Late one night, or I suppose early one morning, a dream of the usual heartbreak, or of anger, I haven’t quite decided, stirred me awake. Sluggishly, I tossed and writhed as if suspended in some thick and viscous sap. Though I’ve never really seen a sloth, I could imagine myself one: moving gradually and in a calm state of constant panic. It was a one bedsheet night; as in, one bedsheet left untossed out of three. By the time my crane-like arms managed to reach for the clock, it read three-forty in the morning. How I could have swore it was near six.
I lay there waiting, as I have grown accustom to doing so, for that mysterious something to tell my body to leave now and go back to sleep. That mysterious something must have been busy as I continued to lie there conscious and agitatedly so. In the time of stillness, all I could hear was the persistent metric of the clock. It was singing though; it was singing its disharmonious hymn, loud and unabashed much like I would as I work away with no one around to hear me. There is nothing comforting about a clock and it is no wonder so many people have converted to digital time tellers, mute and can only provide a visual metric of rhythm.
But I digress, and as did the night at that time. There was a sound that cajoled my all my worries awake. No longer were things calm. And how quickly they weren’t. How does the night jolt so quickly into an unstable chaos, into the sound attack and resistance? And more still, how does the night manage to swallow everything calm and happy earlier that day in one frightening gulp? On my roof of my trailer was the sound of something two-footed, but I know that couldn’t be. It had to have been a cat. Loud and deranged it stammered, as if in some night-drunken, maybe adrenaline state of hunger and delirium, it was in pursuit of something; most likely in pursuit of a mouse as there had become so many mice here in my trailer. The large creature thrashed for a long while until the whimpering sound of its small prey eventually stopped. There was quiet for a time. This gave me time to assess my presumptuous logic and, well, say my prayers. Something moved again up top; had it been waiting there on the roof this whole time? Mad crashes and an erratic ruckus—all to catch something so small and seemingly insignificant—but this meant living or dying; this meant life. The final sound came from my door when a violent pounding came at my door. I did not answer and again it was silent. How could this still be some feral cat? My heart pounding as was the clock as it resumed singing.
What did I think of it? Well, what do you suppose I thought of it? Have you ever wondered why the mice find themselves inside the walls of a house? And why had the mice found my trailer—no one else seemed to have issues in any other buildings on the property. And what do they really have to eat from? I keep my sink free of dishes and my counters free of dust and crumbs. After all, if you were to observe my life, on a good day, you would think nothing out of sorts in my life. The cleanliness tells of a calmness, a manageable livelihood. But cleanliness is not how a mouse would base their choices. How many of us are struggling? How many of us found a great effort this morning to rise, to meet the mirror, to dress or meet the day? As for myself, I often wear many layers to hide something unpleasant, to go about the day passing up on necessary hygiene or some other discipline—and so far no one has really noticed. But everything is detectable, especially for those most familiar with the out of sorts.
In everything, we emit our reluctance like a signal of stress, like a vibration and less like a scent. The mice can hear that low murmuring that comes from the deep salty parts of our heart, of our sweat, or of our daydreams. They recognize that familiar feel of darkness and solitude and head off to make somewhere home. In my mind, it is no wonder how the mice found me and found my trailer well fitted for their winter nesting. I cannot appeal my qualms to the world, much less find some words to appease the ghosts in the walls, but I can confess and accept the coward in me that fears confronting great change. This does not make the mice leave but does give me strength to reconcile, to look around, to carefully tend to a much needed nurturing of the future soul.
In my own fearful telling, after the sounds had subsided and after the sun had begun to rise, I realized the mice had not found their way onto my countertops that night; the first time in weeks. I had found that the mice could not find my dwelling a home that night. And that creature, that so unleashed a fury onto the roof and onto the door of my home, that sounded as if it stepped with two feet and not four, that so terrified me in my moment of vulnerability, well, what if that creature was me, or at least a part of me that is willing to confront my fears? Really, tell me, when has facing your fears been just as terrifying, if not more terrifying, as avoiding those fears? But what I wonder even still, is why I was, and maybe still am, afraid of that strong, bold, and powerful side of me? That powerful part of you will come as foreign to you as the ghosts, but I must trust it.
As for the mice, do you know what the mice mean to you? For me, the mice are there because they are safe in that house of insecurity and instability; they know when the soul is about to flee, again, and leave somewhere vacant—they move in early. The mice don’t mean anything but come in that time when there is the coward in us is restless and anxious.
I cannot tell you what of this world, but I can tell the ghosts in the walls that there is a powerful part of me that is no longer afraid or compassionate with the things that don’t exist: the fear, the ghosts; or don’t need to exist: the mice. I have no sympathy for the mice who may grow hungry and cold or may become slaughtered by the fleet of wild cats next door. I have no sympathy because I no longer want my coward self, that common link to these mice, to be a guest in my home.
When you are ready to face your cowardice, when you are ready to face the anxiety that hinders you, the world will make a loud notion to stop you; it will be frightening: the ghosts will pull at the sheets, toss the plates off the counter, and scratch at the floor violent and harsh so as to keep its place in this world. Look, the ghosts of this world, much like all of us, are only in need a place of home and love. A part of me—and I’m not sure what part that is—is reluctant still in writing this, but there is a tragic fate to us all, isn’t there; to know ultimately we must leave this world some day? We must close the door on the parts of ourselves that no longer belong, be choosy of which sides of our soul we allow at our table, and carefully tend to a much needed nurturing of the future soul for which we wish to create a home.