Last night seemed particularly dedicated to animals of the unexciting variety. Since moving into my own place, I have noticed at night the appearance of a certain kind of insect whose continued existence beyond its prehistoric origins can only be credited to the fact that it appears to be made of armor. This insect, I have no idea what it is, possibly some ancestor of the modern beetle, is about a centimeter big and inspires no fear whatsoever. It can be startling when it flies around without warning, but it is not gross, slimy, or covered in millions of legs, nor do thousands swarm when there is food around. Prior to last night, there had only ever been one, I’m assuming the same single, mentally challenged, armor plated creature careening comically into walls, the computer screen, my person, and landing with a surprisingly clear and heavy thud on the floor. Last night, as I went to bed, I noticed about five had gathered to convene on my office wall. I paid no mind other than to be briefly concerned that this may turn into an infestation, and as I moved to turn off the office light, I heard, even though the din whose description is forthcoming, the dull smack of a little armored body losing purchase on the wall and falling, not to its death, only to the ground. For some, there is just no evolution.
Being in the Philippines has come with lessons, shifting priorities, surprising new skills. I now know there is no added authenticity in suffering or going without as a Peace Corps Volunteer, but I also know how to open a tin can with only a knife and some gumption. Another thing I now know: roosters crow any damn time they please. As far as I can tell, this means regularly, as in every few seconds, throughout the daylight hours, and at least hourly in the moonlight ones. There may be nothing more infuriating to me than the spluttering, cackling, 60-year-old smokers’ hack crows of the cocks at all hours of the night, particularly when trying to fall asleep and stay asleep. The hours between 4 am and 6 am are particularly brutal, and usually I’m out of bed around 5 simply because the cocks have destroyed anything resembling sleep at that point. I don’t think those people in the States who haven’t grown up on a farm can truly appreciate how piercing, how penetrating the shriek of a rooster, nay, many, many roosters in one’s immediate vicinity, can be. There are many in a sort of courtyard just behind my apartment, which my bedroom window conveniently faces, and the result is that it often sounds as if these roosters are sitting like the devil on my shoulder, issuing forth with gusto their shrill, grating screeches into my weary, abused ears.
So, that’s the routine of my life – go to bed trying to ignore these devils, stay asleep through their crusades against night silence, wake with resigned displeasure to their calls when the sun’s not yet spilling over the horizon.
Last night, all that changed. Around 9 pm, when I usually start my slow move toward that lofty ambition of going to bed and sleeping, something new happened in that courtyard behind my apartment, where any sounds issued are amplified in my acoustic theatre of a bedroom. That something new was a veritable army of toads engaging in the first night of what I can only project is their mating season. The sound of them, not unpleasant, is constant and uniform enough not to cause irritation, but it is loud enough to ring in my ears, echo in my bedroom, and block out any campaigns the crowing cocks and barking dogs may have had against the sleep of the Hilongos citizenry. So, despite the reprieve from the cocks, despite the deafening white noise toad sex apparently offers, I couldn’t sleep. At 11 pm their ardor abruptly – very abruptly, as if their cessation was timed, rehearsed and flawlessly executed in perfect unison - cooled, causing the vicinity’s proud cocks to attempt to catch up on that whole two hours of crowing the dull roar of the mating toads had thwarted. From this point onwards the toads began stopping and starting in even intervals, each hard-won silence soon shattered by the penetrating, phlegmatic shrieks of half a dozen posturing cocks. I woke before five this morning to that pattern still in effect – the ebb and flow of the sweet sex sessions of libidinous toads, the piercing crows of all local roosters. By 5:30 am the toads, no doubt exhausted and sore, stopped their amphibian lovemaking, one assumes for the day, and the cocks had their stage back.
I wonder how long toad mating season lasts?