Mid last week, my two snakes died.
Xstine moved them outside onto the balcony thinking they needed some sunlight, and I mistakenly didn't stop her as I rushed to work, entirely ignorant of the tragic scene she'd find afterwards. She called me while I was on the road in a panic, and I sped through traffic with sickening lurches, the most dangerously I've ever driven. I ran into the apartment to find Xstine a mess and my two daughters limp under cold water running. The record San Jose heat that day was indelible now.
Needless to say, I was furious, particularly at the growing gaping hole that their lives had occupied before. Unlike a cat or dog, their deaths are not the death of a companion, not even the death of a thing loyal to you (or to which you are loyal). The death of a snake is a tragedy in the destruction of a beautiful, innocent animal whose survival among a species that is genetically predisposed to hate and mistrust it, strikes us, as caretakers, as more poignant than sad. Physically poignant, as I punched the wall in both anger and shame their deaths on our hands. It made me feel barbaric, so I responded barbarically.
Khetti was a ball python I had for 7 years. She was the gentlest, cleverest little beast you could be phobic of. Shiva was 4 years old, a gorgeous yin-yanged Argentine Boa, and a hissing, posturing paper dragon. I remember when Khetti stole Shiva's rat and Shiva was traumatized, hissing violently (and helplessly) from then on. I remember Khetti cleverly hiding in a new humanly unthinkable places in our tiny apartment time and time again, especially that time she lived in a subwoofer for a week. If not for her thirst, I would have never seen her little head pop out, and lost her then. I remember when Shiva sent our Thai lunch lady at ESC screaming into a corner, having done nothing but try to hide in my co-worker's hair. I remember Khetti wrapped around my monitor as I worked on Maya, popping her head out from behind it in comical positions, just before she poised to strike at a computer mouse.
I am looking a for new snake now, one who I've made Xstine resolve to be more careful with. When I choose one, it will be the snake who, like Khetti and Shiva before it, looks me square from the palm of my hand before winding around my arm and deciding that it owned me, that it was wild and real even when our relationship of Adam and betrayer was not. It will flick its serpent's fork and taste a being that did not domesticate it as we have our other beasts. And it will continue to frighten all but those who do not fear the unknown, no matter how much the unknown fears us.
R.I.P. Khetti and Shiva, I'll see y'all on the plane.
^baby Khetti looking up at her silly owners