Chapter 75: “Relocated Families”
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Travis and Jason would often visit us to escape “The County” for a weekend or so, but Shawn and I (and many others) wanted them down in Bangor permanently. Some of our favorite times were with the cousins/brothers.
Finally, after college life in Presque Isle didn’t work out, Travis moved down to live with us. But Jason didn’t. I felt like a piece of me was being ripped from my gut. Jason was an integral part of our dynamic, and we felt lost without him. Instead, Jason stayed up North in Caribou with another one of his friends.
We didn’t approve of this other guy and worried that Jason might go down another darker path. Sure, that sounded like we were jealous but this guy was actually bad news. No matter, we wouldn’t dare to force his hand in uprooting his life even though it was with us loved ones, and so, he stayed home in Caribou as Travis made the trip down.
It was the epitome of perfect timing as Keith had decided he too wanted to live up North. He wasn’t feeling Bangor and decided to look for jobs that utilized his degree back home. I wasn’t a fan of this either but again; it wasn’t my call to make. We had a going away party for him – just like the one we all had the year before – and we sent him off right.
Our collective hearts were breaking left and right… Dan, Nikki, and Parker left too and with them gone our “apartment family” was falling apart. And what’s weirder is that the landlord, Rick, didn’t rent their place out to anyone else and we became further isolated from any semblance of neighbors. In fact, Rick barely spoke to us at all. I don’t think he liked us because Shawn always dragged his feet when it came to paying the rent. He always said, “Legally, we have until the 15th to pay.” That “law” never sat well with me, personally. I would have much rather got the bill paid upfront so I could focus on other bills and have as much time as possible separated from paying the rent again.
It also didn’t take Travis long to get a job either as I was able to hook him up with an opening at the State Street Subway. One Gagnon for another. My hope was that he would get tired of working these mediocre jobs and go back to school like I did (and had planned on doing again). Okay, so I wasn’t the best role model in that regard, but I knew deep down that I would return to my education eventually.
The summer months were great. Travis and Shawn shared the upstairs room, and things kept on as they were before. We made it a habit to visit Kyle often at his apartment at the corner of Hammond and Union. It was nice to have Travis around especially when my anxiety tried to ruin my days. He would often quell my attacks before they got to Emergency Room-levels.
Autumn quickly dawned on Bangor and with it an alarming issue. Late one night we’re all chilling in the apartment, and one of us saw a small mouse scamper under the couch.
We immediately shared the news with our landlord, Rick. He expressed concern and vowed to get pest control over but a few days went by, and no one came, and he never called us back with an update. So we took matters into our own hands.
Shawn first bought several glue-based mousetraps and set them near what we thought was their home: under the oven. Again, late one night while watching our bootlegged cable, we hear a loud squeal. We rush to the trap, and sure enough, a small mouse had gotten stuck on the thick glue. Shawn, who appeared to be the most distressed by this mouse, stabbed the mouse with a knife in its head but instead skimmed it each time until he finally took the metal blade to its tiny abdomen.
I feared for my and my brother’s lives at that moment. He was Anthony Perkins to that poor mouse’s Marion Crane.
The mouse had revealed its point of escape; a small hole in the back of the oven and based on his path to that spot we found the real entry point: a small gap in the baseboard near the bathroom. It appeared that we might have more than one mouse on our hands.
Shawn did what any rational adult would do next and bought a BB gun. He became as sadistic as Kraven the Hunter perching on the couch, readying his “rifle” in anticipation for another target. His aim had improved as mouse after mouse emerged over the next few weeks. Soon, we had ten mice destroyed, all by Shawn’s hand.
One day, we were watching our ripped off cable and a mouse descended down the coaxial cable behind the television like Ethan Hunt in the first Mission Impossible. Shawn took aim and fired. BAM! Direct hit! We cheered but realized that this little guy was still alive and he ran into my room nearby.
I freaked and chased after him, but he quickly made a U-turn back under the couch. The hunt continued until Shawn took him out Rambo-style.
A couple of days went by, and we hadn’t seen any mice. The lack of the rodents didn’t bother us, as the onslaught of field mice was unequivocally a stressful time in our apartment. Meanwhile, Shawn had grown bored without his prey and once took aim at a squirrel that was peacefully sitting in a tree near my bedroom window. He shot it in the head and sent it tumbling straight down. Shawn thought it had gotten away, but later that day it laid there lifeless in front of my car. The fall onto the hood of my car killed him. I thought Shawn a monster then and was baffled at his bloodlust. Admittedly, he had felt woeful about that one.
It was then that I realized that there was a hole in the basement window of the building that led to the mice making our home their home. We attempted to tell the owner that his property, the apartment complex, was falling apart and yet, Rick didn’t seem to care.
That night, I slept on my frame-less bed as per usual except this time I awakened by a tickling. Shawn had been rather fond of fucking with me as I slept, but this was different. It felt like a cat’s whiskers had been rubbing on my nose. I awoke and saw a small mouse staring straight back at me. Before I could react, the little guy decides to take a bite out of my nose.
I yelped and jumped straight out of bed like I was given ten thousand volts of juice to my nipples. I flipped on the lights and slammed my door shut. The little rodent missed his window to the living room and instead went into my cluttered closet chock full of junk on the floor. I lost sight of him and – wanting another pair of eyes – yelled for Travis to come down. It was the middle of the night, but after a few more pleas for help, he came running down.
We ripped everything out from my closet floor in search of the aggressor and finally saw him near some magazines. I took matters into my own hands and smashed the poor little guy with my shoe until it died. I was stricken with a mixture of anger and resentment, but I explained away the latter because this particular case was personal. I couldn’t relate with Shawn on this matter, but I felt closer to him if only for a second.
Once Shawn had heard this story, he struggled to breathe through his chortling. He had thought it was one of the funniest stories ever and would often resume laughing even months later as he thought of biting, whiskers, or me in a stressful moment.
It was comforting to know that during one the most stressful periods in this apartment we could still laugh at ourselves.
But what would come next would genuinely test our levity.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.