Last night I saw a mouse in my apartment and I’m still in a bad mood about it. I have now lived in New York long enough (3 years, as of yesterday!) to react to mice more calmly than I did in my previous life. Before the city hardened me, I was a sensitive lass in North Carolina. I once stood on a chair sobbing at the sight of a mouse, reduced to a prisoner in my own home, and by “once” I mean “at least three or four times I did that.”
These days I’ve pared my reactions down to a sensible scream, but the presence of rodents in my living space brings on a different headache. I know I’ll have to alert my landlord of the problem, and I’ll have to explain why I don’t want him to send over the same exterminator as last time. And that’s a long story.
This past winter, my landlord scheduled an exterminator to come by on a day when I happened to be the only one of my roommates home. Luckily, my brother Brian had just arrived for a visit, so I was not all alone with this man.
I had had a long week already and was in the process of making my lunch when the exterminator arrived, and I was foolish enough to believe that I could more or less continue with my life as he did his job. This was not the case. He called me over to show me a small hole in the wall where mice could enter and I nodded politely, expecting him to tell me how he would fix the problem. “Are you afraid of mice?” he asked me. Stupidly, I answered with the truth, although maybe my answer didn’t matter and I would have been subjected to the same lecture regardless.
“The mice know you’re afraid of them,” he said, smiling wide. “They can tell.” I think my response was to nod politely again and try to back away over to the safety of the strawberries I was chopping for a salad, but he continued. “You know what they are? They’re angels. Angels coming in for you. It’s beautiful.”
I did not know how to respond to this, of course, because in the moment I didn’t know how to articulate the sentiment “well I need you to kill those angels.” In my hesitation, the man continued with a long lecture about Jesus. He asked if I was religious and I answered yes, thinking that that he was trying to convert me and I could nip that in the bud, but instead the conversation just shifted into stranger territory.
He told us that Jesus had given him powers and told him to share them with others. He never stopped smiling. He asked if I was sick with anything then turned to my brother, who immediately blurted the truth when put on the spot. Like a rube, he admitted he had epilepsy, and our exterminator abandoned any pretense of doing his job and came over to the kitchen table where Brian was sitting. “Sit down,” he told me. “We will heal him.”
“Sure!” said Brian with false enthusiasm, not reading any of the signals I was trying to send telepathically. Now it was two against one, and I wagered that I should get it over with so I could finally eat my stupid salad. The exterminator told us that the secret to never being ill was to say “I love you, Jesus” 25 times in a row. This is, obviously, not sound science, and it’s also pretty offensive to everyone who has ever had any illness ever. He also had some story about learning (from a reincarnated prince?) that earlobes are the center of your power or something, and he grabbed my brother’s earlobes and told him to say the thing 25 times. We were absolutely in too deep.
Next he turned to me and made me close my eyes while looking in Brian’s direction and say it too. I paused, trying to figure out how to make this stop happening while also wondering if Society had conditioned me as a Woman to put up with extremely bullshit situations like this.
I could see no clear way out now that we’d already gone through earlobe-pinching. I did as I was told, just as the patriarchy would want. When I opened my eyes, he asked, “What do you see??” and I could tell the answer was not supposed to be “my brother, same as before.”
“Wow,” I said weakly, buying myself time to figure out what answer would free me from this new prison a mouse had indirectly trapped me in. “You see it!” the man shrieked. “You see a vision of Jesus in front of your eyes! Can you believe it?”
I couldn’t believe anything that was happening to me, nor did I believe that I deserved it.
“Awesome!” exclaimed my brother, who is lucky that I love him very much and still let him stay at my place after this ordeal. At this point, our exterminator-turned-captor launched into a very lengthy monologue about the wild journey he’d been on with his pal Jesus. “I used to be a very bad man,” he said. “I did so many bad things to people. So bad. You don’t want to know.”
I didn’t want to know any of this, but this part was especially troubling. I wondered if I was dealing with a serial killer. A killer of more than just mice-angels, that is. He continued with a surreal story about falling asleep and being dragged to hell for years. It sounded like sleep paralysis to me. Another time he was walking around his town and saw a child who everyone was making fun of but then the child said something like “Ha! I’m actually Jesus Christ!” and everyone wept except him because he hadn’t been mean to Jesus Christ, or something. (I wasn’t paying attention at this point, just grimacing and looking for an escape).
At one point in this long, rambling testimony he told us of the time he was taken up to heaven to see what it was like. “Do you know what heaven is like??” he demanded, still smiling the same wide smile. When we admitted we did not, he said “Heaven is when God breathes on you. He blows all his breath on you.”
The guy said that his wife complains all the time about how he wastes time at work trying to heal people and says he could be taking so many more jobs if he’d just focus on his work. I agreed with his wife quite emphatically, as this man had been hanging out doing jack shit for over an hour at this point.
I began to crack when he asked me if I had a husband since I’ve been put on earth to make babies. I said a curt “no,” and got up to finally throw all my ingredients into a bowl. I wanted to snap “I’m not even straight! Let me eat my lunch!,” but I was now unsure if this man was a reformed serial killer (and if so, how reformed he was). I changed the subject back to how he would get rid of the mouse problem and he got the message, going back to his work with only a few asides about Jesus.
I was finally about to sit down to eat when the exterminator walked up to me to talk about a friend of his who got a gruesome disease carried by mice, pulling out his phone to find pictures to show how disgusting the wounds were. I had had enough at this point and was able to say nope to that and ask if he was done with the extermination that he was actually hired to do to prevent me from getting the gruesome mouse disease. He tried changing the subject back to Jesus and I just stood there in silence, letting it get more and more awkward until he got the picture.
“Maybe I’ll just go now,” he said, a bit passive-aggressively, as if he were the wronged party here. As if I was offending him by not letting him loiter in my kitchen all day! His ever-present smile now felt sarcastic. I now felt like chucking a salad in his direction if provoked any further.
Anyway, it was a bad time and we still have mice, so that was an overall useless experience. My salad wasn’t even good. The strawberries were bad and I had to throw it out. After all my suffering!!!
I can’t find his business on Yelp, but if I could I would give him absolutely 0 stars. I simple cannot recommend him. Perhaps I will forward this newsletter to my landlord.