Approximately 90 minutes ago, there was a potential bat sighting in my residence. Let me set a scene for you, a “living tableau,” if you will:
I was relaxing in my room, reading the Pulitzer Prize-nominated feature stories and listening to a Carole King Pandora station, (surprisingly a typical occurrence), when I heard a muted noise. Curious, I removed my left earphone and heard the sound of one of my housemates in extreme duress.
“FEEL my pulse right now, just FEEL it! OHMIGOSH, my heart is POUNDING!” This sounded serious. Extremely curious now, I shut my computer and climbed out of bed.
When I opened the door to the hallway, I was surprised to see Molly, one of my roommates, flailing her hands up and down, her knees bent and her torso tilted towards the floor. (It reminded me of what my mother calls “The snake dance,” an intricate performance that usually only occurs when mowing the lawn.) Molly is usually calm and level-headed, a total professional in every aspect of her life, so this display of utter chaos startled me.
“What happened?” I asked her, feeling a sense of dread at the coming answer.
Molly saw a bat. Well, she didn’t so much see it as feel it “plunge into her side” and hear an animalistic high-pitched squeal. There was no doubt in her mind: she announced it was a bat, the flying vermin that seem to infest our neighborhood.
It’s fine to say that bats are not evil, but rather misunderstood. They eat mosquitos! They are a part of a delicate and threatened ecosystem! If you Google “benefits of bats” you will come across more than 7.7 million hits, which bring you to websites like Bat Conservation International which contain sentences like “Bats are hard at work around the world, fulfilling tasks that are vital to healthy ecosystems and human economies.” They don’t seem that bad, right? Poor fellas, just victims of an unjust societal campaign to mark them as terrifying.
But then, say you Google “photos of bats” and discover 51.9 million results that reveal the horrendous actuality of the “Chiroptera Order.” This might change your opinion. (Warning: images below the fold may terrify some readers.)
Bottom line: bats are gross. And terrifying. And nightmare-inciting. Even the CDC thinks so. (This past summer, I had a run-in with a bat while temping for American Idol…it’s a story better shared in person.) I’ve had a friend who was forced to get painful rabies vaccinations after an encounter with a bat. After seeing images like that, it might even offend you that the previously mentioned Bat Conservation International compare homo sapiens to the vile creatures, saying “Like humans, bats give birth to poorly developed young and nurse them from a pair of pectoral breasts.” I don’t care if that is a fact of science and the defining characteristic of being a so-called “mammal.” I don’t want to think of bats tenderly nursing their young while hanging upside down in a cave and chomping on a dead bug.
Anyways, back to the narrative:
So seeing Molly afraid causes me to become afraid, and goosebumps appeared on my skin. I participated in “The snake dance” and flailed my hands around. Some went downstairs to investigate the scene of the crime, armed with one tennis racket, a sorority commemorative paddle and one brave boyfriend. Others, like me −okay, only me − journeyed down to the dining room, wincing with horror but too curious for my own good.
The crusaders smacked the blinds, the overturned the chair cushions and opened the closet door. No bat to be seen. With no physical proof, they dismissed it as a false sighting. And true, there hasn’t been a bat in the house in many years. And if there was a bat, why wouldn’t it be flapping around in the attic instead of the ground floor?
The naysayers have their points. And if I were prone to reason and didn’t have a flair for the dramatic side of life, I might be inclined to believe them. But I don’t. I believe Molly, and in my mind this dirty intruder is lurking around every corner, waiting to jump out and bite me or hug me with its gross leathery wings or do whatever it is bats do. So I have done what anyone would do: quarantine myself.
I am sitting on my bed, my back aching from the unsupportive mattress and my throat impossibly dry, too afraid to venture beyond the safe confines of the Delta room. My Pandora station is out of skips, and the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” just came on, and that is the one Stones song I cannot stand. It’s miserable. I am held hostage by my fear of this bat, or the idea of this bat. Yes, I would like to go fill up my glass of water, but I would also prefer to not come face-to-face with one of my worst nightmares. (This is my worst nightmare: watch it here. It’s comical, yes, but I have literally had scary dreams where something similar is happening to me.)
What to do? Face my fears, as FDR would have advised, and leave my safe house? Or remain locked up, fruitlessly trying to maneuver my pillows into a position with more lumbar support and switching my music to something a little more groovy, such as Disco classics of the 1970s? Only time will tell.
Just take comfort in knowing that I will definitely not be doing my French homework.