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Critters of New York

The Bathtub Rat Came From Above

When airborn rodents thud into your place of naked vulnerability.

1:42 PM EST on February 10, 2023

Napping? Bathing? Traveling into the rat afterlife of endless trash and pizza crusts? (Rick Paulas)

I'd just gotten back from a jog around Newtown Creek on Wednesday, so I stripped down and hustled into my bathroom to take a shower. I took off my glasses, pulled open the curtain, and began to step over the lip of the bathtub, when out of the periphery of my now-myopic vision, I noticed a hazy, dark object.

With my bare foot still on its way down—my brain not yet suggesting to my body that it should pause and reassess—that's right when I realized that in my bathtub, in my home, there was a rat. 

One of those classic motherfucking New York City rats. 

It looked like this: 

Mr. Clean. (Rick Paulas)

It’s an odd feeling when your immediate goals and general state of being (to be clean; feeling safe and secure) are instantly disrupted by a sight that produces such an opposing aura (dead rat in my tub). When some are confronted by these dissonant vibes, they panic and scream. Me? I quietly shivered and speed-walked away.

I got to the other end of my railroad apartment and scurried into a pair of boxers to, at the very least, protect my unmentionables. I called my girlfriend to help calm me down. 

"It could've bitten you in bed!" she said. 

"Let me call you back," I said, hanging up.

I paced, slowly building enough courage to take another look. I finally did, first peeking in to make sure it hadn't moved. When I was satisfied, I crept in. The rat still remained on its side, its beady eyes gently shut, its tiny claws held together as if in prayer.

Thoughts ran through my mind.Was this a message? Did I say something I shouldn't have? Why do I always have to run my mouth!

Where did the rat come from? I turned to the bathroom window: It was shut tight. I looked up at the ceiling and saw the strange panel that had been installed—because, as my super put it, the people upstairs were "crazy" and "have a lot of water." This panel was sagging slightly, and opened a little more than usual. 

Normal NYC-style carpentry. (Rick Paulas)

The rat must have fallen from the ceiling and landed with a thud in the tub. 

Was it just knocked unconscious? Do rats get knocked out?

I slowly backed out of the bathroom, closing the door behind me. I called my landlord. 

"That can’t be a pleasant way to wake up," he said, then mentioned something about how they'd just put down new poison outside, and that sometimes rats take it and then go off somewhere to die. "This is the first I've heard of it coming through the ceiling, though," he said, weeks after raising my rent $100/month.

I waited for the super to dispose of the rat and fix the ceiling. As I did, I recalled a bath that I'd taken in that very tub, not more than a month ago. And then I remembered how, while I'd been lying there, naked in the steaming hot water and casually reading a book while the soft sounds of the city at sunset murmured in the background, I heard something strange.  

Light scratches from above. Toward the ceiling. Right near where that panel had been.

That night, I slept with my bathroom door closed. 

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