I think I’m ready to talk about it (part 2)
*This story is the continuation of another post. Please read yesterday’s post before reading this one.
Wednesday evening, Jan 29:
Armando returns to inspect the pipes again, and reports that the problem is much bigger than he thought. The work will have to be referred out. He goes to cut holes in the walls of the two apartments above us to see just how much pipe needs to be replaced. We have Armando cover the hole with a flattened cardboard box to keep any assholes with tails from trying to break into our apartment. Armando does an amazing job securing the cardboard to the wall and the floor with a roll of duct tape given to us at Christmas by Vin’s cousin Lucy. The tape has little french poodles and Eiffel Towers all over it, and it adds a nice Parisian-chic flair to the wall of our mouse shantytown. I sleep soundly, reminiscing about happier days in Paris chewing on baguettes and shit instead of worrying about mice crawling across my face.
fast forward to Sunday, Feb. 2: A new set of pipe guys come by and start formulating a plan for replacing the enormous 100-year old busted pipes running through the three floors of the house. They speak mostly in Polish, so I don’t really understand the depth of the damage, only that it’s a lot. They remove the cardboard box Armando so brilliantly taped to the wall, and start poking around. One of the guys admits that he sees mice crawling up the wall, which reinforces our decision to call the landlord about hiring an exterminator.
They don’t really do any work that day, so the hole remains. We are fresh out of kicky Parisian duct tape, so one of the guys just kind of half-assedly presses the cardboard with the old tape back onto the wall. I do not sleep soundly that night. I am woken several times by the horrible sound of scratching. I wake up cranky and terrified to enter the kitchen/living room, where the mice have apparently been playing canasta all night.
Monday morning, Feb 3: I slowly creep into the kitchen to make myself coffee. No droppings anywhere, but as I look toward the cardboard wall, I notice there is now a big scary hole right near the top of it. I say a prayer, remind myself that the exterminator is scheduled to come tomorrow, then move to the bathroom so I can take a shower and do my normal morning routine, which because it’s still winter, does not include shaving my legs.
I get out of the shower feeling much more refreshed and ready to embrace the snowy day ahead. I make a move toward the kitchen, but Vin stops me at the doorway.
“Don’t come in here.” He looks serious.
“Why? What happened since I took a 2-minute shower?” My heart stops.
“I came in here to do something, and I saw a mouse. Just tell me what you need from this room and I’ll get it for you.”
I’m grossed out, but I keep my wits about me. I can handle this. I’m from Texas. I grew up with o’possums living underneath our deck and semi-aquatic nutria rats circling the banks of the lake we lived on. I lived in Colorado, where prairie dogs would spontaneously pop up out of the ground to say hello. So I calmly stay in the bedroom while Vin passes me what I need from the other room. Because we live in the weirdest apartment ever, my closet is in the same place where I eat my breakfast, so Vin grabs my outfit, then hands me a cup of coffee, light and sweet. This is actually a pretty nice service. I could get used to this. Except for the mouse, of course. That asshole needs to go.
Monday late morning:
It’s a slow day at work, so I actually pick up the phone and call my husband just to say hi. I almost never call him during the day, which makes me feel kind of terrible. Do you guys call your spouses during the day? I’m not even sure he recognizes my voice.
“Listen,” he says. “I didn’t want to tell you this when you were in the apartment this morning, but I didn’t see a mouse.”
“What do you mean?”
“I saw… a rat.”
Apologies in advance to my grandparents reading right now from Horseshoe Bay, but there is no way to describe the feeling one experiences upon learning that a large disgusting rodent most often seen in subways and sewers has actually been running across your kitchen counters without using a few choice obscenities.
OH SWEET, SWEET LORD. THERE HAS BEEN A FILTHY MOTHER-FUCKING RAT IN MY APARTMENT. A FILTHY FUCKING RAT.
Well, there goes all my home entertaining.
Luckily I work in a mental health clinic, so I can get free therapy whenever I want. I hang up the phone and go to the first open door I see and take a seat. My colleague gives me the support that I need, and even shares a story about the time they did extensive work on the outside of his building and he ended up killing 77 mice in his apartment in one month. I look at him with profound admiration and respect because I would need to be hospitalized after an experience like that.
I refuse to leave work until Vin does because I’m not walking into the rat cave alone. I beat him home by 30 minutes and end up sitting outside our front door, resting my head between my knees. The battery in my phone is dead, so I pretend to meditate, while silently willing whatever furry creatures have been hanging out in my apartment all day to magically teleport themselves to a snowy meadow far, far away. I hear Sochi is lovely this time of year.
Vin finally comes home. We go in. The rat has definitely been out and about. Plastic has been chewed. Several things must be thrown away. But I must say, I am incredibly surprised by this rodent’s bladder control. This many trips inside our kitchen and he hasn’t left any of the tell-tale evidence these creatures usually do. I’m sort of impressed; I have to pee every ten minutes.
Tuesday morning, Feb. 4th: Last night while I slept, Vin drove to Home Depot to purchase a roll of steel netting, a staple gun and enough duct tape to fix a crack in the moon. When I wake up this morning, I see that he has constructed the world’s most impenetrable rat fortress. I wish I’d taken a picture of it, because it was beautiful handiwork. Who needs Valentine’s Day? This man protects me from rats. Now that’s romance. I really need to call that guy more often.
Tuesday afternoon: Tell me if you heard this one…Three Polish handymen, an exterminator and a landlord come to a three-level house in Queens. The exterminator finds a pipe in the front of the house that’s poorly covered and identifies it as the rodent’s port of entry. The handymen cut out an even bigger hole in the wall to get to work on those pipes. Our landlord spends all afternoon reading my cookbooks because our TV is still broken. When his wife calls and asks what he did all day he reports, “I read a red book called ‘Epicurious’”.
And now it’s Friday morning, the big hole has been covered with sheetrock and is waiting to be painted. The floor around the area has sunk into the ground and must be replaced. But the holes are covered, the smell is gone and nothing is scratching on the other side of that wall. I’m a happy camper.
There are lots of silver linings to this story, first and foremost the advantage of being renters in this scenario, because Vin and I didn’t have to pay a dime for all this work.
And secondly, there is a small part of me that feels like having rats in our apartment is like entering a special club or enduring a rite of passage.
I have a rat story.
After 14 years here, I officially feel like a real New Yorker.