There are no words to properly address all that is wrong with this fucking ignorant and rage- inducing tweet.
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mccartneys-eyebrows asked: I can't believe you would actually kill an innocent animal that wasn't a threat to you just because it was "annoying". You killed that animal in probably the most painful and traumatizing way possible. You wonder what you did to "deserve" that kind of power over another animal? You did NOTHING. You didn't deserve to kill ANYTHING. To kill something without necessity is selfish and disgusting. Have you ever heard of a LIVE trap or do you just not care? People like you make me want to kill myself.
I find this comment really interesting in a lot of ways.
I think, first of all, that this person misinterpreted the spirit of my story entirely. He/she also commented on the post directly stating that I was “expecting sympathy” for the piece, which I clearly was not. But, aside from that, I find the violent reaction to my own choice to use violence quite ironic. My choice to kill a mouse makes he/she want to kill themselves. I can’t even begin to analyze that.
I also feel kind of obliged to defend myself here. I did say in the story that my roommates and I tried on 3 previous occasions to avoid killing the mouse. We spent hours trapping the mouse alive (a LIVE trap as you call it) and releasing it back outside. We did this 3 times in the space of a few weeks. We paid a handyman to come to our place and patch up holes in our walls. But the mouse kept returning and it was chewing through our computer wires, leaving droppings all over the place (including inside the pantry where we keep our food) and was also chewing through the bags in which we kept our sugar etc. It really was a pest.
But anyway, all of that is pretty irrelevant because at the end of the day, yes, I did kill an innocent creature. This is a choice that I made that clearly this person finds abhorrent no matter the circumstance.The anger expressed in this person’s message drives home the point I was making at the end of the story, that people view life so differently and that morality is so subjective.
I would never speak to another person the way you just chose to speak to me because I would never want to hurt someone in that way. You would never kill a mouse because you couldn’t imagine hurting an animal. I don’t think I’m a bad person for killing that mouse. But I don’t think it was a nice thing to do either. I don’t think you’re a bad person for sending me a hate-filled message basically saying that I disgust you so much it makes you want to take your own life. Nor do I think it was a nice thing to do.
Last night marked our fourth encounter with the mouse. Or a mouse. Safiya is convinced it’s the same one but I’m not so sure. The first time we saw the/a mouse it ran out from under the fridge only to promptly return from whence it came a few seconds later, likely scared half to death by the sight of three fully-grown women screaming and jumping on the couch. The second time the mouse made a beeline from the living room to the bathroom wherein we were able to trap it using an elaborate barricade of books and chairs. We then caught the little guy under a kitchen pot and benevolently released him, shrieking all the while, into the great outdoors.
A few weeks later, with all of the holes in our apartment now neatly taped shut and the spaces under our counters sealed impenetrably with cardboard and saran wrap, we saw the critter yet again. Despite mine and Saf’s inclination to rid him from our lives once and for all (that was a euphemism: we wanted to kill the fucker) Valerie, our sometimes vegan roommate, insisted that we set him free again, and so we did.
Which brings us to the fourth, most recent, and hopefully final encounter. This time I was the one to catch a quick glimpse of him running out from under the coffee table at around one in the morning. I never saw where he was running to because I was too busy jumping up and down and squealing outside of Saf’s door in a desperate plea for her to wake up and come join me in useless panic. Valerie woke up too and in a brief and undemocratic house meeting I unilaterally decided that tonight we would be putting down glue traps. Saf agreed and Val eventually relented but informed us that she would not be the one to deal with said trapped mouse in the morning. So it was agreed and we laid the traps and headed off to bed.
Before we could even reach our respective rooms we heard the most painful, pathetic, devastating squeak come from behind the couch. We had caught our mouse. Valerie immediately declared that she could not handle this and headed off to her room where she remained for the rest of the night donning noise-cancelling headphones and cherishing the souls of all living things. Meanwhile Saf and I, our steely resolve now buttery, groaned and whined and screamed profanities at the poor creature that had annoyingly decided to get caught before we were mentally prepared to deal with it.
"Oh my god can you stop crying please you fucking little shit," whined Saf. "Fuck this, fuck this, fuck this, fuck this, fuck this," I helpfully chimed in.
"Why am I so scared. This is so irrational."
"We can’t even kill a mouse? What if we were hunters and gatherers? And this is how we handled this? We would fucking starve. We. Would. Starve."
"Fuck this. He came into our house god dammit. We gave him so many opportunities."
"Oh my god please stop making that noise you little shit."
"This would be so much easier if he were already dead. Just die!"
"I can’t do it. I just can’t. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t oh my god."
Eventually, after a full minute or so of this I talked myself into climbing up on the sofa and peaking behind it in order to visually confirm the situation. And there it was, the tiny wriggling thing, and in that moment the reality of what we were doing finally broke through my irrational fear and
I knew that I could do what was required of me.
"Ok, ok, ok, just come look at it!" I yelled at Saf as she dutifully followed me on to the couch and peered over. "Do you see it? That’s the reality. That’s what we have to deal with ok? An actual living thing that is caught in our living room. His life is in our hands. He is our responsibility and the longer we stand here freaking out the longer he suffers. We can do this. We have to do this."
And we were really ready. We discussed the means. I called my boyfriend who, half asleep, told me to “put my big girl boots on and beat it over the head with something” to which I promptly responded with “you fucking sociopath” and hung up. So he was no help. Google suggested poison as the most benign method of which we had none. Eventually we decided to drown it. Safiya filled a plastic bag with water and we readied ourselves for the task at hand, pausing briefly to Instagram the moment of course. We put on our boots and winter coats in order to make a quick sprint to the garbage dump with the body, slid the couch away from the wall, and then, in a twist of fate that can only be described as FML-ish, we realized that the power cable for our speakers was stuck to the glue trap UNDER THE MOUSE.
It was over then, surely. We were barely up to the challenge as it were. This new development crippled us and we dissolved once again into a fit of mindless, squealing idiocy.
"Why? Why is this happening?"
"Fuck it. Let’s just throw the speakers away."
"Let’s just burn the whole house down and collect the insurance."
"We don’t have insurance."
"WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?"
"Oh my god mouse will you stop crying Jesus Christ shut the fuck up shut up shut up shut up."
We eventually managed to move the couch far enough to stand over the trap. Saf held the trap steady under her boots while I yanked the cord out from under the mouse, as he shrieked in terror, likely convinced we were torturing him for our own sick amusement. This supplementary crisis now resolved, we once again steeled ourselves for the kill. We debated who should be the one to hold the bag of water and who should lift the trap and drop it in, both tasks equally as nausea-inducing to us both. Finally I opted for the task of delivering the mouse to its execution. Unable to stomach getting too close to the ill-fated animal, I instead grabbed a kitchen tongs, and used that to toss him into the bag, where he promptly and unceremoniously drowned.
Saf tied the bag up tight and we ran out into the freezing night, threw the plastic coffin into the first trash we could find and ran back inside as if the ghosts of a thousand slaughtered mice were chasing us. Unable to calm down following this ordeal, we downed a glass of red wine each and recapped the whole event like war vets in a dive bar. I was restless for hours afterward, startled awake by the feeling of every loose fibre of my bed sheets brushing against my skin, every rattle and creak of our old apartment undid me, every shadow was my reckoning.
Such fear. Such indelible, incomprehensible, unexplainable fear for something so rationally and justifiably fearful of me. I can’t imagine what the psychosocial or evolutionary explanation for this implausible fear could be. I told this story to a few friends and co-workers and their reactions could not have been more varied. Some people laughed at us, unable to empathize with our inability to handle this situation. Those people, like my boyfriend, would have had no qualms or hesitation in smashing the mouse like a fly, or any other pest. On the other end of the spectrum are those people like my roommate, for whom the idea of taking any life over which we have no dominion is unbearable. Valerie cried for that mouse. I do not think this makes her weak. Nor do I think my boyfriend is evil. I guess we’re all just humans beings trying to find ways to exist in this world with other beings, both human and not. I don’t know which I would rather be, less afraid or more empathetic. I suppose I’m somewhere in the middle, the reluctant predator.
That mouse taught me a lot about myself, about my own limitations. He made me think about how I view myself in the hierarchy of living things and question my right to exist so high up on the food chain. I wonder what I did to earn such power over this mouse, for, I see now how powerful we humans are, though we are only human.
"Honey, just say it. She’s a cunt. You can’t be afraid of no words baby girl. Don’t matter what your mama told you ‘bout being a lady and all that there bullshit. You gotta call a cunt when you see one. Listen to me honey, there ain’t no right or wrong way to be a woman. Even that cunt’s got just as much right to be a cunt as you got to call her one. No time for bullshit in this world. No time for passivity. See, I always used to hate on religious people but I respect that kind of fervency these days. Gotta respect anybody who’s mad about something. Too many people just don’t care ‘bout nothing. But not me. I’m mad as hell. I came into this world ass cheeks clenched and screaming my head off and I been screaming ever since. Gotta be mad, honey. Gotta be loud and mean and mad. Yes ma’am. Can’t be afraid of no words. That there is a cunt."
Deadlines, class schedules, the roster at work, group sessions, club meetings, exams. My days were divided into two types: “productive” and “unproductive”. If I wasn’t “doing something useful” then I was “slacking off”. This meant that even when I tried to have fun I could never really relax thinking about all the other things that I “should have been doing”.
For the first few months after I graduated I was unable to break out of this mindset. Despite the fact that I had longed for this post-graduation break for so long I found myself unable to enjoy obligation-free days now that I had them. Though I work almost every day I still felt as if I was not accomplishing anything. I felt purposeless and unambitious. And “unproductive”. As a consequence, I fell into a deep depression that I am only now, almost six months later, slowly overcoming.
I’ve been thinking a lot about time. We speak of time in hours and minutes, days and weeks, months and years. We speak of saving it and wasting it. I suppose it wasn’t always this way and I remember reading somewhere that this incrementalization of time can be traced back to the beginnings of the industrial revolution and the factory system. Clock in, clock out. Before that time was measured in plantings and harvests and fallows. In sunrises and sunsets. In high tides and low tides. In snow and rain and drought.
My last two remaining grandparents both died within weeks of each other this year, around the same time as my graduation and subsequent move to Montreal. When I look back on this time, known to rest of the world simply as June, 2013, I realize that speaking in terms of days and weeks and months, though obviously useful, probably had a lot to do with my inability to deal with post-grad life. I had so glorified the state of busy, of full calendars and met deadlines, that I was now unable to exist in a world without this false sense of accomplishment.
Whenever my grandmother told a story she would always start by saying, “this was before your father was born” or “this was while I was in Jamaica” or “this was during the war” or “this was before independence” or “this was when we still had to learn Latin” or “this was when I could still eat chocolate”. It was never “a few years ago” or “in 1973” because she didn’t see her life this way, and neither do most people her age I would assume.
Maybe I’m too young to want to do away with clocks and calendars. Maybe I’m foolish to think that this is possible. After all I still have rent to pay and a debt that grows larger each month whether I choose to pay heed to the passing days or not.
But I think I will try nonetheless to think of time a little differently. To measure it in the pulsing of my boyfriend’s eyelids when he sleeps. In the length of my hair. In the ripening of avocados. In the fraying of the edges of my pillow case. I will speak of two poems ago and three yoga classes after the time we stayed up all night drinking hot chocolate and watching The Wire.
I will speak of that time after I graduated, when time slowed down a little, and it was okay.
Here is a short film which is loosely based on the piece Conversations IV that I wrote last year.
It was shot by the oh so talented aspiring filmmaker Ben Gardere (who also happens, marvellously, to be my boyfriend) using a Nikon D7100 at his apartment in Montreal.
It is our first collaborative project and I hope for many more to come. We are both eager to grow and learn so please watch, comment, critique and share if you wish!
Cheers to infinite creativity and trying new (scary) things,
He told me that this is my only chance to live this one life and to be conscious of it. He told me that to be sad and to be able to acknowledge this sadness, to name it as such, to hold it in that space behind my lower teeth and suck on it, to experience sadness, was contingent on this consciousness, on this particular life that I let fall between my fingers like sand, as if billions more grains were within my reach. He told me to value my sadness, for there would come a time where I would long for it, a time when I would miss being able to feel anything at all.
All that we can do is live life aesthetically, he said. Live it raw.
But I can’t. Instead I chew it up and feel it dissolve to nothing in my gut. I think this life to death until it is nothing but an idea. Happiness in the cropped and filtered images of others. Something to be ever coveted but never obtained. A ghost of a thing.
He told me it is not something we find rather it is something we are.
I am not happy.
I am lonely and broken
For things were said that
Left me torn and defeated
But I will not write of
Harsh words spoken or
Of dreams denied
Of anger or envy
I will not write of the love
I have lost nor the lovers
Who took it with them
Instead I will write
Of mending myself
With my own careful hand and
I will write of winning my own heart
And of whispering soft sincerities
To my own reflection
And I will be proud
To call myself my own
I will not be angry or envious
For I have found love here
In my aloneness and therefore
I am neither lonely nor broken
I didn’t really want to go to the viewing.
There’s something odd and unsettling about seeing a dead person. It’s even more unsettling when you’re told that they’re supposed to look peaceful, like they’re sleeping- but they just look dead and you want to say so but know you’ll probably be glared…
Rush to me,
crest on me,
run your current across my chest
I will pin you back
I will hold you firm
Like the ocean, I can not fill you,
just be in you for a while
till we exhaust ourselves
and the current of time pulls
our orbits wide
But I will return,
each time your tide has risen
I hope he thinks of me
Like words that melt
On the tip of his tongue
Like split infinitives and
I hope he misses me like
He misses every word unwritten
When words won’t come
I hope he misses me like
Every word that never followed
I hope he thinks of me
On cold days when the sun
Shines distant in grey skies
And winter slips down his
Shirt collar and settles
At the base of his spine
I hope he misses me
Like he misses the scarf
He thought he did not
I hope he thinks of me
On sweaty nights
When solitary limbs
Escape heavy sheets
And sleep is no savior
I hope he misses me
Like the soft curve of
The back of a knee
Like sleeping hands
Reaching for stirring
Chests at midnight
Hands that know
He needs to be touched
Hands that know
I hope he thinks of me
On Monday mornings
As he ponders the
Unable to shake the feeling
That he is forgetting something
I hope he misses me
Like he misses that thing
That indeterminable dot
On his peripheral vision
Which he chases around
His inner eyelid
Unable to keep it