This is Ikus.
I found Ikus wrapped up inside of a Ficus Benjamina tree at the greenhouse in which I work. Ikus from the Ficus. That was a little less than a year ago. When I found him, everyone was afraid of him, afraid that he would bite. Everyone shrieked and jumped, except for me. I said, “He’s beautiful,” and I instantly reached into the tree and pulled him out. I put him in a bucket and brought him home. On my lunch break that day, I went to a pet store and bought him a big glass cage, a rock, a water dish that would soon become his favorite thing to be under, and a big metal skull because Ikus was a badass. I put a plant, a thin leaf Croton, in a pot in his cage. He liked digging in the dirt and coiling up around the stems of the plant. I bought him mice and picked him up everyday. We hung out everyday. He would coil around my fingers and flick his tongue at me, tasting the air around him. I let him slither behind my ear, over my glasses, and into my hair. I’d walk around the neighborhood with him wrapped around my hand. The neighbors saw me walking around with him and freaked out, only to ask minutes later if they could touch him. After that, they would always ask in broken English, “How is the snaaaaaake?” Without fail, they would ask, every time we met in the yellow hallways of my building, and they would shiver when I told them he was fine. My friend’s kids used to come over and hold him until Ikus would get wound up and try to escape their grasp. Then it was back into the glass box. Coworkers ask about him regularly, as do my parents who refer to him as their grandsnake. It is a novelty, owning a snake; it turns you into “the guy with the snake,” which is what I am, or rather, what I was. A guy with a snake.
Ikus got out of his cage today. There is no question why he got out. He was bored. He is a snake and needs to live a more exciting life than the one he was living underneath his water dish, periodically being given a doomed little mouse to eat. I have never seen him outside of his hiding spot underneath that water dish. He was always, and when I wanted to hang out with him, I’d lift up that dish and his little tongue would start licking the air in disapproval at his rousing. Today, after work, I lifted the dish and he wasn’t there. I looked under his rock that he never hides under. No Ikus. I sifted through the ash bark on the bottom of the cage. He was not in there. I don’t think I will ever see him again. I am sad to lose him, but I am sure that the world he is in right now is more exciting than the world I kept him in for a year. Now, I can only smile and hope he has the coolest adventures that a little brown corn snake can have, as he is a badass.
I know how he got out. Even though it seems like he never did anything, never explored his cage, never left the comfort being coiled up under that water dish, he must have tasted spring in the air from my open window next to the cage. He must have felt the sunshine and wanted more of it. He must have known that he could survive outside; maybe the mice would be dirtier, but they would be free ranged mice, and he would eat them without hesitation. I had watered the Croton plant in his cage yesterday. I take it out to water it, I take it over to my sink, and return it to his cage when it’s done draining. There are four think stalks, chopstick sized stems, growing straight out of the soil. They are flimsy and smooth, less than a foot tall. When I returned the plant to the corner of the cage, under the heat lamp as the Croton is a sun plant and liked being under the lamp, it was leaning into the corner. I never keep the lid on the cage, as I thought that Ikus never moved, and I certainly didn’t think that he could reach the top of the glass walls. He used the plant, he climbed the tiny tree that he used to coil himself around and dig in the dirt. That’s how he got out, it was sometime today, this afternoon, while I was at work, after I hung out with him during my lunch break.
Chicago is not a safe place for a snake. I remember saying that I was going to let him go after the winter was over, I think he heard me and was getting impatient as I was obviously not keeping my end of the bargain. I was going to bring him to the zoo and set him free near the reptile house so that he could taunt the other snakes and iguanas. Corn snakes live and thrive this far north, but they live on farms and in fields, not in the metro areas, not on Clark St. I hope he sticks around my apartment for a little while. I hope I find him coiled up under a pair of jeans on my floor, or in the pot of any of my other plants. I’m gonna leave his heat lamp on tonight, and I’m gonna leave his water dish and his Croton plant out tonight, but I don’t expect to find him.
Ikus, I hope you have fun on the outside. I really do.
I’m gonna miss the little guy, that badass.