This post was guest written by Sean Seu ’19.
There have been several times throughout the years when I have considered dropping out of Kenyon College. For instance, the time my freshman-year roommate caught me in nothing but my underwear performing dance-aerobics to Madonna’s iconic anthology Immaculate Collection. Or my sophomore year, when I peed on my leg in the third-floor Olin double-stall bathroom and had to walk through the deafening silence of the periodicals. Or, even worse, when Erica Christie ’19 broke my car key as she thirstily tried to uncork a bottle of Merlot. But never have I been so close to dropping out of this god-forsaken hole of freudian misery than the first week of Spring Semester 2018. An ominous shadow had cast itself upon New Apartment F6. The Era of the Rat was upon us.
To give you a lowdown of the infamous New Apts F-Block: it the farthest dwelling from Peirce. Campus Safety itself is too afraid to send its agents there. It’s a magical world where parties are never shut down, where boys play beer pong outside on the patio and pee in the woods unabashedly. F-Block, where the kids in black venture out to light up under the woodland canopy. It is dirty. It is pastoral. It is a place that many have only seen under the sweet cover of night.
My apartment, F6, went through a change of tenants over the break. Three of my housemates had fled to different countries in the Southern Hemisphere, and were replaced by two bombshells, Ana and Emily, and my roommate (also a bombshell), Jackie. Somewhere in the shuffle of the move-ins and move-outs, the floor had become caked with a heavy layer of road-salt, beer slime, and foot sweat. In addition, scattered around the room were soiled dishes and an odd collection of children’s toys which my old housemates had mysteriously left behind in their haste.
Jackie and I rode in together from the airport, saw the mess, and promised to clean it up within the next day or two. How naive we were back then. We suffered the folly of youth.
The next day we both woke up with chills.
The chills turned into fever.
The rest can only be logged as a series of feverish memories, which I have documented chronologically below.
Day 1: Jackie and I wake up. I go to the health center. They give me three lozenges. The lozenges do not cure me.
Day 2: Emails sent. Classes missed. I watch eight hours of Billy Eichner screaming at buildings in New York City, which does nothing to return my phlegm to a normal consistency.
Day 3: Jackie and I say two words total to each other. One of those words is “holy.” The other, “shit.”
Day 4: Someone throws up violently. The vomit mixes with the salt and dirt and sweat on the floor. Someone else cleans it up. I don’t remember who did what.
Day 5: Jackie escapes to urgent care, returns with medicine that isn’t cherry flavored.
Day 6: The incident.
On the sixth night of the sixth day, Jackie awoke in the middle of the night to a strange rustling. She whispered violently from her bed across the room.
“Do you hear that?”
[in a whiney voice] “Noooooooo.”
“I think there might be a—”
By the time she had warned me of the ultimate horror, I had fallen blissfully asleep.
We woke up late the next day. On Jackie’s desk, we had left open a box of coconut cookies. Jackie asked me to check the inside of the box; she thought there might have been a rat nibbling on our coveted tropical wafers. I, of course, resisted. If there really was a rat, how could he simply nibble on such a delicious cookie without eating the whole thing? Certainly nobody had ever been able to just nibble on a coconut-cream-cookie-sandwich. Jackie told me to shut up, which I couldn’t argue with, and so I opened the box and found, to my surprise, that the cookies had in fact been nibbled on, proving once and for all that, not only did we have a rat in our house, but that the rat had surprisingly bad manners.
My first thoughts, of course, turned to Pixar’s piece de resistance, Ratatouille. This rat couldn’t be anything like the protagonist, Remi, for Remi wouldn’t dare step into an apartment so riddled with dirt, old tissues, vomit-stains. Plus, Remi doesn’t steal food. This incident was forcing me to entirely rethink my previous notions regarding rats. Were rats actually dirty? Were they scavengers? Could rats really not cook? Did rats carry the plague? Were Jackie and I suffering from rat-induced Black Death? I was beginning to grow concerned that the reality in which I had dwelt for so long was, like Kenyon Admissions Brochures, just a lie.
Jackie, disconcertingly unconcerned with my internal Ratatouille dialogue, decided to call in the big guns. She filed a work order. By now, Jackie had recovered from her illness enough to escape the house long enough to go to class. I stayed behind, blasting the Immaculate Collection in my underwear, when maintenance burst in.
They came armed with peanut butter (which they did not offer to me) and two traps. They set these traps on the god-foresaken floor, which, by this time, was covered in every bodily fluid except for blood. That was about to change.
The next morning, Jackie awoke to a corpse in our room. She alerted me to this fact by texting me a picture of two disgusting, bulging eyes. That evening, we both returned to F6 to hold a rat funeral which was, as Jackie reminded me, actually a mouse funeral. At the funeral, we took tasteful pictures with the deceased (we named him Confucius, which made his passing particularly hard for both of us). We threw away the coconut cookies in his honor, in the hopes that the cookies may find him in mouse/rat-heaven/hell and so that I wouldn’t continue to eat the forbidden fruit. We cleaned the house thoroughly, from top to bottom, we took out the trash, we mopped the floors, we cleaned the dishes. The apartment went from embodying the tenth circle of hell to being “pretty okay for what it is.”
The ghost of that little mouserat now haunts the hallowed halls of F-Block forever. He watches us as we drink with friends on cold nights. He watches our messy hookups, he watches us spill beer on the floor and eat chips in our bed. He is the harbinger of our sins, and one day, years from now, when we are gone, he will return as an avatar to remind our progeny to clean their fucking apartment.