It was the middle of the night, April 2018 and I awoke to shuffle groggily, flashlight in hand, to and from el baño, a nightly event in our Costa Rican Tico casa. The bedroom’s overhead light fixture had recently broken, leaving the room black as ink on those hot jungle nights. However, not wanting to be surprised by creatures under my bare feet — cicadas, cockroaches, geckoes, whatever — I shone the flashlight on the floor before stepping out of bed. I had been increasingly aware of a resident gecko or two on the ceiling of our bedroom. Amused, I felt friendly towards them and their seemingly random chirping, a comforting familiarity in the soundscape of our jungle abode. Yet, I had come to imagine the possibility of a gecko falling on me in the night while I slept, or — perhaps worse — pooping on me. I have even been known to awaken from sleep to find myself snoring lightly with my mouth open, bringing to mind a revolting possibility. It was with this thought, as I was on my return trip to bed that night, that I casually shone my light at the ceiling and walls in an attempt to locate any critter that might be on the precipice of these behaviours.
I was startled awake by the appearance in my flashlight beam of a creature! Not a gecko, no cicada, not even the hated cockroach — but an enormous scorpion sprawled across the wall just above where my sleeping head had lain not minutes before. The scream was out of me and Aaron was on his feet — it seemed in the same millisecond, well before he was awake. When he spotted the intruder, his horror mirrored mine. After all, Aaron is an actual arachnophobe.
At that point everything became a blur. Instantly our eyes conveyed to one another that it was us against this massive beast and it would have to die, a most uncommon conclusion for us to reach. A sense of defensive outrage that the beast had been within such close range of my head? It seemed, in our fuzzy-brained agitation, that there was no safe way to trap such a huge, dangerous creature. That next hour — I am convinced it was at least an hour —- was a dizzying battle of brooms and scuttling and tumbling and scrambling-into-hiding scorpion, and prancing and shrieking people. At one point, I am appalled to confess, I ran off with the flashlight, leaving Aaron in the dark with the threat of annihilation by the immense brute (exactly as he had predicted I would if he agreed to me holding the flashlight, to which I vehemently denied such a possibility, thus having gained his trust and agreement). Eventually, though, the terrified scorpion lost this battle of hide and seek.
Wide awake by that point, and gazing at its motionless form, regret seized me instantly. Though admittedly relieved to know it was no longer on the wall above my sleeping head, my regret and shame at its demise deepened by the second. Never had we killed a scorpion or any other threatening critter in all our many encounters with them, but always found a way to trap and release them outside. I am so sorry to have been the cause of an end to this creature’s time here. Excuses rise to defend, but the reality is that the memory of this event will always bring a knot to my stomach, that an irrational sense of self defence overwhelmed us, against a creature just bent on minding its own business — feeding, procreating, the basic stuff of life.
Still — how would I ever shut my eyes in my Tico bedroom again?
(This occurrence gives me pause to wonder — perhaps this fear is the source of all war and slaughter on earth? A misdirected sense of self-defence?)