A month ago, I moved to Milwaukee—a two-hour drive and a world away from Chicago—and not a moment too soon. My new floor is littered with bent photographs, old posters, masking tape, and Harry Potter DVDs. To almost quote Lorde’s “The Louvre,” half of my wardrobe is on my bedroom floor. I should clean. I had hoped to be finished decorating by this point, but c’est la vie. La vie en Milwaukee, as expected, has been action-packed since day one. Last Friday was my one-month anniversary at my brand-spanking-new job; last Thursday was my one-month anniversary of living at my less-brand-new-but-equally-spanking house. Despite the significance of Labor Day, this post will focus on the latter half of the former sentence, not because my job isn’t cool (I think it is) but because the new-to-me house has afforded a few more, ah, fun surprises.
Rewind to July 31. I am removing stacks upon stacks of books from crammed cardboard boxes and haphazardly sorting them by genre. Later today, I will alphabetize and shelve them, but my clothes—which have exploded from my suitcase—demand attention first. As I slowly excavate my floor from piles of shirts and half-empty boxes, I revel in my new home. My roommate has lived in this lower duplex outfit for nine years and has, to use her words, thoroughly nested. The walls of our common space are tastefully adorned with framed posters and our two merlot loveseats are the perfect size and squishyness for curling up with a book—of which we have over 500.
It’s a bookish introvert’s dream, and it’s a welcome fresh start in a familiar city. The following week, I am thrilled by everything: I can drive to work in twenty minutes! I can drive to my parents’ in fifteen! I got fresh tamales at the lakefront farmers’ market for $1.50! I can walk to Lake Michigan from my house! All the neighborhood bars have cheese curds! I haven’t seen a rat since I moved! Life is abundant!
Somewhere in this flurry of exclamation points, my roommate and I find a smattering of mouse droppings in our pantry. We wipe down the kitchen with Clorox wipes, hide most of our food in the fridge, and e-mail the landlord. The landlord sets traps: no sign of mice. Erica apologizes: I’m so sorry. I promise this is a great place to live. I’ve only had a mouse once before. We think we are safe, and I resume gazing at my home and my new life with rose-colored glasses.
Three days later, an industrious little nibbler gets into my bag of white cheddar popcorn. We stash our remaining food in Rubbermaids, bleach everything, and riddle our kitchen with even more mousetraps. I grow resentful. Who does this little fucker think he is, coming into my cute kitchen and eating my nice new food? I finally love where I live, and this disease-ridden rodent is really cramping my style. Why can’t all the vermin just stay in Chicago with its garbage-littered sidewalks and clogged storm drains?
The next day, a trap snaps and Erica finds the tiny thing dead in the cabinet where we keep our spare toilet paper. I’m relieved, but remorse twinges. Mice are unwelcome and unsanitary house guests, but as far as rodents go, they’re pretty darn cute. I leave a bag of chips in the pantry as a test; when it’s unscathed after a week, we re-stock our shelves.
Fast-forward to last night, two mouse-free weeks later. I’m alone on a Friday night and couldn’t be happier. I’ve finally started to put things on my walls; by the end of the weekend, my clothes will be hanging in the closet and my Harry Potter DVDs will be tucked away in a cabinet. Everything will be in its proper place, including me; all manner of things shall be well.
I open the cupboard in the pantry where we keep our spare toilet paper, and I catch a glint from one of our leftover mousetraps. As I reach for a few rolls to restock the bathroom, my eyes draw level with the trap. I yelp, leap away, and nearly vomit. On the bottom shelf of the cabinet, there is a second mouse—snapped dead by wicked metal jaws.
I text my roommate, email the landlord, and pour myself a drink in my fanciest tumbler. If nothing else, I still haven’t seen a rat since I moved. Life is abundant.