A black rat crossed my path on the subway stairs yesterday.
It was of substantial size and menacing demeanor, but what freaked me out the most, apart from the fact that I nearly trod on it, was the fact that it reminded me of a mouse.
Strange thing to say I suppose -- of course rats resemble mice. But rats I can deal with. Naturally, I would experience fear and alarm if I found one in my kitchen. But I would be able to think clearly and form a plan. Mice, on the other hand, drive dark and clammy fear into the depths of my soul. I cannot think, I cannot function, I cannot breathe.
After my close encounter with the rat, all I have been able to think about is the mouse we had in the bedroom a few years back.
It made its first appearance in the dead of night. I was awoken by Mr Berman, stumbling around with the light on.
"What the hell is going on?"
"Nothing. It's nothing. Go back to sleep."
"It's not nothing. What is it?"
"It's a... cockroach-type thing."
"What kind of cockroach-type thing."
"Erm...one with a tail."
"It's a MOUSE?"
For the next 5 minutes, I stood on the bed screaming until Mr Berman manhandled me into the guest room and told me in no uncertain terms to keep the hysterics to a minimum while he dealt with it.
I did not sleep a wink.
The next morning, I was forced to ask our babysitter to help me retrieve clean knickers from the bedroom. Just as I was reaching into the drawer, I saw a dark shape run behind the dresser. I literally leapt onto the light fixture. When our babysitter eventually managed to get me down, my hair was standing on end, I had goosebumps on every inch of my body, and was sweating like a woman possessed.
I didn't sleep a wink that night either. Nor the next. Nor the one after that.
Because we could not find the mouse. Until I could discover evidence of its demise, or its continued existence, I was a tormented soul. I spent all day at work researching humane traps, peanut butter bait, and peppermint oil deterrents. When I arrived home, I would feverishly search for droppings, then throw the boys in the car and drive around the block until Mr Berman got home from work.
Eventually we found it, by smell. It had crawled into Mr Berman's gym bag, and expired in his sneaker.
We were recently recounting this episode when Mr Berman surprised me -- nay, horrified me -- with a confession. He had hidden the full story, knowing it would send me straight into an asylum.
He had been half-woken up by the cat jumping on the bed, and something crawling into the palm of his hand. He squeezed his hand together, and realized the "something" felt unpleasantly greasy. At this point, he sat bolt upright, flicked on the light, and saw a mouse, in his palm, apparently squeezed to death.
At this point, Mr Berman panicked. In his defense, he is not at his best when roused from a deep slumber. And he was more than a little unnerved by his greasy palm and the contents therein.
So while he considered what to do about the situation, he put the mouse down -- ON THE BED -- and went to wash his hands. When he returned, the mouse had come to its senses and was staggering across the bed in my direction. It was mere inches from my face, but it saw Mr Berman and fortuitously performed an unexpectedly athletic leap onto the floor.
This is the point at which I woke up.
What if I had woken 5 seconds earlier? What if the mouse had chosen my hand to crawl into? Or my nostril, god forbid. I swear the shock would have killed me.
So you can see why I was distressed by the rat.
I have started to obsess again over its smaller cousin. Am I going to lose all ability to function until every rodent is expunged from New York City? This could mean a long stay in Bellevue.