When I came to third year, I finally got a room of my own. I really miss the bedtime chats R and I used to have, but she’s still right next door. When we lived together, we never had many non human visitors. True we had a family of lizards (guaranteed to send R into hysterics whenever they made an appearance from their home behind the bookcase) and an occasional adventurous bee. But nothing on the scale I have now.
Since I’ve started living alone, I’ve been vividly aware of all the other creatures surrounding me. There’s the glossy black crow that raids the dustbin outside my door every morning. I often startle him when I open my door in a sleep dazed stupor, vaguely clutching my toothbrush. He immediately retreats to a nearby tree branch and from there caws reproachfully till I shamble away.
There’s the squirrel that comes to share in the crow’s spoils. He’s surprisingly tame and lets me get within an arm’s breadth without flinching. We’ve had a staring match, us two. One morning I caught him with an apple core in his paws sitting on an overhanging branch and staring at me with beady eyes. Fascinated, I stared back. He ruminatively munched on the core while never breaking eye lock. I broke our silent contest first; I remembered I was ten minutes late for class and so pleaded a rain check. I could swear he held his tail with a faintly triumphant air as he scampered away.
Other occasional animal visitors include a monkey that peers in at my door in a neighborly way from time to time. He appears to delight in startling me, baring his teeth in an ingratiating grin before running away. There are also a few shy sparrows that timidly peck around the mess that the crow makes of my dustbin every morning. There’s a cat that once in a very long while slinks past my open door like a shadow. Her coming up to our wing is an act of great condescension, she rarely pays social calls. I always stare after her in wonder; I’ve never seen anyone move more gracefully.
But all these visitors are from the animal realm. I entertain a whole host of smaller guests too, not all of them welcome. First there are the moths, drawn irresistibly to my tube light; they fly out at me from unexpected places startling me to no end. Then there are the strange brown insects for whom also my light seems to hold some magnetic attraction. They sit motionless on my wall, staring at it in utter fascination. I leave them be, they don’t trouble me and hey, maybe that’s how I look when I stare at my computer screen… I’m no one to judge.
Among my unwelcome guests are a line of termites, steadfastly marching across my ceiling. They defy everything I’ve ever learnt about termites. There’s no wood on my ceiling, still the line keeps growing every morning, inching closer and closer to my cupboard. I’ve even been as inhospitable as to regularly have their home sprayed with phenyl, but like all unwelcome guests, they stubbornly refuse to leave.
Then there are the odd mosquitoes that sneak in when I open my door in the evening. By morning they are fat and swollen flying about sluggishly, drunk on my blood. After years of practice, I can now tell which mosquitoes have drunk my blood and which haven’t. They ones who haven’t are shooed out through the window, but the ones who have are killed mercilessly, leaving dark brown smudges on my pink walls. I have my own ideas of justice.
But perhaps the strangest of all my strange visitors are the line of black ants. The line snakes across my room, often triumphantly bearing the carcass of a moth or a mosquito. I can’t figure out from where they appear. They just show up in the night in a huge black swarm, crowding my ceiling and within an hour they’re gone as mysteriously as they came. Now when I first saw them, I was hardly welcoming. Short of killing them I tried everything, including spraying them with deodorant (which they seem to rather like) and blowing at them till I was red in the face. But they marched on regardless, barely breaking ranks.
I’ve now grown quite inured to their presence and in fact am quite grateful to them. For you see, anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I’m not tidy, but I am clean. This means that in my room, you’ll find clothes scattered all over the floor, but the floor itself will be spotless. You’ll find books and papers all over the place, but not a grain of dust on any of them. So the fastidious ants actually help me out. They’re a tireless army that keeps cleaning up, food crumbs, dead insects… Perhaps if I was tidy, I’d mind that there was a moving black line across my wall but ah well, I’m just clean.
These are just the most prominent of my visitors. I have said nothing of several other interesting sparrows, beetles, spiders and others I don’t know the names of. That is the stuff of perhaps another later post. But honestly, how can I ever be bored even if I’m the only human in the room, when I have so much fascinating company around?