Yesterday I saw the most disgusting thing ever.
Alice and our new nanny, Angie, were playing in Riverside Park near our office, so I stepped out to visit with them during lunch time. Alice was excited to see me and we played on the swings together for a while. Soon I had to say, “Daddy has to go back to work,” and Alice cheerily saw me off with an “Adios” and a few blown kisses.
I crossed Riverside Drive to get back to work and thought about my great fortune. I’m able to walk to work and remain near my daughter all day long, and I work in an environment that allows me to steal a few summer-midday moments to see my daughter. Even as I approached her at the playground, I could see that she was happy and well-attended; our urban summer baby.
I was thinking these thoughts as I started climbing a stairway on the other side of the street, when suddenly I heard a low voice saying, “watch it, watch it.” A man in a white worksuit was sitting eating his lunch nearby. He gestured and I looked down. A few feet away from me there was a rat scrabbling slowly along the stairway, making a fearful noise, szrrrk szrrk szrrk. His backside seemed to be covered with something that looked like dried bird poop, something sore and festering. Flies were darting around as the rat jerked along the stair. Szrrk Szrrk szrrk! I gasped and bounded away, my knees high in the air as I registered the rat shambling along.
“That’s disgusting,” I said to the man once I made it past, feeling the blood along my temples. “What is wrong with that thing?” “I don’t know,” the man said, “and I’m trying to eat my lunch.” My heart was thrumming as I walked away. I thought about Ebola and “Contagion,” 911 and Old Yeller, killing something with a shovel. When I was a block past I could hear a girl scream behind me. “What the hell! What was that!” By then I was back to the sanctuary of Broadway. I decided that there was no way the rat would be able to make it all the way back to Alice on the playground.
So what do you do after that? I got my lunch, returned to the office, washed my hands. Thought about Alice playing just a few blocks away. Wished for a merciful death for the rat staggering through the daylight.