“Here you are Mrs. Sanchez, the keys to your new apartment. Welcome to The Palm Gate,” said the building attendant.
“Thank you, happy to be here. Oh, and by the way it’s Ms. Sanchez, not Mrs,” replied Ana.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn't know.”
Ana stared at the building attendant as he made his way out of the apartment. After he had shut the door behind him she looked down at the palm of her hand where two freshly cut gold keys sat.
“Who will I give the spare key to?” Ana thought. The realization that for the first time in fifteen years she would have a lease agreement all by herself hit her like a category five hurricane and she began to sob.
The movers were supposed to arrive the following morning with her belongings all nicely packed in perfectly labeled boxes. Everything had been sorted and organized. Everything had its place, everything except for Ana. She had a new apartment while her former husband had a new wife, a new home, a new baby on the way...a whole new life.
“She gave him what I could not,” Ana finally said. Admitting this truth to herself, and only herself, for the first time ever.
Ana began to go through her night bag, the one item she had brought with her, to get ready for bed. Tonight she would have to make due on the floor with a small blanket and a pillow. She did not like things to be out of place or disorganized. She took a lot of pride in always having a tidy home. Ana entered the restroom and on the counter she saw a strange rectangular...thing...
Ana picked it up to inspect it. It was coarse and stiff and looked a lot like a crochet scarf.
“Who would wear this? It’s so rough!” Ana thought. When she brought it closer to her face to get a better look she suddenly got a faint smell of dried grass. She turned the item around and noticed six plastic suction cups on the back. One on each corner and two in the middle. Each of the suction cups was held in place by a small leather strap secured with a small knot. “Well, this makes things interesting,” Ana said. Ana had never come across such an item and she had been caring for a home well over a decade. “Maybe the movers will know what it is. I am sure they have come across all sorts of strange items doing their job,” Ana said.
Back in her empty room Ana unfolded her blanket and made a makeshift sleeping bag on the floor. Even Though Ana felt very lonely she would not cry herself to sleep...not any more. She had done that many nights in the past but now she just felt numb. She gave her pillow a gentle fluff and slowly drifted to sleep as she listened to the evening sounds of her new neighborhood.
Just before the movers arrived the next morning Ana placed the rough brown scarf with the suction cups on top of one of the kitchen counters. A place where she could easily see it so she would forget. The day went fast and the apartment was steadily filled with boxes and a few pieces of furniture. The movers did it like clockwork, they knew what they were doing. As the last box was put down in the living room floor Ana turned to one of the movers and asked, “Excuse me, random question, I am sure you get these all the time since you move all kinds of people; do you know what this is?” Ana held up the “scarf” and the man took it in his hand.
After a second he answered “Snakes!” “Snakes love these.”
“What?” Ana looked confused, “How would a snake even use this?”
“I’m telling you. I have seen this in snake...what do you say…‘houses’,” the man answered.
Ana was more disappointed than satisfied with his answer but since she had waited until the end of the day, fortunately, she did not have to endure him much longer. She paid the man, thanked him, and sent him on his way.
Ana spent the rest of the day unboxing items and putting them in their proper place. Everything had a place, everything had a purpose… except for the snake thing.
“What are you for?” Ana said as she looked at the snake thing.
It was well made. It was clean, sturdy, and clearly had a purpose. It had suction cups...6 of them! It had to be for something, it had to have a purpose.
The next morning Ana was headed out to buy groceries. Now that her kitchen was in order she could organize her pantry. As she grabbed the keys from the key hook she noticed the snake thing and decided that maybe she could figure out what it was really for. “First groceries, then a pet store,” Ana said. An hour later Ana was back in her car and on the hunt for a pet shop. About 10 minutes into her drive she spotted a PetSmart and decided to stop there. Ana parked her car, took the snake thing from the front seat, and walked purposefully into the store. “Will you look at that, I am solving a mystery,” Ana said to herself and smiled as she entered the store and looked for a store clerk. “Excuse me. I have a question,” Ana said to the first store clerk she saw at the front of the store.
“Hello ma’am, welcome to PetSmart. How may I help you?” asked the store clerk.
“Can you tell me what this is?” asked Ana.
“Ah, this is a bearded dragon hammock,” he answered.
“A WHAT?!” Ana said, much louder than she had cared to.
“Yes. You see these suction cups on the sides?” he asked.
“Yes,” quickly replied Ana.
“You use them to hang the hammock inside the walls of the terrarium,” he explained.
“What, terrarium like for reptiles?” Ana said, surprised.
“We have some in the store. Would you like to see them?” he asked.
“Um, ok. I mean sure. Might as well see how it is used,” answered Ana.
Ana followed the store clerk to the reptile section of the store. He stopped at a small enclosure about 24 inches long and 12 inches tall and inside were the smallest brown lizards Ana had ever seen in real life.
“These are bearded dragons. These little guys are twelve weeks old. We just got them yesterday,” explained the store clerk. “They love to climb and hang out on the hammock,” he continued.
Ana stared into the terrarium and saw three little bearded dragons comfortably resting on the hammock like it was the most normal thing in the world. “What is the hammock made out of?” She asked.
“It is made of grass and hay. It is eco-friendly,” he explained.
“The lizards are pretty cute,” Ana said as she saw one of small bearded dragons get close to the glass, look at her with his little eyes, and turn his head to the side as if saying, “I have never seen one of you before.”
“Do you need a license to buy one of these?” Ana asked.
“Not at all,” replied the clerk, “Once you get to know them, they are pretty easy to care for. Would you like to hold one?” he asked.
“They are very docile,” he explained “You will love it. You wait and see.” The store clerk opened the front of the terrarium and took hold of one of the small lizards. “Stretch out your hand,” he instructed. Anna took out her hand and the clerk placed the small lizard in the center of her palm. “Now use your other hand to gently cover his back. That way he feels safe,” he continued to instruct her. Ana did as she was told. She could feel the small pointy nails from each of the little fingers and toes resting on her hand. When the store clerk saw that she was calm he said, “he looks comfortable, now you can take your finger and caress him.” Ana took her index finger and began to trace the small body of the bearded dragon. She could feel his small spikes along the side of his body and rough textured skin. She worked her way towards his neck and felt how his skin changed from rough to soft under his jaw. “They are desert lizards from Australia,” the store clerk explained “they are called bearded dragons because they can poof out the extra skin under their beards,” he said.
Something about this little lizard had captivated Ana. As she continued to caress his little legs, hands, and strong tail she could not believe she was actually doing this. It made her feel brave and strong like she could do anything. Suddenly the little lizard stuck out it’s little pink tongue and liked Ana’s palm.
“Oh my god!” Ana shouted, “His tongue is so sticky!”
The store clerk laughed and said, “Oh, he likes you.”
“Ok, I’m done,” said Ana as she handed the lizard back to him. The store clerk put the bearded dragon back in the terrarium and locked it back up.
Ana looked up at the clerk and smiled, “Thank you for showing me the dragons and telling me about hammock,” she said.
“No problem. If you have any more questions just come and find me,” the store clerk said. Then he turned around and walked away.
Ana stood there all alone. Well, not entirely alone she had made a new lizard friend. After a few more seconds Ana said, “I would have never gone so far out of my way to figure something out and now I have met you.” As Ana walked out of the store back to her car she felt happy and with purpose again. A feeling that had escaped her for many months. Suddenly Ana realized she would not be going home alone after all. Ana walked back into the store, looked at the store clerk and said, “Excuse me. I changed… I mean I changed my mind. I am taking the bearded dragon.”