Have you ever looked another creature in the eyes and contemplated her death?
I have. I hesitated. But her life wasn’t mine to take anyway.
Let’s backtrack. It’s 8:30 on a Thursday, I’m sitting in bed eating dinner and watching TV because YOLO, and my phone lights up with a text.
“We have a mouse,” my roommate writes from the second floor living room. “Yup. A little guy in the living room. Kind of cute, but I’m going to my room now.”
I weigh the possibilities. Do we have a mouse problem? Can I be bothered to deal with a mouse problem?
Then I hear the door open. Another roommate is home. The door closes. I hear grocery bags.
Oh great, I think. Isn’t she in for a treat.
Her feet trudge up the stairs and past the living room into the kitchen. Then I hear her squeal.
Yes, I can be bothered for a mouse problem, I conclude. Begrudgingly I put on shoes–I will not fall victim to droppings–and climb upstairs.
When I get there, I hear the first roommate in her room and the second now in the shower. I traipse around the kitchen. No sign of the mouse. Then I sneak around the living room in search of a mouse hole. No holes, either.
The second roommate hears me.
“Can you leave the front door unlocked?” she calls down. “Owen’s coming over.”
“Sure, no problem,” I reply, making my way back downstairs to the comfort of my bed. I unlock the door on the way.
Guy Fieri is now babbling from my TV. I sit down and start Googling: “how do you know if you have a mice problem.” Next search: “why do I have mice.” Next search: “how to get rid of mice.” I pick up my phone and text back the first roommate.
“We should check all the cabinets and pantries for droppings,” I write, “and I think it’d be good to make a kitchen and trash clean up schedule just so we can make sure this doesn’t get worse.”
At this point, my web browser looks like the WebMD of mice problems. “There’s never just one,” a blogger tells me. “Don’t buy regular mouse traps,” says another advice column. “Then you’ll have a blood problem. Instead, string a tin can with cheese inside across a barrel of water so that you drown it.”
It’s all so confusing and contradictory. So I text the knower of all things: my mom.
“APPARENTLY WE HAVE MICE.”
Five minutes pass while I watch Guy Fieri tell me why I should go Missouri for battered fries.
Impatient, I pick up the phone. My mom answers on the third ring. She explains that she’s busy making dinner.
I cut her off. “We have a mice problem,” I tell her. “What do I do?”
She stops what she’s doing and starts in with an explanation that is basically about as helpful as the websites. Something about the cost of an exterminator, telling our landlords and buying airtight containers for my food in the pantry. “Sounds expensive,” I inform her.
I hear the door open. Aha, I think, roommate’s boyfriend! Abruptly I hang up with my mom–but not until I’ve let her know how unhelpful she has been, because I have an urgent mice problem–and I follow the boyfriend upstairs.
“Hi Owen,” I greet him with a false cheer. Both roommates have now arrived in the kitchen. “So about this mice problem,” I tell the other two, “should we make a cleaning schedule?”
We noncommittally make plans to reconsider the cleaning schedule next week, after the holiday weekend, but not before I remind the roommates that dishes in the sink = mouse heaven.
Boyfriend opts to do the dishes. Mildly satisfied, I return to my room.
It’s now 10:00, so I start getting ready for bed. A new episode of Chopped has begun, which I listen to absentmindedly as I brush my teeth.
I hear a scratching sound. I turn off the water, suspicious. The noise continues. I tiptoe over to my TV and turn the volume down. Now it sounds like paper rustling. But it’s not upstairs…it’s in my hallway.
I snatch my tennis racquet and quickly text the roommates. “It’s down stairs,” I tap into my iPhone hurriedly. “It playing with roach trap by the front door.”
I open my door and spot it on the bottom stair. My heart races. It’s a little, gray, cotton-ball-sized mouse. I creep closer, clutching my tennis racquet, but not determined to use it. Owen starts coming down the stairs to help.
Now it’s on. The mouse scurries toward the guest room and we rush to trap it with a cardboard box in a corner by the door. Somehow, we manage to corner the mouse.
Owen looks over at me expectantly.
“Open the door,” he instructs, “in case I can chase it outside.”
I look down at the mouse. She’s stuck inside her roach trap. I look at him. But what if it runs down to my room, my eyes plead.
It is possible that in that moment I gave him permission to kill it.
Next thing I know he flings away the box and stomps on her. I whimper and look away, tennis racquet now uselessly cradled in my arms.
A moment passes and I look back over at Owen.
“It’s stuck to my shoe,” he shrugs. I open the door and he hobbles outside. I take a deep breath and make my way back into my room. I hear him come back inside. I sit down on my bed and text my mom.
“Oh my god we killed it,” I write. “It got caught in the roach trap and we killed it.”
And then I put my phone down, turned off the light, and went to sleep.