’s embrace tell stories of survival. Translucent skin shows me that which I do not care to see. It is a head wound. Perhaps one eye now lazily perceives nothing, yet simultaneously I weep for its terrible agony that even now lets a slow trickle of blood seep over and around this minuscule mind.
Give no care to your welfare. Tire not yourself with the burden of physical concerns. You remain safe in my arms, held near to my spirit as it bequeaths to you whatever strength you need. Place your tiny head against my chest. Heave your breast against mine. Let my power be your own.
I wish no ill will to that which has done this to you lest I wish Nature herself to lie down and stop the counting of seconds which only she comprehends.
Do not think less of me for this, my dearest and unfortunate friend. Just as I would not think less of you for hunting that which you need to survive, let not your own heart believe me some monster for doing the same for them.
Only as life ends does life continue. This is the way of things. Even the most innocent of creatures must realize this. If they did not, they would not hasten a retreat from predators.
I know you understand.
So is my evening, poppets. Allow me to share this discomfiting moment with but a paltry tear felled upon my own hand, one reserved wholly for that which even now dies. Let it comfort and support. Let it give precisely what you hope it to give when such terror befalls your own.
Then came visions of a wounded dragon:
And finally, the painful deed:
Had it been possible, I would have cut from my flesh the very life you needed to survive. But it could not be done.
I held you closely and wished for the miracle that I already knew would never happen. I could see how badly you had been hurt, how terrible the pain inflicted upon you truly was, yet even still I pondered what nature might accomplish given the chance.
So when sleep beset me, I carried you with the utmost love to a safe place hidden from predators and the sun, an isolated plot of space where I knew you could breathe fresh air, hunt if you were so inclined, escape if the will and energy burgeoned within your small frame.
And when I arose the next morning, some five hours later, what did I discover?
You had not moved aside from turning in a circle. Even then I knew, yet even then I denied the truth of what had to be done.
After checking upon you several times during my morning routine, I wished you health and recovery before leaving for the day. I ensured no harsh sunlight would attack you, that no predator could find you. It was all I could do save what I did not wish to do.
Why should it be my responsibility? It required of me an action I abhor, a moment of brutal strength and cold compassion that I did not feel myself capable of. How could anyone ask this of me? Why would they?
And so I pondered your fate throughout the day, cursory glances into a mental room wherein stood the dark specter of what I already knew. I hated him, that ghoulish figure, constantly beckoning to me to practice what I hate most in humans. But he also showed me it encompassed the best of our species. Ah, the dichotomy of humanity.
Hellish heat notwithstanding, I bathed in my own sweat later in the day while standing above your still living body. Why hadn’t you moved from that place? Why?
Already I knew what was required of me. No doubt existed in my mind or heart. I despised them for that, for knowing and feeling that way. And I resented you.
What nature had not completed in its first attempt I was forced to finish. The inhumanity of being humane!
I dared not wait any longer. How scared you must have been, unable to run or hide, to hunt or eat. How terrified you must have been not understanding why things had changed so dramatically, and why your hunger and fear continued to grow as your body grew weaker.
I cared not to play witness to your demise in such atrocious ways, to starve, to be too exposed, to slowly feel your life ebbing away with every inhalation, every exhalation, and to never understand what lay in store because your mind had already been wounded too deeply.
My own tears made the task all the more difficult. I had no doubts it was the right thing to do. No doubts at all.
What an ugly place to dwell in when a life is at stake, to have no uncertainty when killing.
And so I chose an implement that would be final, one that would be unforeseen to you, one that would allow me a single motion to complete the most unpleasant of tasks.
What despair you suffered is now over. What dreadful fate stood before you is now dispatched and forgotten.
At my hands, though, and that is what troubles me. Doing the right thing often does not equal doing the easy thing, or the thing that feels good, or the thing that we want to do.
Will you ever forgive me? Can I ever forgive myself?