There is a Dead Mouse in my House.


There is a dead mouse in my kitchen.

He’s tormented us since we arrived in Tanzania. Landing on my sleeping face in the night. Rustling through the trash can, making it impossible to hear Jay’s ridiculous story unfold night after night on Serial. Mocking us as he scurried across the kitchen sink in broad daylight, his tail trailing over our clean dishes. We watched, we listened, unable to do anything.

We were told he would be easy to kill, our friend in fact had glue at his house, perfect for making traps. He would bring it to work. We waited two weeks. In the meantime we gave the mouse a name, Marvin. We told stories about him, said good morning when we got up to make breakfast, and then we told him we were going to kill him. Our relationship proved complicated.

Two weeks became four. Marvin got bolder; it became clear that the kitchen was his domain. We gave up on receiving the glue and started searching for traps ourselves, with little Swahili under our belts it proved difficult, just another daily challenge we tried to overcome.

We hated him. Hated him with a passion. Hated how he determined if we would be cooking or not, his presence in our kitchen influencing our evenings. Hated how he kept us standing on our couches instead of sitting on them, our feet afraid to dangle. Hated how he grew fatter and fatter, getting fed despite our best efforts. Hated how he got into all corners of the house, tormenting us with the trail he left of his nightly escapades. We hated how he controlled us. How he teased us. How he left us fearful of a place that was supposed to feel like home.

And yet we still couldn’t defeat him and so without even realizing it he started to bother us less. We started hanging out with Marvin at night, offering that he join us for a glass of wine or a game of cards before bed. We accepted his presence in our lives. Screaming at him for intruding, yet laughing with – was it something resembling enjoyment – each time he darted around underneath the dining room table. We cooked with him. We put on our boots and worried less about his presence. We became a fact much less than an intrusion. He became an integral part of our experience in Tanzania.

We finally found poison. A black powder. We cut bread into small cubes and spread a thin layer of peanut butter on top, with plastic bags on our hands we carefully poured the poison on top. We knew him well, knew his route, we placed the bread strategically. And then we left for a couple hours.

It was that simple. He ate the bread with the poison and he died. We found him in the kitchen, his tail lying limp on the floor, finally still for inspection we realized how terribly long it was. His grey body also bigger than we realized.

We couldn’t look for long, curiosity lasting less than a minute we scurried out of the kitchen and ran to our spots on the couch. Feet still pulled up out of fear, we were silent. Marvin was dead and yet he still ruled the kitchen, his death more ominous than his presence had been.

The question I’m sure you are wondering is a valid one dear readers. Why am I writing about a mouse? A move to Tanzania, my first time in Africa, and this is the story I chose to put into words. The story of a mouse that lived and died, as all of them do.

Yet it is the complexity of my relationship with Marvin that so intrigues me. The very nature of living abroad means living in a world full of challenges and excitement, often times untranslatable to loved ones back home, because of the very degree to which they are intertwined. I have felt this here in Tanzania more than ever. It’s hard to explain, a world that exists almost entirely in the grey. Nothing is good and yet at the same time nothing is bad. It is all simply part of the experience, impossible to prescribe labels to, impossible to judge, and often times nearly impossible to articulate. A place where inspiration has always shared the same bed as disappointment. They like to cuddle, they work together in a way I have never encountered before. All emotions here seem tied together, making simple questions from home sometimes impossible to answer.

What I can explain is a mouse. One that is unwanted and yet comical. One that encompassed those very feelings impossible to peel apart. One who’s final death produced feelings of both joy and grief. For I loved and hated Marvin the mouse. The very nature of his taunting both enjoyable and incredibly frustrating. The joy that he supplied always slightly off beat, hard to express, his troubling activity easy to explain. This is the story of a mouse, this is a taste of Tanzania.