Learning to Love a Snake
Last winter around this time, I walked by a what was seemingly empty terrarium in my hallway. Numerous times actually, for almost a month. Still feeling the sting of putting down my cat Socrates, I wasn't ready for a new pet investment like a cat or dog, but was considering maybe a group of gerbils or a pair of mice. That terrarium kept peaking up in my memory, and I thought to maybe ask my neighbors about letting me have it since it was just left out there with the other garbage they leave in the hallway. I even started looking up how to set up proper home environments for the critters and casually flirting with the idea waltzing around the displays at the pet store.
Until one unexpectedly warmer winter day, I happen to walk up the stairs and see something moving inside this large glass box. I went in closer and peered in to find there was a little orange snake coiled almost like a lightening bolt. The small creature was positioned like that because he was desparetely trying to fit into the shape of the weak sliver of light coming in from the sunroom two stories above. Now let me be clear, I am not really a reptile person. I spent a long spell in Florida and developed a certain appreciation and respect for the wildlife out there, but they were typically creatures we tried to avoid. You are always cautious of snapping turtles, water moccasions, and we all knew growing up to get out of the water or never get in to begin with, if you see an alligator. So despite a thick piece of glass dividing us, naturally I was taken aback.
I couldn't also help but feel pity for the poor thing. No food, water, heat source for nearly a month. During the coldest month of the year. Seeing it curled up precisely in the shape of the sunbeam melted my cold bloody heart toward such beasts. I convinced the neighbors to let me take it in. I tried to not bring up the animal cruelty part of this awful choice they made, just offered a solution that they thankfully accepted without much fuss. I would be lying if I said it was a smooth transition though, the thing creeped me out. Going to the pet store to buy mice for eating instead of mice for petting was certainly surreal. Despite the previous owner's suggestion he keeps getting live mice, I couldn't bear the idea of doing that at all, nevermind weekly. So under the assurance of snake expert herself Serpentina of Coney Island, I went with frozen mice. It was my house, my rules mister. Thankfully the snake was so hungry the first time I fed him, he didn't really protest and now is used to it. There is a small comfort in knowing that frozen mice are humanely gassed, so that is less trauma for the prey. The whole concept still kinda grosses me out, but I know it's the snake's natural diet and it's not his fault he was raised in captivity instead of the wild.
One may ask, why not release it then? I'll admit the thought crossed my mind but then of course I don't think corn snakes really would fit into the Brooklyn urban jungle landscape. Although he could probably survive, he may be an invasive species. I considered giving him away to one of my herpatology friends, but he was out of state working on his PhD and said if anything, I could try mailing him the snake. My terror and inexperience aside, I felt for the thing too much to ship him in a box. So I just learned how to love a snake.
I got a lot of help from friends who had snakes and the people the pet store I frequent. I gave the snake a shirt of mine to cuddle up in, and to get used to my scent. Although he'd never strike at me, often times there would tension, in retrospect my own doing more than the animals. Serpentina would show me things from the snake's perspective, that he's not being mean, he's probably just scared and I would give it time. When some friends who were brave enough to pick him up would do so, he was like sweet putty in their hands. After one failed attempt of holding him while I was alone, and spooking myself out thus accidentally dropping him, I gave him a lot of space to relax. Making sure to try to handle him often enough, so not to get lonely, but still being scared or nervous whenever I did. It wasn't till one friend willing let him bite her finger, did I realize he wasn't so bad after all. Corn snakes don't have fangs like most snakes, so knowing that a bite from him would be like a muppet bite, I wasn't so bothered by the idea of it. I guess it had been any other fanged typed species, it would be a different story.
I suddenly found myself in this unspoken snake club. Other snake people ogle and woo at pictures of other people's snakes like they were puppies, and then other people would be thoroughly freaked out by the idea. People who could talk about the most disgusting things at the dinner table has suddenly revealed some limit, where they did not want to hear about snakes. I remember reading one guy's dating profile and it stating "Do not message me if you're into drama, games or own snakes. Seriously, that is f*cking weird as hell." Being on the reader's end, i couldn't help but laugh and realize I'm in some special class of weirdo now. But being a burlesque performer, a middle child, left handed and a bassoonist mind you, living in weird is not uncharted land. I suppose I had changed, as I begun to really notice the snake had a personality too. And other people's snakes had different ones too. The animal we historically see as evil and cold blooded murders are just living beings trying to exist in this crazy beautiful world too.
Often times lately, I can't help but think that of my enemies too. Enemies not really, but people you come across that maybe you don't see eye to eye on things, or just are on different frequencies. Having enemies really is middle school stuff. I read recently in Teal Swan's blog that "no one is ever over reacting. They are reacting perfectly and justifiablly fit to how they are feeling and perceiving the moment." Two people can have a disagreement, and feel different in their perspective and would in some way be equally right in their feelings toward the matter. Friends will often pick sides with their friends out of loyalty, even if you hear both sides of the arguments. This understanding has made me learn to have compassion and love towards those people. We may not get along, but I accept you as your own beautiful creation trying to grow and survive in the same world we both occupy. I often feel I can't really hold grudges, for too long at least, because I've probably been on that end of the perspective toward someone else at some point too. I may really be into a guy when it's not requited, but I can't be too mad because I've rejected plenty of men myself. So I've learned to love my enemies, because they are just humans too. In a way, I have no enemies then, because I don't hold hate in my heart for them. They are just fellow peers. Working with the hand dealt them, and on their own goals in their own ways they seem fit.