“I’ll just settle in to an all night vigil with my eyes open.” I yell to Max who is laughing at me from the shower.
Above my bed, where my head would rest and mouth inevitably fall open as I sleep, there is a small, pink, blue-veined lizard. I have seen an increasing number inside the house over the past few weeks – under dog food bowls, scurrying up corners where walls meet. Some are as small as pennies and others large enough to fit nicely inside an Altoids box, long tails hanging over tin sides. The dog is quite confused with his new housemates and just yesterday accidently pulled the tail from one before backing away to let the critter waggle its way under a dresser. I have seen a few shriveled and brown, petrified after being trapping under rugs or shoes.
And I know why they are infiltrating our home. I hardly blame them. The heat outside is unbearable.
I ran errands around town yesterday and I sweat all day.
Water collected, pooled and dripped from behind my knees, the nape of my neck, my back, my upper lip. At the same time my eyes are beachbone dry in response to constant air conditioning blasting me from shopping malls and car dashboards.
As the lizards empty out of the streets and into my home (they are, right now, nestling in behind my laundry basket) there is a new kind of nightlife around the neighborhood. Many families have left for the summer and only their house staff remain behind to care for plants and pets. Despite suffocating heat, construction is at full throttle to tear down and rebuild before Omanis and expats return in September. In Amman we saw SUVs roll in with foreign license plates in June and Jordanians identified Gulfies escaping the heat for a few months.
“In Jordan?” I asked with a raised eyebrow. It sounded ridiculous. Why would you trade in one hot desert for another? But at 75% humidity today in Muscat compared to 12% in Amman and a 10 to 15 Fahrenheit degree difference in temperature, I understand now.
When I walk the dog at night it is like taking a bath standing up. But I see Filipinas gathering at the ends of driveways, some wear pajamas and some walk dogs. During the day these same women carry groceries in from Land Rovers wearing crisp uniforms but the hot nights bring with them a sense of easiness. They meet together on street corners and I hear snippets of what could be gossip or longing for home.
At night the construction sites turn into makeshift man camps and I shuttle quickly past with dog to avoid the midnight showers I can hear behind flimsy walls. Buckets of warm soapy water are filled and dumped and excess runs out of the construction site and down the hot pavement. I catch a glimpse of a thin frame in a lungi, waiting for his turn with the bucket; I look away to concentrate on missing the steaming soap puddles at my feet.
I’m mostly ok with the lizards in my house. I don’t mind them on the ceiling, behind the toilet and underneath the couch. But directly above my bed is where I draw the line. I have waking nightmares of tiny lizards flinging themselves from the walls, lizard hands and lizard feet splayed wide, and landing in my mouth, my hair, my ears.
Max shoos him around the ceiling of the room and I can fall asleep knowing he is resting above the air conditioning unit instead of a short free fall from my pillow. I let the dog out one last time before bed and flames claw their way into my house. But I leave the door open a bit longer to see if any of our lizard friends want to join the pack.
I am not heartless.