I have a new roommate. Like me, she is short and brunette, with a sometimes chaotic energy. Unlike me, she has a tail. She is a mouse. And lives behind my wardrobe.
We are not cohabiting well. The night-time scurrying is particularly torturous. As soon as I try to sleep, the scratching starts. I show the mouse I’m awake by swearing at it, which wins me a reprieve. But when I drift off, it starts again. I know I should not give up my territory to the invader, but I move to the living room anyway.
Mus musculus. That’s the Latin name for a mouse. I learned that by blue light, researching tactics and reading into mouse-besting greats: the nimble cat (Felis catus), or wily red fox (Vulpes vulpes – so good they named him twice).
I’m shocked by how disturbed I am. This is not my first mouse visit: my childhood home was a favoured rodent getaway (inevitable when living in an old house, especially one owned by the council where even the roof being blasted off by a UFO would not constitute an urgent repair). Back then, I screamed at the mice, but also at spiders, heights and open water. Those other fears eventually disappeared, vanquished by my logical adult brain and the experience of facing up to them. But it is hard to face up to a mouse: they are quite fast.
Pest control say they’ll be over soon; that mice complaints have gone up in lockdown as people notice the signs. “Your mouse – or mice – has likely been there this whole time,” they tell me.
Not everything can be outsmarted, not every emotion, instinct and fear talked around. So I have come to accept my mouse problem will stay with me a little while longer, safely nested under the floorboards, and under my skin.