a personal essay i wrote about the bird hospital went live on a massive lifestyle website a few fridays ago. i'd pitched it as a service-y health piece with personal details, something to the effect of how i work with filthy animals and it's perfectly safe and actually quite delightful; the angle my editor and i settled on was more introspective than that, and i worried that i would sound self-involved. (what are blogs for, mmm?) i also worried that i might have misrepresented the center's feelings about rats by opening with a story about one; i love rats very nearly across the board, but they aren't especially welcome among the birds. (a healthy rat got into the songbird flyway last year and came dangerously close to biting bird ben, my beloved northern cardinal pal, prompting the—and here's some trivia—one and only oh fuck that rat that's ever escaped my lips.)
one of the center's interns came downstairs this afternoon: "we've got a rat." everyone cringed. "no, like a lady brought it in. it's in intake." wait, like a pet rat? or a lab rat? what did it look like? "brown." i crept up from the basement an hour later, and there she was in a little pet carrier on the floor, cage card and all. VIRGINIA (RAT). DEHYDRATED, DISORIENTED, WOUND ON ARM. i hadn't noticed R behind me, and i jumped when she spoke: "cute, isn't she?" a black-eyed cinnamon mound, just visible in the gloom. yes, she was. subway-colored, street-colored, like the rats people trap and poison and abhor. we don't usually take rats, R said, but we'd hold on to her for a rat expert who'd agreed to come for her in the evening. virginia! wound on arm! how lovely it would be if she made it to that cage because someone misunderstood me; how lovely it would be if she made it to that cage because someone understood me.