Lady of the Rats

(or my foray through the subway system)

xena glas
3 min readJun 21, 2021
Photo by Matteo Modica on Unsplash

What exactly does this rat want from me? I see his hesitancy in approaching the bench. Running, coming to a full stop, and sprinting in the other direction. Maybe he senses some sort of compassion or understanding from me. Maybe he’s having an experience similar to catching someone’s eye in public, feeling like you can see through them. Nothing comprehensive to put into words. But some sort of feeling. A spirit. A reach into our very personhood.

The rat. A very misunderstood but lovable creature. A similar existence to our own. A need for comfort, companionship, warmth. A want to be loved and understood. But obviously an unfavorable image in the eyes of most people. I’m not unsympathetic to the lack of compassion people feel. People are always right to be hesitant. But I wonder what would happen if people really looked into the eyes of the creatures around them. What would they see?

I think that’s why it’s so hard to really look at everyone who passes. It’s like you’re suddenly inundated with the life and emotions of each passing human. What an intense feeling to have so often. That’s why eye contact is so hard in general, but in spaced out amounts throughout the day — bearable.

As to why I’m writing about rats at midnight while riding the subway: I like going on the train late at night when I feel emotionally unstable. Probably not advised by most as the best coping mechanism, but the risk/reward is better than others I think. I don’t know why it’s so stabilizing. The night is comforting and dark, like a swaddle. The city is always buzzing, but at night with a warmth that feels like laying next to a purring cat. I feel like I can really see the colors of the city when I’m not blinded by light. And the people. It’s like that moment when you wake up next to your sleeping partner, opening your eyes to a new world and a raw connection with your human. I find people are a little more in the headspace to really look around at others and try to discover their humanity. Or maybe it’s just me. I don’t know honestly. At night is when I’m the loneliest and reaching out for a connection with another being, bringing me to the subway.

Sometimes I wish I could join the rats. Just for a bit. Free to roam through the tracks and the dark tunnels and chasms. Deeply linked, and like water, flowing with the beings around them.

Now I’m above ground. 24th and 9th. Overstimulation. It’s hard to fight the urge to borough back in the tunnels. This world is so big sometimes you don’t feel like a part of it. There are so many different spirits and paths around you. You’re like the lifeless observer, yelling at the screen wondering why no one can hear you. Someone’s getting out of their taxi in front of me. I wonder where they’re headed or where they came from. Have I made an impression on their existence? Will they think of me? Is that why I’m not too scared of being abducted or murdered? At least I’m a part of something, you know? That biker who passed that glanced at me. Did we make a connection? Did I mean something to him during that brief millisecond of time? As fun as people watching is, it’s super isolating.

What’s the off chance that I find someone else roaming the streets with the desire for connection? With so many people in this city, the chances are high, right? Then again, everyone feels connection differently. The multiple men who have catcalled me in the past were probably longing for that same feeling. The thought that some super empathetic person will join me on this bus stop bench at 1 am wanting purely conversation is pretty naive.

I guess this marks the end of my night foray. I always find it hard to bring myself home. Like I didn’t accomplish my goal. I didn’t find what I was looking for. It was a futile task anyway. Thankfully now I’m exhausted enough to pass out and not lay in bed, staring through the wall. At least the rats at home will be there to greet me.