I just returned from a vacation in Cancun, Mexico. It was my first trip to Mexico and I had a great time. Except…I was surrounded by iguanas! All those big and little lizards reminded of an essay I wrote a few years ago about an eerie experience with an iguana, one that continues to haunt me !
Here it is:
The Night of the Iguana – Apologies to Tennessee Williams
The iguana sat on my nightstand, blinking his glowing red eyes at me. I could see that he was green and about the length of my hand. His long tail curled across the face of my clock radio. 2:32 A.M. glowed in the dark. Another night of interrupted sleep.
Wait. An iguana?
I live in Saratoga County, not Mexico. What the hell is an iguana doing in my bedroom? This can’t be right. I closed my eyes and blinked. When I opened them, the iguana was still staring at me, his little lizard tongue flicking in and out of his mouth. He was smiling at me.
I knew in my rational mind that there was no way an iguana could be in my room. It was summer, hot and humid, but the house was closed up tight, cool from the central air that ran non-stop from May to October. Too cool for an iguana’s comfort, although the little guy didn’t seem to be shivering. I looked again. He was just sitting on my radio, grinning his little iguana grin at me and staring.
Okay. I wondered if he had been living in the sewer and had climbed up through the toilet like those baby alligators that Jewish grandparents used to bring home from Florida to their grand-kids in the New York City in the 1960’s. The same alligators that got flushed down countless toilets by un-amused parents and grew to mammoth size in the City’s sewers. This is ridiculous. Who flushes iguanas down the toilet in Clifton Park? And how would it get in my sewer line and climb up into my toilet? Besides, my toilet seat and cover were always in the down position. Could an iguana slip through the gap between the seat and the bowl? Not likely. Maybe it came up into the kid’s bathroom; Ben never put the seat down, much less the cover.
I glanced over at the iguana. He hadn’t moved. He was a lovely lime green with purplish shading on his back and down his long tail. His eyes were beginning to bother me, though. They were glow-in-the-dark-red, like vampire eyes. I didn’t think iguanas had red eyes, except the fake ones.
Maybe it was a fake iguana. I could have reached out to touch it but I didn’t want to scare it and make it dash away under the bed or in my closet where I would never be able to capture him. Moving slowly, I climbed out of the other side of the bed and tiptoed to the door. I quietly eased my bedroom door open, slipped through and closed it quickly. A light glowed softly through the partially open door of my daughter’s bedroom at the end of the hall. Salvation!
Even though it was the middle of the night, Leah was up reading. She could more easily do without sleep than she could do without reading in bed at night. She looked up as I sidled into her room, already embarrassed.
“Mom, what’s wrong?”
“Then what? It’s almost three in the morning.”
“It’s no big deal. But, there’s an iguana in my room. Sitting on my nightstand.”
Her eyebrows flew up.
“Mom, there aren’t any iguanas in Clifton Park.”
“I know that. But, there is an iguana on my nightstand and I want you to go check it out.”
“Mom, what drugs did you take tonight?”
“Leah, I took two damn Tylenol. This is not a drug-induced hallucination; it’s a god damn iguana.”
“Leah, just go and see if the iguana is still there. Don’t scare it, don’t turn on the lights, just look at it and tell me if it’s still on my nightstand. Just do it for me. Please.”
“All right.” She sighed in that way that almost adult children have when dealing with an unreasonable parent. That sigh that says “She’s going round the bend faster than I thought she would, I’ll be changing her diapers soon.”
I waited in her bedroom as she went down the hall. I swear she was giggling.
I heard the door to my bedroom open and close. I waited for her shriek. Nothing.
She came back down the hallway.
“Mom,” she said, trying to keep a straight face. “There’s nothing on your nightstand except your clock radio. I looked all over. There’s nothing anywhere in there except Alex.”
The dog. I had forgotten about the dog. Obviously, if there was an iguana lurking about the room, the family Labrador Retriever would have taken notice.
“Alex sat and looked at the chipmunk that was on the mantle that summer and never even barked. He never even saw the damn thing until I found it dead in the basement. He’s not a hunter.”
“He’s not. But he is sound asleep on your bed, Mom. There’s no damn iguana in your room.”
“Okay. Fine.” I said stiffly. “Thank you for looking.” I turned to leave.
“Mom, do you want me to sit with you until you fall asleep?”
The final humiliation, my daughter tucking me into bed. No, thank you!
I went back to bed, uneasily averting my eyes from the nightstand. The empty nightstand. My sly, slimy friend had disappeared.
Not really. He has become the stuff of family legends. My daughter hastened to inform her brother the very next morning. I could tell from the whispers and giggles that they were planning my almost immediate committal in Four Winds.
The next holiday, iguana earrings made their appearance. Followed over the years by iguana pictures, magnets and a really lovely iguana bracelet. All presented with some affection and much tittering.
The iguana last appeared at the Passover Seder a few years ago when my children entertained my friend and her ENTIRE family – I’m talking siblings, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws – with the tale of the iguana. My friend and her family didn’t giggle or titter. No, there was mass hysteria with floods of tears.
Now, I get iguanas from them, too.
If I ever see that little sucker again, I’m having him stuffed.