I have rats in my walls. I can hear them gnawing at the wires behind my bathroom mirror. Sometimes the rats are my friends. I stand in my bathroom and listen to them chewing at the wires. The repetitive gnawing is soothing almost like rain and I imagine myself falling asleep to it on the bathroom floor. But most of the time the rats want me dead and they try to burn me alive one stripped wire at a time.
I try to stay out of my apartment as much as I can. I go to the mall. I go to the grocery store. I go to the park. The rats wait. There’s no rush. I’ll come back at night to lie in my bed as I always do. I’ll come back to lie in my bed with my eyes open or staring at the backs of my eyelids and listen to them.
I like listening to them. I want to hear every sound. It lets me know that they’re still working at it—that they haven’t found that special spot yet. It lets me know that they care. I have rats in my walls and they want me dead. They tell me so.
Sometimes I go to Home Depot and wander the pest control aisle and wonder what it would be like to burn to death in the middle of the night—me lying there wide awake eyes open and the walls burning from the inside-out on all sides heating my apartment like an oven until my meat is cooked through. I wonder if the rats would eat me. I wonder if I would taste good. Then I buy some nails and some fertilizer and I go home and put my hand to the surface of every wall and each one still feels cool. No fire. I lie in my bed with my eyes wide open and one ear pressed against the cold, orange-peel surface of the barrier and listen to that song, that sweet lullaby. They tell me they want me dead. They tell me that it’s only a matter of time.
Every Monday I go the post office to mail a package. This last Monday, the clerk said, “How are you doing today, Mr. Kincy?” I began laughing. I laughed because I could still hear the rats even though I wasn’t in my apartment. I laughed because for the first time the rats were inside my head and I couldn’t get away from them.
He looked at me funny and I explained to him that I have rats in my walls but now they’re either in my skull or he has rats in his walls too. I told him that my rats want me dead and that he should be careful because if he has rats then they probably want him dead also. He didn’t understand but that’s ok. Nobody ever understands.
He mailed my package and I went home to my ticking time-bomb apartment and lay in my bed with my eyes half open and half staring at the backs of my eyelids unsure if my room was a little warmer than usual.