The clothes weren’t drying on the rack on the front patio. It’s rainy season and oppressively humid and they were just hanging there, limp and lifeless. I was feeling pretty much the same. I hadn’t slept the previous night. I had come back to my village on one of the overnight buses out of Bangkok, 9 or so sleepless hours. I rarely sleep on buses and planes anyway. The air conditioning was cranked up and I wrapped myself in a blanket. I stared out the window into the blackness and listened to music on my iPhone.
As I was languidly watching my clothes that next morning, wondering how many days it would take for them to dry, I spotted my landlord across the street. He was carrying one of those long poles commonly seen around here, the kind with a blade at one end and used to cut down fruit or trim branches high up in the trees. They’re used for harvesting mangos, durians, papayas, bananas and other tropical goodies. He was carrying the pole horizontally and I noticed something green held out in front as he walked onto the road. Groggy, I shifted my focus from the wet T-shirts to watching him transport a huge green snake. The thing was at least 2, maybe 3 meters, of coiled and drooping flesh. I hate snakes and get weak in the knees when I spy a garter snake. I couldn’t bring myself to stare at it long, all I saw was snake. Green. Huge. He walked down to the little stream to get rid of it. I don’t know if the thing was dead or alive but when he came back he washed off the blade in my front yard. I have a convenient hose.
Of course I knew Thailand was tropical and probably would have many snakes, but I never put a lot of thought into it. Out of sight, out of mind works well for me. Until a few weeks ago. I was down in the city down the mountain from here with some co-workers. We were sitting in the pick-up truck waiting in front of an office building when Bingo spotted a gecko out the window. In pantomime and broken English he intimated he would open the window, grab the lizard and toss it into the back seat where Dtarn was sitting. She hates the reptiles. Bingo can be playful. In broken Thai, I told them I had found the tail of a jink-jok laying on my kitchen floor the day before. Just the tail. (The tail’s owner made a fleeting appearance in the bathroom a few days later.)
Bingo laughed and blurted out a few words in Thai. He bent his arm at the elbow hand up, bent his wrist down and cupped his palm, holding his fingers together. I didn’t need words to understand what he meant. Cobra. He had found a cobra in his kitchen. My back stiffened, my chest tightened, my sphincter clenched and I felt woozy. I never thought Thailand would have cobras, just as I never thought I’d have really good internet access. Apparently I was wrong on both counts.
I figured Thailand had snakes, this wasn’t Ireland, and I sort of assumed that some would be big and dangerous like in other jungly areas. I had seen a few lesser snakes here and there but they were always squished in the road having been run over again and again by sugar cane trucks. More cardboard cut out than reptile. Each time I saw one while riding my bicycle I’d shudder, peer into the adjacent grass and pedal a little faster. I had heard that one of my fellow volunteers found a snake in his house recently. But he lived way over near Cambodia, still quite a ways from me and my reality. The thought of finding a snake in the house terrifies me and just knowing that another volunteer had one was scary enough to cause concern and trepidation half a country away. Now hearing that Bingo had a snake—a cobra nonetheless—was scaring the bejesus out of me. I remained anxious, on edge, for a couple hours after hearing his story. But then again he lived down the mountain from here, a good 10 kilometers away, I told myself, minimizing my abject fear.
Now to find there was a great big snake across the street from my house, my home, my sanctuary, my pink Eden. This did not bode well. I’ve got to check my Peace Corps medical kit to see if there are any nitro pills.