Got My Geckos

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Hiding under a fishing hat that hangs on my kitchen wall.

I always look out for the geckos.

In the morning I peek behind my refrigerator to say hello and when my face appears 25 times the size of their bodies, they bolt to the floor where they think I can’t see them.

At night, when I come home from work, I count them on the ceiling of my outdoor kitchen. Usually there are four, sometimes five, and on rare occasions, six. Six is a lot of geckos.

I recently realized after months of staring at my geckos I don’t know what kind they were. A Google image search proved difficult. When I typed in “gecko” and my state, “Quintana Roo,” I got pictures of tacos. I think the reason for this is twofold. One: restaurateurs think geckos sell tacos. Two: restaurateurs think geckos sell tacos to gringos. Gringos are the only ones that call them “geckos” here. Usually they go by their Maya name, “Toloc.”

After some searching I decided that what I have are Common House Geckos, Hemidactylus frenatus. They are about four inches long, yellowy green, a bit transparent. When my sister visited, she thought they looked like boogers.

She’s not wrong. But I find them endearing. Clinging to my kitchen walls with their arms and legs stuck out perpendicularly, they look like cats eternally chased up a tree, terrified and not sure how they got there. If one is at the bottom of my window when I approach, it will flail in panic because its suctioned feet don’t stick to the glass. As I move through my kitchen, they streak across my walls, neurotic, wiggly lightning. I feel bad that I scare them but also protective. I have a soft spot for animals that are more high strung than I am.

My geckos are tiny but loud. They make a birdlike noise, a cross between a chirp and a kiss, usually five times fast.

People who don’t know geckos have difficulty believing they make this sound. Take my family. Before they visited, I warned there are many geckos and they make loud kissing noises that almost sound like bird chirps.

My sister in our rental house the first night: What’s that sound? Me: A gecko. No that! That thing that sounds like a bird!. Me: A gecko. No the bird thing!

Both of my parents were woken up independently by what they thought was someone tapping on their window with keys. Apparently, this is also something the geckos can sound like, and not just to people who are my parents. According to Wikipedia, in Asia, people describe the sound as “tchok, tchok, tchok.” And in Sweden, people think pigs say “nöff nöff.” Who am I to judge.

My point is, these little tiny booger creatures make incredibly loud kissy chirpy noises. You kind of have to see them doing it to believe it.

I have seen them doing it. Both making the kissing noise and actually “doing it.” I won’t describe gecko sex (it’s not that interesting) but I will tell you about the foreplay. It starts out with two geckos head to head, with the one that I presume is the male flicking his tail in such a slow, controlled fashion that it looks like animation viewed through a zoetrope, fluid but with a hitch at each tiny vertebra. It is mesmerizing and creepy.

I’ve also spent a lot of time cleaning up gecko poop. Gecko poop looks like mouse poop except that it has a tiny white bulb at the end, like a single nonpareil. Gecko poop is useful for tracking where the geckos are spending their time.

Because the geckos are on my ceiling they tend to leave gifts on my kitchen counter and table. More obnoxious is the square at the corner of my kitchen. The geckos like to congregate in my skylight and if I don’t sweep for a day or two my floor will have a stencil of gecko poop in skylight formation. There is also likely a large amount of gecko poop behind my refrigerator, but since I can’t stop its accumulation, I don’t dwell.

I have recently started to find gecko poop inside my apartment. This is not ideal but I have chosen to manage. In order to make it stop I would need to capture and remove the perpetrators or fumigate them out. The first task is impossible and the second, something I refuse to do.

I’m aware that this means the situation could get worse. Recently I’ve been spotting tiny baby geckos, maybe an inch long. I saw one behind a curtain and another speeding toward my closet.

My consolation is that geckos eat mosquitoes. Having mosquitoes in my apartment is horrible. Having creatures that eat them and prevent me from having to spray DEET in my bedroom is a good deal.

Our compound has four cats who like to visit my kitchen and stalk geckos. I love cats but if I find them nosing behind the refrigerator or climbing on the counter I chase them away. The geckos have my back on the mosquitoes. While they may think I’m trying to kill them, I have their backs too.

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