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September 20, 2008 / calebdresser

Awake. Rains.

I lie on my back watching a bat fluttering in endless swooping circles around the spinning ceiling fan. Round and round and round and round. Bat goes clockwise, fan goes opposite. Tuck and roll, fighter jets would fall from the sky, but Bat changes direction. Round and round and round and round. Sometimes high, sometimes inches from my face. Never a collision. We first met some weeks ago during a power cut. I awoke to find it on top of my bed net, briefly perched perhaps eighteen inches above my stomach. I opened the doors and let it out into the courtyard, but, ever alert, woke to find it had returned a couple of hours before dawn. I worried about rabies, but have since concluded there is little danger; peaceable old Bat seems perfectly healthy, and is quick to fly back to a hole in the paneling when I flick on the lights. It keeps to itself, silently ridding my room of the threat of malaria, and unlike most of my other acquaintances does not make my business its personal concern.

More than this reserve, though, I admire Bat’s intelligence. The sleeping room has screened doors and  windows on three sides, so my breath and body heat are well known to the local mosquitoes. Every night they slip in through drains and chinks and holes and briefly opened doors, only to find themselves blocked by the wispy bed-net carefully tucked in around my mattress. There they wait for the rest of the night; I counted more than forty just after dawn one morning during the early monsoons. These make a fine meal for the furry flier; while others try their luck in the open, my bat is eating a fat meal with little effort. Though usually alone, every now and again I wake to the barely audible flutter of my bat. I have come to enjoy its undemanding, quiet company. 

The lizards are less fun, though I usually don’t begrudge them their glassy-eyed immobile solitude. Like the bat, they leave me in peace as I go about my business, and for my part I try not to disturb their tranquility. There are blessedly few insects aside from ants, and I give full credit to the lizards. Still, as in any long companionship, I sometimes grow annoyed at trifles. Do something, I want to shout, stop sitting there looking smug! Don’t you want more in life? I’m leaving soon, in three weeks you’ll never see me again – do you care? Did you even notice I moved in? Beady eyes look back without expression. 

The hopping insects of evening are the simplest members of our little family, but in their simplicity they are also the most profound. Like the laborers and anyone else passing though the IRRI site office, they flock to the glow of my computer screen. To the insects is is only light, all higher meaning lost on them. To the people who peer over my shoulder or go through my files while I am busy in the lab, it is unconnected glimpses of places and ideas unimaginably foreign from the present, impossible to place in concrete relation to their current lives. To me, it is a connection with much of what I hold dear, a useful tool, and a creative outlet. I like to think I understand the full meaning of what is conjured up before my eyes. Sometimes I wonder, though. I’m no god, no devil, no genius. Perhaps nothing more than a bug on a bigger screen, says one voice, and another says, so what? Bugs don’t need to read what I’m typing.

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4 Comments

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  1. BenGolas / Sep 21 2008 7:51 pm

    Talking to animals? You’re starting to sound more like me. 😉

    I think this is one of my favorite entries of yours. It indicates a heightened sense of awareness with just a touch of solitude-induced madness. I won’t start worrying for your sanity until the lizards start talking back, though.

  2. Winslow / Sep 21 2008 8:46 pm

    This is really good writing Caleb, glad someone is keeping you company. See you pretty soon!

  3. Margaret McCandless / Sep 24 2008 9:34 pm

    Today a few Lower School teachers, always fond of you, asked how you are doing. Cousin Barb said that she really liked your Bat entry on your blog. I grinned. I asked if she would leave you a response. Barb replied that Winslow had said it all.
    Yes. We both grinned.

  4. Becky / Sep 26 2008 9:50 pm

    I am listening to Abbey Road right now.

    I love your blog.

    Yesterday I shot a gun for the first time in my life! You were the first person I thought of afterwards… I knew you would be proud.

    Miss, miss, MISS YOU, CALEB!

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