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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rat Story

Rat story, 1992 (I think)

Once I had a rat in my apartment, I was a single parent returning to college after a five year absence. My three year old daughter, and my 5 year old daughter both slept on futons. I have read about horrible situations like that, I had just read Malcolm X and Bigger. There was domestic violence upstairs, but this was the only place I could afford, I was living on welfare, going to Bennington College. My youngest, I always listen to her, she told me she heard something, "In there," pointed to the closet. I stayed home the next day while they where at daycare, staked out the place till I heard it and saw it. It was horrifying. I made use of another piece of information my youngest had given me earlier in the week. On a walk, I pointed out a cat and she said, "That cat is mean." So I went out and captured that cat and threw him in the same room where I had chased the rat. There was a lot of noise in there, and I did not open the door till there was silence. Then I opened the door and let the cat out, and the rat was dead. I got a big an old towel and without touching the rat, rolled it up and put it in the trash, then I went straight to the dump with that. I don't think there were anymore rats after that. I kept the basement door closed. My theory was that it must have gotten into the house from the basement when the heating oil came. Heating oil was very expensive that year, because of the gulf war. 

    The woman upstairs stabbed her husband to death. I read about it in the papers. I had called the police many times when I heard things getting bad upstairs. She had two preteen sons and she seemed pretty nice, though she didn't like my calling the police. I don't know the rest of her story. My other neighbors were very nice, and much more middle class, my daughters had good little friends in the neighborhood and it was very wholesome that way. It is hard for me to believe how I dealt with that rat, but I had to do it, and I am very thankful that the cat did the worst of it for me.

    Now that was an ugly story and I'm sorry. I'm sorry I had to live there, I'm sorry I was on Welfare, I'm sorry the rat was in my house, I'm sorry about the domestic violence, I'm sorry about the stabbing, and for what ever happened to the preteen boys and their mother.

    I read Angela's Ashes and loved it. I know some people who found it too depressing to read. But it is a wonderful immigrant's story. The kind I wish I could write. But I thought he never came to terms with his mother, Angela, and that she deserved forgiveness. Mothers are blamed for too much and given so little credit for what they accomplish for themselves and -- what they accomplish for the human race! It must be hard for a mother to write an immigrants story, feeling so responsible for everything that happens, all the hardships. Many of the foreigner, immigrant stories I love are by women but they are young, and without children, I believe. Not that I think it hasn't or can't be done, I'm just noting that I am still protecting my children from the knowledge of hardships and myself from being blamed for them. I'm not an immigrant, but those are the stories that feel true to me. I am an artist and I believe my life is my creation, I could lie and say there was no rat, but even though I may not be in control of what happens, it is better to claim what is mine and have something, than to lie and have nothing.  

    Another thing about the rat, the angry haunting feeling that can obstruct my sleep; It came AFTER my boyfriend moved out. Not that I had the kind of boyfriend who would have gotten rid of the rat. I'm not mad at the boyfriend for not being there to help. I help myself. I don't thank long lists of people in the introduction to my history. I was mad at the rat, for thinking he could move in now that the boyfriend was gone.

            I was thinking on the way to work this morning (2001) that I really should avoid writing about my hardships because they will not reflect well on me.

2013: I this revised a little but neglected to add details about the cat and rat ordeal as suggested by my writing group. Really not sure about blogging anymore, because sometimes I just want to hide away.

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