Friday, February 23, 2007

Of Mice and Women

Yesterday was a great day. 

Yesterday was a terrifying day.

I was home with the girls, and it was relatively warm here, so we got to go to the park.  I think I overcame some of my fear around wielding the double-stroller, and now that Nolie's old enough to sit up, we all had a great time. 

Not only that, but when we got back, Addie actually took a nap!  So I got to have some nice quality time with both girls individually while the other napped.

Around 3, Nolie and I were hanging out while Addie slept, and I decided to put in The Devil Wears Prada.  I was totally enjoying it--this sort of movie is like a sweet, sweet drug to me at the moment--just sitting there, half watching Nolie nibble her toes and bat at her toys, half watching the movie.  About half-way through, I tuned into the fact that Nolie was staring really intently at our cat Prudence, who had settled in by my side. 

"Do you want to see the kitty, Nolie?  You love kitties!"  I kept saying, keeping half an eye on the movie.  I propped Nolie up so that she could pet Prudence, and went to pet Prudence myself.  Which is when I noticed she had a baby mouse--still alive--in her mouth.

There is something very strange about being thirty-one years old and discovering that you have a phobia.  I've never had one, really.  I'm not too afraid of heights or small spaces (though I cherish neither); there aren't really any foods or social experiences that freak me out.  I dissected the frog in my high school biology class without any problem, and in college I swallowed several worms from tequila bottles without batting an eye.

But guess what?  I seem to be deathly afraid of mice.

I don't totally remember what happened after I discovered that Prudence had brought me this little present, but I do know that I called Eric several times sobbing hysterically (and also laughing hysterically, though I'm not sure why).  He got me calmed down enough so that I could throw a coat over the mouse (who had escaped from Prudence and was hiding under the guitar).  I remember screaming when I did this.  Eric then got me to call our neighbor Chuck, who came and corralled the mouse into a box and set it free outside.

My skin is crawling even writing about this. 

I have no idea why I'm so afraid.  I mean, mice are cute, right?  It's not like it was a big cockroach, or a rat, or a centipede (which I have pretty strong reactions to as well).  All I know is that I had some sort of reaction that felt entirely out of my control.  Thank God Addie was asleep for the whole thing.  The additional bad news is that we seem to have a small colony of mice hiding somewhere in the house.  We know this because Sadie and Prudence have camped out in the kitchen, listening for scritchy-scratches emanating from behind the stove, the dishwasher.  Oh Christ.

Once the mouse was gone, though, and after Eric got home, we went on to have a nice evening.  I finished watching the movie, we went out for burgers, got the kids to bed, and hung out together for a while.  It was lovely, really.

Which I then spoiled by picking up Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, a terrifying, heartbreaking, breathtaking portrayal of a journey taken by a son and father across a post-apocalyptic landscape.  I cried reading the entire thing, and didn't get to bed until late because I had to finish it, needed to know that things would be alright (they sort of were and sort of weren't).  All day long I teach students about pending environmental crises, and at night I worry over my children's futures.  So this book hit me in a sensitive area as it was.  Then, you throw in a narrative in which a young kid is at risk?  Recipe for meltdown.  I still feel tender and traumatized, but so glad to have experienced this, to see my deepest fears on the page.  Somehow, although unnerving, it brought me some peace, too. 

But I only got to sleep by really thinking about the present, by spending long minutes with my hand on Addie's chest, feeling it move silently up and down, by squeezing my body uptight against the sleeping body of my husband.  I understand that the only reason these fears of apocalypse are so great is because I have so much to lose.  And for that I am incredibly grateful.

There is no such explanation, however, for why I'm afraid of mice.  Any armchair Freuds out there want to venture a guess?

1 comment:

  1. My take would be that the mouse is not AT ALL what you're afraid of.
    That's looking at it way too literally.

    The mouse is just a symbol of all that is wild, scary, dangerously animal (Prudence's natural predatory behavior) and out of your control; all that hovers at the edge of your, and all of our, fragile human consciousness threatening to undo us at any moment. The unwitting baby mouse (now separated from her family, by the way) just catalyzed the low-grade, primal FREAKING OUT that's never far under the surface, as your reaction to the McCarthy book also revealed.

    I doubt it's a mouse "colony" in your house. Perhaps that's just a convenient distancing mechanism. Humans like to envision beings that scare them (including other humans, usually of color) in terms of "swarming" things; colonies. But your mice are probably just another family of survivors living with the perpetual threat of danger and chaos. Sound familiar? I know, you're thinking, "f-- off, Nancy. It's just a simple phobia."

    For what it's worth, a wee spider has the ability to undo all the strong dykeness that Tanya's built up over a lifetiime, as I witnessed multiple times when she'd spot one and start shrieking like a maniac. For me, for the longest time, it was airplanes.

    All in all, I think we humans just have kinda fragile psyches and are not above becoming unglued by the likes of mice. No reason to not keep loving ourselves and our fellow freaked out beings.