Back when snakes were cool

This past Saturday Matt and I were walking to our car to drive home from a party when we noticed two people who’d been there trying to hail a cab (and failing), so we gave them a ride. On the way back to Cobble Hill one of them mentioned that she’d left some sort of humane trap out in her apartment because she had a mouse and we all laughed, because, well—”a mouse.” It’s only ever mice.

Someone suggested she get a cat and then I suggested she get a snake, surprising even myself. I had a snake as a pet in college that ate live mice, but mostly I forget that this ever happened. It seems like such a non sequitur with the rest of everything else I’ve ever done. It was what I asked my mom for my birthday that year, a ball python that I named Salome Bean and that lived in a cage in my dorm room. I was in a particularly dark period, which maybe explains a little bit of it, but really I think what happened was that I spent some time in high school at the Meadow, this big grassy field in Central Park where kids would go at that point to get stoned and braid each other’s hair, and there were a few characters who would come around that always had these huge snakes wrapped like oversize accessories around their necks, and I somehow got it into my head that this was very cool. I don’t know. It was 1997.

I ended up spending a semester with Salome Bean, dropping little white mice into her cage every week or so. She was clearly not pleased with the whole scenario, to the point that eventually I let her out of the cage and she just lived in my room, and this worked fine until she disappeared for a few weeks and I terrifyingly came to believe she had found her way into the dorm room next door, where an intensely organized English major lived. She would not respond well to the snake, I didn’t think. Eventually, I found Salome Bean curled up behind my heater, but it made me realize the situation wasn’t really working for either of us and I sold her back to the pet store where she came from.

What is incredibly weird to me now, since that part of my life feels so unfathomably far away, is that the lifespan of ball pythons is actually 20 to 30 years. Which means Salome Bean could very well still be living out the rest of her life somewhere. Maybe her time with me was just a weird prelude to everything else she’s ever known. If that is the case, I hope she is in a much larger cage. She seemed like a very gentle snake. She didn’t even like to eat the mice I’d try to feed her. She’d let them roam around for a week sometimes before killing them. Though it is possible this was just because she was depressed.