Friday, November 22, 2013

The Look in Their Eyes
            The creature that stared back at me was terrified. If I turned around, I saw the same look mimicked on the faces around me. Each of the muscles near their eyes and lips were wrinkled in horrific grimaces as high pitched screams pierced through the warm summer air.
             This is the first image that comes to mind when I think about bats. Or middle school. It sounds really bizarre, but maybe a little back story will help.
             When I was about twelve, I was obsessed with horror movies. Was it the blood or gore that I was drawn to? Or was it the safety of knowing that it's okay to be scared, because it isn't real and when the movie is over, you can turn off the TV and resume normal life?
             No. For me, the main reason was this: the look in someone’s eyes. It is so amazing to me that someone can create something so fake, so unbelievable, yet when you're caught in the moment, you feel fear as if it were real. The fear that you feel is completely genuine, no matter how stupid you feel after the lights turn back on.
            I was the girl in school who carried around a coffin shaped back pack , the kid who would rather talk about the different ways to make corn syrup blood during lunch than last night's episode of Gilmore Girls. I was the only person my age that knew that a vampire bat’s cave mate cannot find blood, he will regurgitate blood into his mouth so he would not starve.
            Other kids were afraid of me. I found it impossible to make friends, and I visibly saw them shrink away from me as I walked down the halls.
             Someone in my family thought it was a brilliant idea to invite some of my peers to a pool party one day. We had never had a pool ourselves, but my aunt and uncle had just gotten one. Their house sat in the middle of the woods. Most of the yard was one big, open, space where they had cleared some trees. The remaining oaks hung over us like we were in the middle of the forest. The trees always made me realize how small I felt. Not because I was twelve years old, but small in the world. There was no way I would ever be as big and commanding as those oak trees that loomed overhead.
             The kids in school saw me as something different for the first time. Not only was I that weird kid that sat alone reading Edgar Allan Poe at lunch, I was the weird girl who sat alone reading Edgar Allan Poe at lunch who knew someone with a pool.
            So the bats come in about here.
           Most of that day is cloudy to me. I remember I was excited to maybe make a few new friends out of this deal, but I cannot remember any of  the kids that were invited. Not one. What I remember most came after we had already been in the pool. I swam for a while, went under, and when I surfaced, I remember people pointing and saying “Get out of the pool!”
            It’s then that everything becomes crystal clear. The muscles in the faces of my party guests were twisting into shock, the sound of was water splashing as they all seemed to leak out of the pool. They left me alone and terrified to find what they were all pointing at.
            I turned around and saw clinging to the metal bar, crying like a new born, a baby bat. Everything seemed to slow down in that moment. I noticed everything about the bat and nothing about the situation at hand. Merlin Tuttle, founder and president of Bat Conservation International says that, "Because of their shy nature and nocturnal habits, bats are exceptionally difficult to portray photographically as they really are in the wild". It's only now, when I'm recalling this memory, that I truly believe him. All the pictures I've ever seen of bats are almost scary. They're snarling, or looking like they're about to bite you.
            The thought "bat" registered in my mind somewhere, but it didn't make sense with what I was witnessing in that moment. I waited for the  fear would sink in, when it would fly up and attack. But it didn't. It clung to the bar, crying, and squeaking as everyone around me was freaking out. I remember the brown, velvety skin of its wings. I can recall how pink its mouth was when it opened it to cry. His eyes were always closed.
            Time sped up again, and my uncle was pulling me out of the pool. I remember going back to my aunt and uncle’s house a week later, wanting to know where the baby had gone. My aunt told me that they caught it in a net and set it free, but that was a lie.
           My uncle was afraid that “the thing” had rabies.
           He shot it with a rifle and threw it in a garbage bag. 
           My uncle said it over dinner one night like it was nothing. He told us like he had done us a great service and I hated him for it. I cried. I was sad and cried over that strange creature that not many people get to see up close. And I still think about him sometimes, when I’m thinking about trying to make new friends, or middle school, or pools. I think about the baby bat’s eyes, wishing I had seen what was behind them.

No comments:

Post a Comment