It's a dirty city.
There he was, this tiny little mouse, just sitting there in the parking space next to mine, moving so slightly that I thought he might be dead, or dying. I watched. He moved, just barely, raising his miniscule snoot in the air the smallest bit, kind of jerking, eyes just slits, tail as strait as an arrow. His fur was splotchy, mottled, like a mangy dog. Diseased, I thought. Don't touch him, you'll catch something.
I got out of my car and walked toward him, thinking he might suddenly scamper off to the neatly arranged shrubbery that bordered the parking lot, but he ignored me, as though he didn't see or hear. No reaction at all. Deaf and blind. He just sat, sniffing the small, dark spot of grease or antifreeze that lay beneath him. I took a piece of paper and nudged him, scooted him up on it. He came to life just a bit. He skittered about on the paper, then made a flying leap onto the landscaped area. I thought he might have hurt himself on impact, but no, he seemed no worse than before. There, I thought, just go on home. Find your mama. Live another day. You can do better than this.
My curiosity got ahold of me. I came back later to the same spot, and there was the mouse, exactly as before, back in the parking space, directly in line with the front tire of the compact car that shielded him from the evening sun. If the car were to pull out, the mouse would be squashed flat, his life over, done. But that wasn't in his scope of reasoning, it seemed. He was living on the edge, but didn't seem to know it.
There he sat, making his tiny little jittery movements, eyes barely open if at all. Every few seconds, his nose would find its way to the pavement, to the little spot of whatever liquid it was that had dripped from some engine sometime earlier that day, then he would jerk his head back in a kind of ecstatic, burning rush.
Then I knew. He was an addict. He was a sniffer, a huffer, an engine fluid junkie with a monkey on his back so big it covered his eyes, his ears, robbing him of his senses, of everything that made him alive. But he had to have it. He was licked.
So I could put him back in the bushes, or I could just leave him to be squished.
Call me hard, but I decided it was best to leave him to his own devices. Hey, I tried once. I played the good Samaritan. I saved him, gave him a second chance, but he blew it. He sank right back into the wallow that was his dirty little habit. You're on your own now, kid. Your mangy tail will soon be between the tire treads of a little brown Mazda with a pine-scented Tweety Bird air freshener dangling from the rear-view mirror. The driver won't even see, won't even have the slightest hint that she was the one that closed the door on a life. Yeah, it was a dirty life, it was a sad excuse for an existence, but it was a life, after all. A life that could have made a difference to someone, somehow, somewhere. If only...
I'll go back there again. Will I see the flattened remains of this sad, snivelling little rodent, or will he have somehow managed to avert catastrophe one more day? Even if he does, there's a Firestone with his name on it. Just a matter of time.
Dirty, this city.