A dreamlike moment at 1 am this morning.
I was sitting on the bed browsing for new clothes (for my upcoming birthday), while D was playing a computer game. Suddenly and at the same moment we see a thing, crawling along the floor, out from under the bed. This being New York, our immediate thoughts (we checked with each other later) were of horror: Now, that’s a big cock-a-roach, eeeeech.
It was not an insect at all; it was a little house mouse with a broken spine, dragging its legs. Fast little beastie; it turned back for the bed, and we had to flush it out with a plastic container – it took a bit of a struggle and a squeak to put it in as carefully as could be done.
There was a wound in its side, partially healed, but other than that, this poor poor thing was still bright eyed and alert, and wanting to live. It had come out, while we were both up and with all the lights on. Desperate for food, we supposed. I don’t have it in me to kill as kindness…a lifetime spent trying to get prey animals away from my family’s cats…We came up with a plan.
There have been many other mice appearing in my life at odd times, making themselves significant. One of my earliest memories is of the scratching behind a wall in my bedroom in a rented holiday home. I have no idea how old I was, but young enough that even being told what it was didn’t stop it from being mysterious, a sound full of strange meanings that I could not grasp – what were the mice doing in the wall? Speaking to one another? Eating – but what, inside a wall? I fell asleep to the noises, none the wiser, but grown a bit more curious.
Another dreamlike moment came when I was a teenager, again in bed, just about to sleep – when I suddenly saw from the light in the hall, a little figure on the floor. I turned on the overhead light and there was a field mouse, big fluffy tipped tail and all, up on its hind legs, staring at me. I yelled for my mum to come and look – baffled, as I lived on the first floor of a suburban house. As my mum came to see what I was going on about, the mouse darted behind the mirrored glass of the cupboard. Of course, I was told that I must have been dreaming – and I had to prove it (now doubtful myself) by rattling about, and finally by fetching one of the cats in demonstration – yes, she was verrry interested by what might be in the cupboard. The little mouse took fright and ran out and down the stairs, where we let it out by the french windows. Then, returned to bed, it seemed to me as if the whole incident hadn’t happened, and I fell towards sleep half triumphant and half doubtful again.
The third mousely vision took place on Christmas Eve, 2004, on the way to midnight mass in Charlotte, North Carolina.
D was driving the two of us down the quiet leafy roads from his aunt and uncle’s house to the church. We stopped at crossroad traffic light, and there, waiting at the roadside, was the mouse. It zipped in front of the car and up onto the far pavement. We had the green – but paused to see where it might go next – the mouse decided to cross the other road once the ‘walk’ symbol flashed up there – as if it knew to wait and watch for traffic, and had the patience to do so. It put me in mind of the old medieval belief that on Christmas Eve, around midnight, animals are granted the power to speak like human beings, the rationale being I think, so they could greet the infant Christ. Perhaps it was on its way to the church to visit the nativity scene…or it was town mouse going for a visit to poor cousin church mouse…
So to our latest encounter. The mouse needed food; a piece of chocolate and a handful of seeds tipped into the container. We threw on suitable outdoor clothes, and headed for Tomkins Square Park to find a release spot, with me, horrified still, joking it must be some kind of zombie mouse to be moving around as it did, and being rightly rebuked by D, who told me it was very much alive and still engaging with the world for all the trauma. Up at TSP, the gates were all locked, and drunk people were lounging on the steps of bordering bars or pissing nonchalantly into the grass. On further inspection, the park was blustery with rats. Rats, we reasoned, were bullies, and while stealing the beastie’s food, might chance a nip – not something it needed in the state it was in. So we headed East and downward, going for a calmer and less infested spot. The perfect place was a community garden on 7th street and C; The mouse was slid through the bars, down into the thick cover of ivy-like leaves, with the chocolate (which it had not been eating, but clutching like a fragment of life raft), a second piece, and lots more seeds to keep it going. Pity, and hope, and resignation, and wonder at the pain it must have survived for so long already. Even admiration, and mild pride at having tried at least to help, and of course, a tale to tell tomorrow.
All this from a little crippled mouse.
It seems quite easy to see how a person could construct a personal bank of mythology based around these memories, coincidences and evolving repetitions. Thinking of it now, I can see where I have been influenced by these liminal scurryings and shock encounters – without being conscious of it, I had twisted a thread of them, worked them into my first book to bolster the magical, unworldly quality of Kilea’s experiences. Plans indeed gang aft agley, but I feel the better for it, now I’ve noticed this one tiny and haunting cause.