Finals week for most Duke students is a time defined by long nights of studying, stress and tests. Or so I hear. Somehow, I ended up with no finals last semester and instead used that time to travel to New York with my boyfriend. The concrete jungle where dreams are made of, New York was our idyllic paradise; an Eden of sorts 400 miles away from Edens Quad for a figurative Adam and Steve who can’t populate the world on account of being gay men. But like the biblical garden of Abrahamic lore, my Eden too was liminal, accessible now only in memories of my once innocent state of mind. And like the outcome for the inhabitants of that allegorious space, my bliss was ended by a snake.
On December 17, 2018, my roommate Gabriel Goldhagen texted me “Jordan! There was a teeny tiny dead snake in the room. I’m not even kidding. There has been a snake in our room all semester. Lol.” My brave roommate who picked it up and disposed of it described the reptile as “curled up in a ball, decaying.” He said it “wasn’t too big,” and then we made penis jokes about that comment (“How big is your snake?”). Within my head, however, this development was no laughing matter. Over winter break, I had nightmares of a giant basilisk emerging from under my twin bed at school and killing me with a single stare. On other nights it was a boa constrictor slithering across my body and slowly squeezing the life out of me, hissing with cruel pleasure. Any time I remembered my dorm, I felt an imagined snake gliding over my legs until I reminded myself that it wasn’t real.
As someone whose primary exposure to snakes growing up was from "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," I learned early on that snakes were horrifying monsters and (spoiler alert) also the last horcrux that Harry and his crew have to destroy. Harrison Ford, screaming in panic about a snake in his plane in "Indiana Jones," socialized me to fear reptiles early on. Come to think about it, Nicki Minaj’s "Anaconda" may be the only positive media portrayal of snakes I was ever exposed to, and even then, the song is (spoiler alert) mostly about butts. Needless to say, then, my immediate reaction was terror, and an entirely rational refusal to return to Duke or the state of North Carolina at all.
Given my lack of familiarity on the subject, I decided to research snakes. Did you know that snakes can swallow large prey through their mobile jaws? I didn’t, and reading that fact only made me more convinced that this snake entered my room to eat me in my sleep. But my Eve-like curiosity prevailed, and I couldn’t stop myself from biting the metaphorical apple that the internet’s snake facts presented me. I continued reading. Soon, I learned that there are five types of venomous snakes common in North Carolina, including the Copperhead, Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin), Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Pigmy Rattlesnake, and Timber Rattlesnake, any of which could have been the poisonous monster that found shelter in my dorm room rent-free. In studying the biblical history of serpents, I found out the hard way that the first search result for “Adam and Eve” is not a Wikipedia page but a link to a sex toy shop. Go figure! After some light perusing, I delved back into my research and soon picked up enough proficiency in Genesis vocabulary to write the intro to this piece.
They say that ignorance is bliss. Part of me wishes I had never been told about my third, reptilian roommate from last semester and I could comfortably walk to the corner of the room where the snake was found. But what I’ve realized is that life outside Eden isn’t so bad after all. In the choice between ignorance and knowledge, I’m glad to be aware of the truth. Like Eve, aware of her nudity, I clothe myself in consciousness—and not just because it's freezing outside and I have great taste in Winter wardrobe. I’ve found a new paradise, basking in the divinity of my own curiosity.
Am I any less scared of snakes now? No, but have I read the Wikipedia page for snakes? Yes. And I’m going to celebrate that personal growth, just like we should all celebrate the remarkable growth rate of juvenile green anacondas. This is Jordan Diamond, signing off.
Jordan Diamond is a Trinity sophomore. His column, “Diamond in the Rough,” runs on alternate Mondays.