Rats. I hate rats. They are not scared of me. Not one little bit.
We shared pizza, the guys, the girls, and I. Two pizzas for twelve people is not a lot, but they rejoice as if it’s a kingly meal.
Now the others sleep and the rats crawl over greasy boxes in search of scraps. The joke is on the rats; we left nothing behind.
Throughout dinner, guilt, a language in which I become more fluent every day, constricted my stomach and stunted my vocabulary. Each bite I took was a bite someone else didn’t have.
Rats. Guilt and rats are the only things I can coherently hate at this hour as these kids sleep all over the room. Okay, I called them kids. Three minors, three more barely not minors, two more below drinking age, and three hovering at drinking age. And me. They should be anywhere but here.
I cannot sleep. I cannot consider sleep a viable option. This as much as anything else sets me apart from them.
Rats. If one approaches me, touches me…I don’t know what I’ll do. Scream? Vomit? Run to Cindi and beg for a room? Die?
It doesn’t matter. We are their houseguests. The rats roam as they please and we merely sit in the nest they’ve built.
Some of them have names, the rats. Ordinary names bestowed by the sleeping homeless children, as if naming kittens or grandparents. The rat with no left ear is Nancy. For no apparent reason. Two rats with partial tails I still cannot distinguish. Their names are Douglas and Harold. The one hit by a yellow paintball, Cinderella.
I type on my laptop only for the light. It’s all I have. No electricity. Until the battery dies, here I will sit. In filth. Willing my eyes to be blinded by white light to any and all night lurkers. Willing my body to remain still and my prayers to work, for the rats to stay away.
So I type out the names of these kids. Unlike the rats, the kids have inhuman names. Like Helium. June-Bug. Glow. Stipple. I record their names and my own. My new name, Noname.
In this sideways world, a rat is named Bertha and a sixteen-year-old girl is named Blight. Rats are the hosts, humans are the guests. Pizza is a feast and tomorrow holds exactly as much everything as nothing.
I type the fragments of my increasingly broken mind. And pray to the battery gods for this white light to outlast the night.