1. The winter after my father died was one of the worst winter’s that my city and I had experienced in decades. I had just turned 22. I was also still living at home with my mother and coming to grips with the fact that all of the time I had been spending with my father (cleaning his apartment, visiting, making him get fresh air, taking him to doctor’s appointments…) categorized me as his caregiver. This was a fact that I was oblivious to until it was pointed out to me the week after he had passed.
That is to say, I was a dumbass.
For the record, it was a role that I had accepted because I knew (at least, subconsciously) that if I didn’t, he’d pass away alone and rejected and would be discovered in some state of decomposition.
He wasn’t a very social man.
As far as the weather was concerned, if it wasn’t snowing, then the sun was illustrating how far we were from it and that it had no intentions of getting closer to us any time soon. Point of fact? The tundra like conditions forced homeowners (who were lucky enough to have their own little piece of sidewalk and driveway) to stop fucking shovelling anything more than a couple of tire tracks for their automobiles and general access to their homes.
Back then, as someone who drove, as well as exercised his right to be bipedal, this pissed me off to no end.
Now that I am a less stupid version of myself, I can obviously see that to shovel at the rate of which the snow had decided to fall from the sky would have produced a lot of middle aged men who would be fooling their families into thinking that they were taking a snow angel break when in fact they were being crushed under the weight of a massive heart attack.
2. The front door to my mother’s house was a heavy, old door that had dual, arched windows. The windows started at waist height and went a respectable distance to the top of the door. It offered enough visibility to see who was knocking and enough coverage to hide behind in the event that the knock-ee had a current issue of The Watchtower in their hands.
Around this time, I had taken to staring out my mother’s front door late at night. I wasn’t being weird about it (my dick stayed in my pants and away from my hands). It just became a part of my late night ritual. I’d come home late from work and I felt like a wrecked individual. I had taken to staring out of one of the double panes because I liked what I saw: a quiet neighborhood, the sleepy houses of my mother’s neighbors, and a fuckton of snow that was existing in purity or some state of spoilage.
It looked and felt perfect. Which was not how I felt inside my own mind at that time.
On one particular evening, I had looked out of my mother’s front door and was greeted by one of the worst snow storms I had ever seen. Howling winds threw around sheets of snow and behind both of them was a goddamn lightning storm punctuating the scant silences. I honestly thought that a few houses would be lost before the sun rose the following day.
That’s the kind of winter that my city and I were experiencing.
3. Also around this same time, I had taken to drinking myself to sleep. Given what I had just gone through with my father combined with the fact that the weather was going all ‘end of the world’, it seemed like a logical thing to do. On top of that, I also had an unreliable familial and social network that would become further damaged by my inability to be seen as insecure. Asking for help under any circumstance or expressing my feelings wasn’t a tool in my toolbox back then. And still isn’t, to some extent.
Shortly after that storm, the weather had progressed from environmentally entertaining to potentially lethal. It didn’t matter what the thermostat was set at it in my mother’s house, it never warmed up. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the thermostat or the furnace, it’s just that the damn things could never catch up to the heinous fuckery that the winter was throwing at us.
4. It was upon one of these frigid evenings that I discovered ‘my new roommate’. There I was, knee deep in self pity, watching a rerun of Inside the Actor’s Studio when I spied a tiny brown mouse bravely poking his head out from underneath the dresser that I was using as a tv stand.
“This ought to be interesting,” I thought, raising an eyebrow.
In, out, repositioning, constantly rescanning the landscape… that little mouse exercised more caution than the entire human race has over a millennia. Eventually, the little fella said ‘fuck it’, and fully departed from the safety and dust bunnies that the under side of my dresser had provided. I watched him for a full minute while he sat in front of my dresser.
“That’s enough of that shit,” I said standing up. The mouse was gone before I even realized what had happened.
I knew then as you probably figured out now, that the little fucker was looking for a warm spot to crash. How can he be blamed? It was a brutal winter. That still didn’t stop me from putting my air rifle next to my bed. Don’t judge me: the air rifle was a throwback to my early teens. What’s more is that if my little friend was being that brazen about his presence, then it is a safe assumption that he has bunked with me before.
And that is gross.
A little about me. I was an ‘oops’ baby. Instead of my parents going above and beyond and really parenting the shit out of me, they decided to work out their dysfunctions and shortcomings through me. As a result, they generally let me do whatever I wanted. When it became obvious that ‘whatever’ wasn’t a good idea, they gave me a BB gun.
The thought was there: Give him something to do that gets him outside and has him use his brain to a degree. I started off with paper targets and eventually graduated to empty soda cans. I was taught right from wrong as well as proper “gun safety”. My parents felt confident that I wouldn’t screw up too bad.
One mail truck, a windshield, multiple moving targets, several groundings, and a stern talking to later, I learned that shooting things that didn’t belong to you was bad. So, I decided that shooting at the posters I had hung up in my room was an acceptable compromise. It didn’t take long before I made those four walls exhibit a texture like that of a Ray Liotta’s face.
No, giving a child a weapon is never the smartest idea. Especially when you leave said child alone more than you engage with him. The fact is that I was the youngest of four by a decade and when it came time for me to be parented, my parents didn’t know what to do anymore.
Suffice it to say, by the time I had made myself acquainted with my ‘roomie’ I was quite a good shot.
5. The next time I saw the mouse, I was ready.
It was a night just like all of the rest. There I was, just getting ready to nod off when my friend ventured forth from the safety that my dresser provided. I gave him a full minute to survey the landscape before I reached for my air rifle. Miraculously, he didn’t bolt when I did this. He kept creeping forward.
As he bravely made his way out from under my dresser, I had time to compare and contrast our individual motivations.
As a regular mouse, it stood to reason that there wasn’t a whole lot of cognitive thought going on in his rodent mind beyond instinctual needs. Further, the little fucker was just trying to keep warm. It’s not like he was taking little bites out of me without my knowledge. If that was the case, I’m sure I’d find him in some other part of the house trying to work off a contact high.
My motivations? I was lonely and creeped out by the fact that I didn’t know what a little mouse was doing to me while I snored my way through the night.
He moved a little closer. I lined up my shot. He crept forward a fraction of an inch. I followed him with my barrel. By now, he was a full foot away from my dresser and in the center of my room.
It was going to be a quick and clean death. One shot to his little, mouse head and then I could get on with my ‘routine’. I pulled the trigger.
At the last second, I had fired at the ground in front of the mouse. The little fucker jumped six inches into the air and made that sound that the Roadrunner makes when he leaves Wile. E. Coyote in the dust.
I never saw him again.
I couldn’t tell you what was going through my mind in the seconds before I pulled the trigger. Perhaps my recent dealings with death had turned me into an enlightened being, one who was able to express empathy towards creatures and people who were just trying to survive.
That’s probably galaxies away from the truth considering that my father’s death and having to deal with the related fallout, turned me into a soured asshole almost instantaneously.
In the end, I can’t tell you what I was thinking because I don’t recognize that ‘me’ anymore. But I can tell you that the ‘me’ now is proud of the ‘me’ then for letting the mouse live to fight another day.