When he and I locked eyes, nothing else in the world mattered.
He landed on my patio, in the middle of the day, out of the blue, as if having appeared out of thin air. A sauntering walk, shoulders swaying, left to right, left again, like one of those "diddy" characters in the rappers world. Cooler than cool, neither pretty nor ugly, neither sneaky nor fearful, only he couldn't be bothered to walk a straight line, couldn't be bothered, with anything straight or linear.
I wandered briefly if he had jumped down from the hulls of a helicopter, or something equally sky worthy, perhaps the wings of an eagle. But no, his legs seem intact, no rolling around to gather his bearings upon landing either. As soon as he stepped on scene, my whitish gray patio that is, he looked in place, perfectly balanced in his imbalanced walk.
The brown and tan neighborhood was utterly silent. No lovingly hurled insults on speaker phones through the open windows of the Karmichkovs living across the walkway, no industrial sized shop-vac sucking up that last ounce of dust on Michael's patio, not even a heated debate from the Wangs next door on the merits and follies of the current political systems. He and I stared into each others' eyes, and our souls met in the space in between.
The experience left me injured. It turned out he had a hole in his belly, and I never saw it. Not that it would have made a difference. Would I even know what to feed his kind? They are supposed to be omnivores, which should have made things easy. But when the answer is "everything" it often feels like no answer at all. None of these mattered. I didn't know, and didn't make an attempt to feed or rescue him. He sauntered into my flower field and stayed there for a day or two, starving as his fatal wound prevented him from hunting nor gathering. He stared into my eyes as if nothing else in the world mattered, as if the piece of soul hanging in the space between us was the only thing he cared to leave behind, in my care.
Despite of this, I gained no insight into the pain of death by starvation, let alone the pain of an open belly wound. Like all creatures with no voice, he endured it in silence, nothing more than that fixated, beady black eyed stare to remember him by. On the third day, though his eyes remained alive, burning a mark into my mind whenever I turned his way, he had began to smell. I had no choice but to admit to myself something had been terribly wrong with him, and asked for the removal of what had become his decomposing body.
Days and weeks passed, something of him lingered between the rosemary bush and the aloe spears. He was a special animal, the first rat who locked eyes with me, and the last, I hope.