A year ago, Lila, Tiji, and I were waking up in the US on the first morning of a lovely three-month stay.
We had escaped the heat, the humidity, and we would breathe in the cool PNW air while Casa Sama was getting finished.
I knew that in addition to the heat and the humidity, I was happy to have run away from The Two Things That Scare Me.
This year, I want to experience my house in the big weather, I want to paint, I want to write and so we are staying put for most of the summer. Within that decision, I am very aware that I am raising the chances of running into The Two Things That Scare Me.
Yes, there has been an uptick in bugs in the last few weeks. My house is usually wide open, we cohabitate with many of them, their sounds, their occasional little poops too.
I don't mind, for the most part.
If watching a movie at night, I notice that many many bugs converge towards the computer screen and I don't love that. But overall, it works.
But The Two Things That Scare Me scare me a lot.
Thing #1 is scorpions.
They are around, I see them regularly, sometimes lifeless (did Tiji kill it and if so, is she ok?) and sometimes alive. Just thinking about them freaks me out. I have heard of the terrible pain, I have heard of the getting-yourself-to-the-hospital-really-quickly. They scare me for me and they scare me for my girls.
Thing #2 is toads.
A particular type of toad comes out in the summer, in the rainy season. These toads, I am told, can kill a dog within minutes if they lick it. Now that SCARES me even more than Thing #1.
Both Thing#1 and Thing#2 make a good case for leaving for a few months each year. But then we would miss out on the warm ocean, the bright green jungle, the quiet village, and the fierce nature that both intimidates and invigorates me.
When I get into these moments of fear (did I check my sheets really well for Thing#1?) I hear my grandmother Lili's voice, always.: "C'est écrit, ma chérie."
It's written, my darling.
How many times as I was growing up and mentioning to her some not-quite-fully-baked plan, and its potential dangers, she would remind me that it was all already written? Many times. Many, many times. I remember the words and I remember how they made me feel safe, somehow. Like I couldn't mess up too badly.
Then there is the other story, the one that still pierces my heart and also emboldens me.
1974 in France, a few short kilometers from Paris. Dana, her name was Dana. She and her family had just left Beirut, Lebanon because Dana's dad wanted to bring them all to safety. They had moved into town and she and I had become instant friends. It was a deep friendship for two ten-year-olds. A friendship that was birthed from her telling me the first time we met - a week after they had arrived - about her little brother. Her little baby brother who had drowned in the public pool of this very safe French town, their first weekend there. The parents had wanted to give them all a Saturday of fun and what do you know? "it was written" that Dana's baby brother would not die from bombs but rather in a sky blue swimming pool, in a country that was not at war.
Dana's story lives with me. At 10, I had few words to give her. I don't think she needed many, anyway. Our friendship grew and when she returned to her beloved Beirut, she often sent me postcards. I wonder where she is now. I wonder about her dad's heart, too. Did he curse god on that terrible Saturday? Or did he know that he had done the best he could and that what was written ... was written? I will never know.
But here I am, with The Two Things That Scare Me and also Lili's voice.
So I do the best I can.
For Thing#1, I went to the hospital and asked what to do in case I got stung, given that I live away from the village. They prescribed me a pill and I have the box on top of my bathroom counter at all times. If I need to, I will pop one in and drive myself to the hospital, assuming the rivers are low enough.
For Thing #2, I went to the vet and was given three syringes: one for Tiji and two for Lila. If one of them gets too close to the infamous toads, I will find it in me to give them the appropriate shots in the appropriate body part, which I have written on the package. Then take them to the vet, again according to the rivers.
Meanwhile, we keep on living. I am careful. I check where I step, I try to remember to shake my towels. I am stern with Lila when she sniffs something I can't see.
I do the best I can and I also give myself a bit of a break from thinking that I can control, protect everything, myself, everyone.
Because you know. Swimming pools.
SCARED OF THE SACRED