The story is not one that is amenable to being recounted with a straight face without instantly making the teller look like a bumbling cretin. Especially when you do not live in a colony of Buddhist monks, like the one who saved an ant you were about to instinctively crush beneath your flat shoes by dramatically picking it up with a piece of paper and laying it against the edge of the table. Especially not in Nigeria where human life is sometimes cheaper than an empty wallet stolen in a market place. You cannot tell anyone here how you feel now that the wall gecko you lived with for many months is dead.
It isn’t the ant-saving Tibetan Buddhist monk that messed with you- the gecko was there long before you met him. You cannot remember exactly when the gecko became a fixture in your life. You just know that one day you realized- both of you- that you were going to have to share the space that was your house. It stopped running away from you. You stopped thinking, what am I going to do about this gecko?
It wasn’t like you were friends or anything. Even you know that is taking it a bit too far. That kind of thing is for white people on Discovery Channel. White people are forgiven everything. It is like the world sat at a conference and assigned them the task of trying everything crazy for the general education of the civilized world. You would come home, open the door. It would see you, regard you with the interest of a distant but respectful co-tenant and walk coolly out of your space. The unspoken agreement. Like saying, in return for not freaking out and killing me I will not lay upon you the wild expectation to pretend this is normal- I will be content with the cracks and crevices, while you are around.
You had watched it grow fatter and fatter and it has seen you through a couple of lovers. It would have looked hideous if it had not grown on you, if you had not watched its almost transparent, spindly legs slowly become these fat miniature-crocodile legs. In the beginning, you can’t quite say exactly when this was, but in the beginning, it never left the house. There was no proof for this- you just knew from looking at it when you walked in. Eventually as trust grew it would crawl out through a tiny crack in the door and enjoy the breeze under the mango tree. You would see it crawling back into the house whenever you came back.
You are thinking now that it is dead, of the quickly forgotten killings in Kaduna. Of the ease with which Nigerians kill each other. Of the fat dark complexioned man, accused of stealing something at the bus stop recently, who was being beaten to within an inch of his life by people whose faces you were used to seeing- taxi drivers, hawkers, bus drivers, people who sold handkerchiefs and recharge cards. It does not take an animal to kill another human being. All it takes is losing your killing-virginity. All it takes is that first time.
You cannot say what it took for you to kill it. It had stayed out too long and was on the wall by the front door when you walked in. You cannot say how suddenly you felt your blood start coursing faster, your eyes widen, your heart beating to the rhythm of a hunting dance. You crouched and approached slowly, picking up the right leg of the blue slippers in front of your door. Trust. That was what made it remain still as you approached. You struck. You missed. And then quickly you picked the left leg and as it dragged its mass away slowly you struck again. And this time it fell to the ground, dead as the Nigerian healthcare system.
The initial smile of success was quickly replaced with the kind of feeling you had when you first touched a girl and all the Bible verses about fornication came flooding to your head- a dizzy, filthy feeling. You walked into the room and felt a weight. Of deep, overwhelming sadness. Of shocking, unimaginable guilt. It had been possible to cohabit. But no, you had to go and kill it.
You are thinking- now that it is dead, now that you cannot write because all you think of is this gecko that had been your house mate, now dead by your hand- this is not a story you can tell anyone, not even your white friends.
You are thinking now that it is dead, thank god I didn’t give it a name.