Two weeks ago, a rat turned up dead on the sidewalk. Well, actually, it couldn’t have been two weeks ago because I only moved down here on the twenty-third, so I guess it was more like one week ago. One week ago? Wait, you know what, that does make sense because I saw him for the first time coming back from lunch with Audrey, who I hadn’t seen in forever, and it was the day before her sister’s 21st birthday. So yes, one week ago, I walked past this rat on the sidewalk. And he was a big guy, and there was no obvious cause of death, so really before the disgust hit all I could think was how? I mean, rats are the ones who carry the diseases, I’m pretty sure they don’t actually get them, and this one, I’m telling you, was literally the size of a squirrel— so, just, what did this guy in? But at this point, the reality of what I was doing hit me and I nearly threw up that lunch.
Luckily, or now I know it was unluckily, I didn’t have to go that way for the next three days because I work in the opposite direction. But, every Sunday, there was a farmer’s market down there and I always made sure to stop in and get fresh apples, because there’s this really nice old woman who grows them on her terrace.
So, on Sunday, I had nearly forgotten all about him, until I turned the corner, and there he was. Still lying on the sidewalk. By now, he’d started to decompose; his little stomach was warped and inflated, and he was just sort of oozing out onto the pavement. And everyone was just stepping around him, not really giving him any thought. But I was… transfixed, by this guy on the cement. Everything that had happened in his little life, and it ended here, with his rat bodily fluids out on display. That was the thing, they were on display, but no one was looking at him. I couldn’t leave him there, but the only thing I could think, really, was: who will watch me ooze on the pavement?
You get so used to living. I’ve known Audrey since 2nd grade, and I haven’t seen her since sophomore year of college, but I remember her sister’s birthday. I feel sick. Her life is in mine, and mine in hers, and they expand infinitely in every other direction, too, but one day it’s over and you’re a rat with your ribs showing on the sidewalk. I feel sick.
But, I mean, if I came across him now, maybe that’s what we’re here to do. Witness each other.
But by then, it was like, oh my God, what time is it? If I don’t hurry, there’ll be no apples left.