[The woman of the colored mice]
The room is clean and spacious, I cannot complain. There’s a window with all its panes intact, and with a windowsill ample enough to fit my cage. The bed is against a corner and will suffice whenever I feel like sleeping. I will keep thinking for a while about using the tub that stands on the other corner of the room, but the idea of going and asking someone for water isn’t very appealing, especially if the only two members of staff around are the receptionist and the guy sitting down behind the desk. I couldn’t expect much help from them.
Sitting on the bed I let my eyes wander from the tub to the cage, back and forth again and again. I close my eyes but I cannot see myself falling asleep. I consider placing the mice in the tub, it’s tall enough that they couldn’t jump out, and maybe they would appreciate some open space, a chance to investigate something different. But it all seems too much effort. I also consider putting the cage on the floor and let it open so that the mice can run around the room and make the place theirs. But they could easily escape through the space below the door, and possibly through other crevices I cannot see. And if they make their way out of this room they will not come back to me, they are not magical in that sense. And nobody out there will take care of them the way I will. Not even if they have the intention of doing so. That’s why it’s so difficult to let them go. That’s why when I sell one, no matter if I provide the buyer with detailed instructions on how to feed and care for it, I cannot stop feeling guilty for all the possible mistreatments and negligence the poor mouse is bound to suffer.
I guess caring for these mice, and for many other animals, is what defines me. He always says that that’s one of my attributes he is more drawn to. However, now I realize that there wasn’t any animal involved when we met for the first time.
It was raining quite torrentially as I entered into the municipal library. I shook my umbrella at the entrance of the circular lobby, with the black and white mosaics dancing around the central statue, and with the thin columns guarding the walls. Instead of going ahead into the main hall I took the stairs to the second floor, where there was a recently acquired copy of The Birds of America. One could say that I was fascinated by it. I had come to the library daily since I perused through the book for the first time. I obviously liked the drawings, but I think I attained even more pleasure from turning the giant and heavy pages, and possibly from the anticipation of rediscovering what creature came next.
I saw him coming down the stairs, holding an unstable pile of books with both arms. I moved to a side and I kept ascending without paying any further attention to him, until he ran into me, books flying into the air and cascading downstairs.
“Sorry, I was not paying attention,” he said.
“Don’t worry,” I answered. He hurriedly picked up most of his books before I had a chance of offering my help. During that process he didn’t look at me. After retrieving his last book he muttered “so sorry” and continued his descent, so I also forgot about that casual encounter and reinitiated my route towards the Natural History section, where there was also a window with calming views of the bay beyond the Fisherman’s Wharf. Although with the raging storm halted over the city I might call myself lucky if I were able to discern even the shape of Alcatraz Island.
As I was going to make my way into the corridor, he yelled from the bottom of the stairs. His voice echoed and filled the multistory and spacious lobby.
“Are you OK?” he had asked. Of course I was okay. He had barely touched my arm when he collided with me. I hadn’t thought he were rude or inappropriate for the collision or his scurrying getaway, just a little clumsy and inattentive. So I felt it was nice and uncommon of him to ask about my wellbeing when he didn’t have to.