It always happened at night around 10:00 p.m. or so. I would dress in my biker shorts and an oversized T-shirt, grab my jump rope and step into the night. Underneath the black sky, I would jump rope for exercise, especially on days when I couldn’t get to the gym. In a way, this became a time to wind down after a hectic day.
The hush of the dark soothed me, the slow movement of the leaves lulled me into its rhythm, and the soft breeze brushed against my arms and legs and I relaxed.
The first time it happened, I was halfway through my routine and I noticed a pair of eyes glowing beneath a bush. A chill worked through to my fingers and toes, as my jump rope suddenly grew heavy. What if it was some four-legged creature in position to pounce? I kept jumping but I felt too scared to breathe.
I stopped jumping and stomped my foot and whispered loudly, “get out of here!” But the eyes never moved.
“Strange,” I thought. I moved away and started jumping in a patch of moonlight.
The eyes tracked my movement and crept towards me. The shadow of his pointy nose pierced the light.
He pulled his large frame from the dark and a long skinny tail followed. “A possum!” I thought. “Do they attack? Will he bite me?”
I stomped my foot again and said in a low voice, “Get out of here!” He ducked into the bushes and I thought, “Good, he’s gone.”
As I continued to jump, I felt a presence at my side. I looked around and there he was again, about ten feet away.
My muscles tightened in my neck and hands. I backed away and knew he was coming after me. But he didn’t. He just sat there and watched. Reluctantly, I began jumping and finished my routine. I went inside and his eyes followed as I left. “Weird,” I thought, “How weird.”
For the next month, every time I came outside to jump, he came and sat in the same spot staring. I became comfortable with his presence and actually started talking to him. As I chattered or let the rope slap against the ground in silence, his response was always the same. He never took his eyes off of me and he never came closer.
Then early one morning while driving to work, I saw a dark lump in the middle of the street.
I let out a little gasp. “That’s the possum who comes to visit me!” Tears came to my eyes and I hoped I was wrong.
That night I went outside to jump and made myself think, “He’s going to come; that wasn’t him in the street.”
As the rope rhythmically turned and I skipped, my hopes slipped. He did not show. Suddenly, my special moment was empty. There were no glowing eyes looking at me.
I never understood why he wanted to watch me jump rope but he did. Maybe he thought I was one of God’s strange creatures that bounced up and down in the same spot. Who knows? What I do know is that I’m glad God makes even the smallest animal with personalities. I never liked possums before but now I have a new respect for them.
I bonded with this little creature and sometimes I look to see if ... well... if another set of eyes will glow in the bushes. But most likely, there never will be another possum like my nighttime buddy.