I once made eye contact with a rat.
It was digging a hole in the snow bank on a street in NYC. I was walking home from the movies with a cup of coffee and as he was digging, I threw the hot coffee on him. He whipped around and his beady little eyes looked at me, hurt and annoyed ( the pain in his eyes was universal), as to say,
“Why did you do that? I am already living in the snow, and your rubbish?”
I stood towering over the tiny hole pointing and laughing. I am sure all he saw was a monster with gnarling teeth and pink skin. I was dismissing all life in the little creature, making him irrelevant as he cleaned up and made use of my mess.
I once watched a video of a rat in the subway carrying a slice he had found,
struggling to get the pepperoni and dirt ridden dinner to wherever his layer was. I saw him as fearless, while people passed with astonishment and disgust and some completely oblivious to what was happening. He did not care the people were there, he had food for an hour and he wasn’t letting that shit go.
I have seen numerous rats dodge and burn past the train wheels as they screech in and out of the station. The vibration, a sign to them to scatter before their imminent death arrived. Not praying, just as always, tucking away into any corner to wait until they could scavenge again, always aware of the third rail.
How does one apologize for hurting sewer rats?
I now see them as a metaphor, an overlooked being, needing no help and just living the way that is given. Do they feel? Do they judge themselves and compare themselves to other sewer rats as they carry old granola to the wee little pinkies in their beds made of rubbish. Do they feel sorry for themselves when they get hot coffee poured on them while digging for protection in snow banks and the freezing cold? What would they be doing if the subway was a tunnel of the natural elements? Why must they carry their vigilance into the litter of the human rat race?
What is the metaphor you ask? These are the mothers and fathers and humans that just need a break, skipping the rail to get to the crumb. Dragging their feelings into snow banks to keep just a little warmer than the air is outside. Being spit on by society because for some reason the oil within old bones has more worth than the blood that breaths.
There is so much I want to say to you sewer rat.
I want to say sorry for drunkenly kicking at you and trying to hurt you on many random occasions. I am sorry I burnt you with coffee and made you sad. I am sorry for crushing you under my boot as you ran across the shanty at work. I am sorry that you were fooled into the peanut butter trap, the sticky trap, the poisonous cheese that made you die in the wall, which made the house smell for days. Your instant karma was not quick to leave.
Call me a hippy, call me a fucking snowflake if you must, but we are all just sewer rats. Some sewers cleaner than others. The L train is life passing by as we scowl and judge one another and ourselves, while the big “subhumans” toss aside their toxic waste for us to scavenge through. Only to go back to our layers and pick the sores off of our children’s skin because they are eating what is filling the proverbial waste baskets we dig through to survive. The GMO granola crumbs and pizza slices, which are covered in lies and diseases, new and old from the melting ice caps. The bottom of the wastebasket is always the scariest part and carries the most disease.
All this was hidden in the eyes of a sewer rat.