Pygmy Leaf Chameleon


The man watches Chi Chi, the tiny chameleon, shake and wobble her way along the plastic bonsai, proof that life can be this small and slow. He read somewhere that they move like this so that they appear as leaves blowing in the wind. 

To avoid glare on the glass, he turns off all of the lights except for the heat lamp inside the vivarium. He can watch her clearly through the glass — grinning as her thick tongue bursts out with impossible speed at a passing cricket. Yet, tongue aside, it’s the chameleon’s lack of speed that he enjoys so much: each movement is so deliberate because she has so long to decide and re-decide. How sweet it would be to be so slow. He’s heard of people envying a dog’s happiness or a cat’s sense of freedom, but it’s this slowness, Chi Chi’s careful speed, that appeals to him.

There are others in the vivarium with her. One male and another female. But it is Chi Chi he watches every night, mug of tea in his hands, blanket cocooned around him. He especially loves when Chi Chi climbs the tree from the floor: she reaches up, standing on her back two legs like an impossibly small brachiosaurus stretching up to eat the leaves on the highest branches. Her little claws find the branch and she pulls herself upwards, higher and higher, into her miniature canopy.

Wherever she goes, Chi Chi changes her skin to match it. But as the chips of bark on the floor and the plastic bonsai are both dark brown, she just phases between deep browns and mossy greens. But she is so much more when she is sleeping. In the stressful nights, when work, love, or money keep the man awake, he looks in at Chi Chi, finding her perfect little form in some dark corner of the vivarium. Her skin is usually bright green, but it sometimes blends slowly into peachy beiges and greys. In these moments he fancies she is dreaming of her homeland: a luscious rainforest she has never seen but knows. A vestigial life. An old belonging.

In her dreams, Chi Chi must see the bright greens of the forest and change her skin to match. There is something so striking, so important, about that little bright-green body in the corner of the dark-brown floor of the vivarium. And he wonders what colour his own skin changes to when he dreams.


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  1. Robby says:

    Really enjoyed this. Wonder where you got the inspiration for this..

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