The apartment below us recently had an exterminator come over, so my roommate texted me Saturday night letting me know that he’d seen a mouse in our apartment.
‘Yeah. It might be from downstairs. But it just kind of stared at me. We just looked at each other for a while. Weird.’
It was the closest thing to a staring contest he’d ever had with an animal, he told me later on. I never tried to substantiate his claim; I only wondered why he didn’t try to trap the mouse in the first place. But I couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer absurdity of such a valiant mouse.
I returned the same night to see a bunch of sticky mousetraps littered on the floor of the kitchen with some poison pellets on top.
My boyfriend, my roommate, and I thought nothing more of it and talked about how the mouse was probably long gone. So we gathered around the dining table and talked about some trivial things: how anatomy class was going, our plans for spring break — and at some point, we veered off to the metaphorical importance of Walt’s death in Breaking Bad.
Next thing I knew, there was a gray blur and I watched in mortification as a small, gray mouse manifested onto one of the sticky traps lying on the floor.
“Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit — there’s a mouse! Guys! It’s over there,” I blurted out.
My roommate immediately jumped on top the table while my boyfriend stuck his index fingers in his ears, turned around and clamped his eyes shut, trying to pretend the mouse wasn’t there. Had it not been for the intense adrenaline rush of seeing a mouse for the first time, I might’ve laughed at their respective reactions.
The mouse was rather cute — round and fluffed up in the cheeks like a chipmunk. I suppose I imagined a New York subway rat, so my expectations didn’t match reality. The truth was, and bear with me for a moment, this mouse looked almost despondent and didn’t even bother to struggle much against the trap. It just turned to look at us while we looked back at it.
I suppose, in some way, it accepted its inevitable fate.
“I think — and try not to take this too personally,” I said to my boyfriend while inching closer to the tiny mouse on the sticky trap, “from an evolutionary standpoint, you wouldn’t survive very long.”
“Damn — we have to get rid of it,” said my roommate, from high up on his chair, “if it tries to get off, it could break a leg or something. We have to kill it humanely.”
I agreed. Even though he was the only one standing on top of the dining room table, he was still the voice of reason.
My boyfriend, index fingers still plugged in his ears, opened his eyes and stared at me with this look of desperation, “We need someone to step on its head. We can’t just wait for it to die.”
After staring at the little mouse for some time, and after noticing it rejecting the poison pellets by its head, the mouse and I reached some level of understanding through our mutual gazing. I turned to my roommate and my boyfriend and came to the definitive conclusion: “I can’t do it.”
And after a minute of deliberating what to do with the mouse, we came to the conclusion that we had to call in our neighbor Addie — a bodybuilder, a gym guru, a medical student extraordinaire, an expert at dealing with rodents.
He came and looked at each one of us — my roommate, who was still standing on the table, my boyfriend, who still had his index fingers plugged deep into his ears, and me, crouched over the small sticky trap. Without saying much, he took the sticky trap, with the mouse attached and placed it into a transparent bag.
“You can’t just let it die of asphyxiation,” my boyfriend protested, “it’s going to—”
Before my boyfriend could finish his sentence, Addie stomped his foot down on the mouse’s head three times. The room shook. I barely got a good look at the mouse before Addie stuffed it into an opaque paper bag.
It was silent as he walked out, with the dead mouse in hand.
We all followed him into the elevator where my roommate decided to peek into the paper bag. “Oh — damn. That’s…gross. It’s like red and white in there…”
“Dude. You see cadavers like…every day in anatomy,” my boyfriend pointed out.
My roommate considered this for a moment, “Yeah, but…we stared at each other. Like — we knew each other. And now…he’s just dead. This thing that was alive a day ago is now gone. That’s weird, isn’t it?”
When he mentioned this, I thought back to the look the look of desperation and hopelessness that the mouse had lying on the sticky trap. This little creature that I had been staring only minutes ago was now gone. It knew me. It knew all of us. And now it was just…dead.
After a moment of silence, Addie spoke up, “That’s deep, man. That’s deep.”
It was difficult to make sense of the whole engagement. Circumstances aside, that mouse had the capacity to live, and in some ways, it had the capacity to give up. But it didn’t have the capacity to bridge the gap between life and death. It didn’t want to die, but we bestowed it its fate regardless of what it wanted. We took its life and it couldn’t do anything but try and stomach the hopelessness of its fate.
When we arrived in the basement where the trash room was, we stood in somber stillness while we placed what was left of the mouse into an empty trashcan.