I lived alone, apart from a huge rat. It left its shits all over the place, all through my kitchen and in the wardrobe, I did nothing about it at all – beyond limiting the amount of time I spent in the place. I left the lava lamp on but had otherwise totally checked out. And when I did return for a night in the single bed in the corner of the room, I’d have music on through the night to try to put me at ease. The rat would be gnawing away at something, most obviously my nerves. And I’d hear this mad scamper, and I’d imagine it growing by the minute. Finding scraps to feast on and bulging out as a result.
Christ, it was a weird year.
There was a party upstairs. And I was invited as nothing more than a courtesy. A nod to the fact they’d be making some noise. I bought a gift and headed up, tried to be fashionably late. But was still there before most of the true friends. I sat awkwardly, and no one talked to me. And I made a few attempts, then left. I made the excuse that I had to be somewhere else, had to pop downtown. But when I made it down stairs, I saw my car was boxed in. So, it was me and the rat again. The gnawing, the scampering.
It was the least that I deserved.
The hot, pink lava lamp had congealed. The posters were peeling themselves from the wall, as if they knew – before I ever did – that it really was time to get out. The washing was piling up. It was cold. And so damp. Mushrooms grew from one corner of the room, in a bedsit that deserved nothing more than a fire or a flood, and was lucky to escape either given my negligence.
I’ve never worked out what the problem was.
It was easy to blame the rat. But then it grew harder to justify why. The rat didn’t invite itself; it was summoned. The rat turned up to do its business. More than I was ever capable of, in fact the rat was more productive, possibly downright prolific. It moved through that place each night like a steam train delivering the goods. No good came from it but I couldn’t even work out how to shut down the line. So, I just accepted that I had a flatmate. One that wouldn’t be contributing to the rent, nor talking to me. We never saw each other.
The only part of the arrangement I liked.
I guess I made it out okay. Something clicked, and I realised I needed people in my life. It would be a while before I was sorted, but I took enough steps to ensure I’d have some friends in a flat. We didn’t sit for meals, and no one was that close, but it was better than it had been. And that was the start of something. And the end of the rat. As far as I know.