People ask me, sometimes, "Aren't you ever nervous that someone will come into your dungeon and harm you?" I usually tell them that I'm quite careful – but that to live is to take risks, and I'm comfortable with mine.
However, I did have an encounter last week with an unpleasant character, and while I definitely think I got the best of the situation, it did make me a little jumpy for several days.
It began one afternoon when I went into my basement storage room. It's not anyplace one would linger - a cold, dark little room with a concrete floor. I often don't go in there for days at a time. I'd stepped into the room and picked up the item I wanted when I registered the thought: God, something smells funky in here...
And then, I sensed a presence where none should be. From the corner of my eye, I saw a dark shadow near the hot water tank – ugly, unwelcome, and quite alarming. I let out a sharp cry of surprise – one might even say that I screamed – and fled.
So quickly and so thoroughly did my animal instincts take over that I was almost to the second floor of my space before my rational brain was able to process what I'd seen and say: Matisse – calm down. It's not coming after you. It's dead. That's a dead rat.
It wasn't like I hadn't suspected that I might have a rodent roommate. Several weeks before, I'd found a garbage bag that had been…nibbled. I immediately called my landlord, who said he'd come over and check for holes in the exterior walls and such, and put out some poison.
"Poison? But don't they sometimes die in the walls and smell if you do that?"
"No, no," said my landlord. "They go outside looking for water and die there."
What do I know about pest control? Okay, fine. I dismissed the matter from my mind, and there were no further incidents. Until…this nasty thing.
I took several deep breaths and tried to slow my heartbeat. Clearly, it had to be gotten rid of. For one thing it smelled bad, and besides, I just could not walk peacefully around in my place, knowing that ugly gray corpse was down there.
Okay. Okay. I can do this. Really. I am a brave and rational person, I can pick up a dead rat and throw it away. Really I can.
I went hesitatingly downstairs again, and while still standing on the basement steps, peeked through the open door. Oh, god, there it is! Even though I knew what I was going to see, I let out a little eeek noise.
I ran back up a few steps and then stopped myself. Matisse, you're acting like an idiot. It's dead. That's why it stinks. It's not going to hurt you.
What if there's another one? The cowardly part of my brain asked.
Even if there is another, all your shrieking and running up and down the steps has certainly frightened him away. For gods sake, they aren't ninjas – he isn't going to come try to take revenge for his friend or anything.
I went and got a garbage bag and a thick rubber cleaning glove. C'mon, just go pick it up by the tail. It'll just take a second and then it's over. Just do it.
Again I got as far as peeking at it through the doorway before my stomach flip-flopped. No. No. I cannot go near that thing. No way.
I went back up a few steps, sat down, and had a stern talk with myself. Matisse, be reasonable. There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. That rat is deader than Michael Jackson's musical career. It is not going to suddenly spring to life and jump on you. As John Cleese would say, it's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. That is an ex-rat.
It was no use. I couldn't do it.
Once I accepted that I was irrationally terrified of touching a dead rodent, I considered my options. I could call Max. But he's not very close by…I'd hate to drag him all the way over here.
There's Roman – but again, I hate to interrupt him when I know he's so busy.
Landlord? Maybe. Go outside and die, my ass. But shit, I've got to do something soon, I've got a client coming over in…
My client! Oh, glory halleluiah – it's Blue Eyes. He'll do it. Oh, thank you god, I know he'll do it.
Now, I don't make a habit of asking my clients for help with my real-life problems. I want them to regard their time with me as an oasis, in which workaday world concerns will intrude as little as possible.
But this was a special situation – and Blue Eyes is definitely the white-knight kind of man who'd love to help me with it. He's a sweet, gentlemanly guy, mature enough to remember when this sort of gender-based division of labor was seen as perfectly appropriate. And he's a problem-solver by nature - I don't think I've ever expressed the slightest little difficulty that BE hasn't tried to fix for me. I mean, this is the guy who bought and installed three room-unit air conditioners last summer because I said I was hot.
Plus, I also feel close enough to him to ask him for a favor. Some guys – well, I just wouldn't feel okay asking them to do this for me. But BE and I have a connection.
I should wait until after the session, though. I don't want to ruin the mood. So I closed the storeroom door, sprayed air freshener heavily, and went to get dressed, trying not to jump nervously at every little shadow along the baseboards.
After we'd played, BE and I were in the sitting room, and as he stood up to leave, I laced my fingers together and said, "So, I have a favor to ask you…"
As I expected, he was happy to help. "Sure, sure, I can do it – do you have a plastic bag?" I handed it to him and led him to the storeroom.
"In there," I said, pointing without looking.
I heard him walk across the concrete floor and then stop. "Wow, he's a big one."
I gasped and clapped my hands over my ears. "Oh, Jesus, don't tell me that. Just get rid of him."
So BE made the bad thing go away, and for that, he shall always have a special place in my heart. I've had no further need for his assistance, thank god, and both Max and Roman have assured me that I could call on them if need be. But I'm crossing my fingers that I don't have any more unwelcome guests in the future.