A Surprise Visit by Boris Glikman
An Eastern Water Dragon crawls up close while I sit at a small folding table next to the camping tent.
Billions of years of evolution separate us; I arrived into this world more or less fully formed, while it arrived as a gelatinous mass inside an egg, and its lineage stretches back to the time of the dinosaurs, innumerably many eggs ago.
I see its little chest expanding, the loose, thin skin lifting up and falling down. Despite its bizarreness, it, too, needs to breathe, and that is an intimate connection between us. Despite our unbridgeable, irreconcilable differences, we both are living beings existing at the same time in the same place, and we both need the same air in order to survive. It wants to go on living, and so do I, and so we both keep on breathing.
The imperious look in its eyes, the way it carries itself with such serenity and poise, the way it deliberately slithered up so near to me, the way it just sits there, imperturbably calm, stuck in the same pose like a rock, lost in its own weighty contemplations and haughtily ignoring my presence—all this is so different from the instinctive fear and panicky fleeing that most wild animals exhibit when they find themselves in man’s presence.
This must be how dinosaurs conducted themselves when they ruled the world. Now, this little lizard is mirroring the behaviour of its ancient colossal ancestors, as if millions of years have not passed and this is still the Age of the Reptiles; as if it is this lizard that is towering over me rather than me towering over it. It may be small now, but in its mind, it is still a dinosaur, for one can never forget or let go of one’s glory days, no matter how long ago they were.
After studiously disregarding me for what seems like an eternity, it crawls up a short distance and positions its body so that its head is exactly in line with mine. Slowly it lifts its head and looks directly into my eyes, and as our eyes meet, that inconceivable evolutionary distance between us is erased in an instant.
It stares at me searchingly—how must I appear in its eyes? How strange must my bodily construction seem to it? Perhaps it is trying to get a better look at this curious, grotesque creature which is in front of it? Or maybe it is trying to better show off its alien beauty to me, for it can sense how much in awe of it I am?
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