princesse_incongrue: Florent Mothe looking over his shoulder, singing, pain on his face (emo salieri)
Last night I decided to rewatch the entire Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy before I went to bed. Around 3:30 AM I saw Will and Elizabeth reunited after ten years, heaved a conflicted sigh, and set off toward the bathroom to refill my water bottle and brush my teeth.

That was when they attacked.

I heard lots of shuffling noises in the kitchen--big ones, like someone was cooking in there. Our kitchen is part of the living room, the only communal space in the apartment and also the space where one of my flatmates, Gordon, currently sleeps. I was confused as to why he would be cooking in the dark at 3 AM, but decided to go investigate.

Of course, Gordon was fast asleep on the pull-out couch bed. The window at his side was cracked for fresh air. And behind me, in the kitchen area, the noises continued.

This was the first time I've seen the rat in person, though I've been listening to him scuttle around inside the walls shrieking for weeks now. Rodents as pets are something I'm pretty cool with, but any sort of vermin with a history of living in sewers is not the sort of thing I want to see crawling up the front counter of my kitchen or balancing on top of the old grocery bag we were using as a trash can. I groaned and went into the bathroom. When I came out, the rat had cleared off and I took the trash out to discourage it. The trash cans are just across the lobby and out on a landing in the courtyard of our building, visible from the back windows of our first-floor apartment.

I returned to my room, sighed at the noise the rat was still making in the kitchen, and decided to settle into bed on my little floor mat. Of course, when every stray sound in a Harlem apartment building translates to a big, angry rat in your head, it's hard to relax. Suddenly I heard something rustling in the closet that's about four feet from the foot of my pallet. I sat up, glaring at the closet in the dim light from the street lamp in the courtyard, and was relieved to see nothing. Just to be sure, I used my foot to edge my stool across the floor.

At the sound of that noise, I distinctly saw a rat slightly larger than the length of my hand (tail not included) slip out of my laundry bag and run across our bedroom floor, passing right by my mat and disappearing under my roommate Sophia's headboard. I was on my feet in an instant, holding my breath. My closet backs up to the kitchen. They had a way of getting in, even when the bedroom door was shut. A second later I heard what sounded like a shampoo bottle being knocked over in the bathroom.

Rats can walk through walls.

To my relief, a light switched on in the apartment and I heard my flatmate Juan's heavy boots in the hall. I jumped off my pallet and threw my door open, meeting his sleepy face with a hissed, "It's the rat!" I quickly tried to explain what I'd seen, but was interrupted by another thud in the bathroom. Juan opened the door and a startled rat scurried right between us and into the kitchen.

Of course the two of us scattered and started yelling in shock, which woke Sophia and Gordon. We tried to explain what was going on as Juan crept into the bathroom only to discover--another rat was scrambling around in the tub. He retreated and I had to cope with the fact that there were now two rats in the equation. After a lot more rustling Juan edged the bathroom door open and then began shouting in panic, asking me, "Did you see that? Did you see that? Tell me you saw that!" I hadn't. He said that the rat in the bathtub had just scaled the entire plastic shower curtain in an instant and leaped from the bar. "I'm not gonna deal with this," he muttered, and disappeared into his room only to return a moment later with an aluminum baseball bat.

My roommate Sophia was fully conscious at this point (she'd been feeling sick and taken a dose of Nyquil before bed) and tried to encourage him not to bash a rat's head open on our floor. I asked if he was okay cleaning the mess in the event that he succeeded. He wasn't. We opened the bathroom door again and fled in different directions as the second rat ran to join its buddy in the kitchen. Juan traded his baseball bat for a coat. He announced that he was going to find rat traps and stormed out into the rain. It was 4 AM.

Sophia and Gordon tried to go back to bed, but every time we got still the shuffling rat noises began again. The lights were off, but I couldn't bring myself to lie down. The noises from the living room were so loud that I wondered how Gordon could even think about falling asleep. I was sitting on my stool staring at the door, waiting for Juan's return, when I heard a massive thump, a shriek, panicked scuffling, and a long, low groan from Gordon.

Sophia sat up in her bed.  Before she even had to ask I crept out into the hall. Gordon was sitting up blearily on the pull-out couch, squinting at the wall behind his head. "I- I think I killed it," he murmured, disbelieving.

"Can I turn on the light?"

He nodded, still shifting around and trying to see something beneath the mattress. He eventually got to his feet and pulled the couch away from the wall. "Yeah... yeah, it's dead. I just wanted to scare it... I slammed the couch against the wall and I heard it squeak... its friend went out the window."

Juan came home at last and passed me a box of sticky traps. When he saw the bloodbath behind the couch he recoiled, making everyone curious. Sophia peeked at the scene and all the color drained from her face. I was too afraid to look. "It's like a crime scene back here!" Juan exclaimed. "Its nose fell off! It's bleeding out its nose! You crushed its skull, man! That's a lot of blood."

I passed Gordon a fresh roll of paper towels and left him to clean up the evidence of his murder while I took the dead rat out in a plastic bag, then went about setting the sticky traps. I left one under the sink, then, remembering the sight of a rat slipping gracefully down the side of my laundry bag, I headed to our closet. Sophia followed, providing moral support as I pulled out first my laundry bag, then an extra quilt. We needed the floor clear before we set down the latest trap, and the only thing left was a clear plastic tarp bunched in the corner. I shook it tentatively, then firmly, and, assured that it was rat-free, yanked it out of the closet.

I was wrong. A third rat had been crouching beneath the plastic, and now that I had smoked it out it panicked, ran across Sophia's bare feet, and headed straight at me. I whirled around and tried to escape down the hall, lifting my feet high lest I wind up with socks caked in more rat blood, and felt its body colliding with my heels until I was even with Juan's room. I went back to place the sticky trap in our closet, but Juan intercepted me. "I know where it is, dude! Let me see the trap! I can do it!"

He ran into the kitchen and dropped the sticky trap next to the wire shelf where we keep our groceries and, with a shake, startled the rat out of its terribly-conceived hideout. I watched it try to clear the sticky trap and fail, its back foot getting stuck and the whole trap traveling with it across the kitchen floor. The more it tried to escape, the more stuck it became until all four feet were buried in the goo and all it could do was flail and shriek pitifully. Juan scooped it up in a plastic bag and through the din of frantic shouts coming from Sophia and myself made it clear that he wasn't so heartless as to leave it to starve in the trash and planned to try to suffocate it in the bag. He took it out to the trash.

Sophia, Gordon and I returned to the living room where progress was being made on the bloodstains. Gordon was using plastic bags as makeshift gloves to avoid getting blood on his hands. He was still bleary-eyed, his hair disheveled from sleep, and only dressed in his underwear. Sophia pursed her lips. "Well, if it's any consolation: Gordon, you have a nice ass."

Something about the moment was just a little too much, and the next thing I knew I had dissolved in laughter, leaning against the wall to hold myself up.  "You guys," I panted, a bizarre realization striking me, "Juan's out there suffocating a rat right now."

I don't know who had the idea first, but the next thing I knew I was dashing into Juan's empty room to get a view of the action unfolding by the trash bins, aware that the others were doing the same in Sophia's and my room. There he was, unaware that he suddenly had an audience, illuminated by one streetlamp and the light rain. The bag was on the ground by his feet. I saw Juan steel himself, touch the wall at his side for support, then leap directly onto the bag. I screamed and ducked away from the window, unable to imagine what he must be hearing. When I stood back up he was examining the contents of the bag, sighing, and dropping it back down by his feet. I ran out of the room before I had to see his heavy boots crush the bag again.

After that, the tone of the night simmered down. We quietly watched Gordon fill bag after bag with bloodstained paper towels, the solemnity punctured with frequent giggle fits from myself and Sophia as we relived what we had just witnessed. Juan returned, his expression distant, and he incredulously said, "I curb-stomped a rat tonight."

That was it. We stayed up until Gordon had cleaned most of the blood off the walls, then went into our separate rooms and tried to find a way to fall asleep. It was past 5AM.

Epilogue
I woke up this morning with a rat in my hair. We've had a maintenance man come to patch the holes but he was unable to find any and announced that the rats must have come in through the open windows, and that they don't live here. He then opened the cabinet under the sink to be met with a small rat, whom he believes is the shuffly fifth roommate that has been singing us to sleep for the past couple of weeks, and was (hopefully) the one in my hair. An hour later an exterminator arrived to scatter rat poison and pass me a handful of cheap sticky traps. We think that only the little guy is left, and our whole apartment is now booby-trapped in an effort to get rid of him.
princesse_incongrue: Prince Poppycock trying on a tall white wig (poppycock)
I'm back!

Protip: if you're having trouble breathing AT ALL, go ahead and head on over to your nearest hospital. It turns out that what I had was a pulmonary embolism, meaning sitting for hours with my legs crossed (and taking birth control) had caused a blood clot in my legs which had traveled up and lodged itself in my aorta, all but blocking the blood from my heart to my lungs. And, trying to avoid being caught in France with an expired visa, I thought I'd just wait it out. If that clot had gone any higher in my body I might have actually suffered brain damage.

Apparently my good ol' body is an absolute trooper, because the fact is, I first noticed a little bit of chest pain on Sunday, but I thought it was just being out of shape. Tuesday night I fainted and from that point forward breathing hurt. Wednesday I was convinced I would be fine (I think I something is wrong with my head, but I remember when my dad broke his foot a couple years ago he also insisted he was fine and limped around the house for a day and a half before he finally let us take him to the ER). When I woke up Thursday and the problem hadn't changed at all my boyfriend convinced me to call the hospital.

They sent a doctor over and he didn't know what the cause of my pain was, so he called us up an ambulance. It took them an hour to get to the place. I grabbed my purse and jacket and headed out, assuming they'd give me a pill or something and I'd be back online before dinner.

When they first started saying I'd have to be in the hospital for "quelques jours" [several days] I actually burst into tears. I was very shaken for the first day or so. They kept me in ICU for one or two days--time kind of blurred together--then moved me out early because they needed the space for someone else. After that I had a room that was bigger than Vincent's entire apartment, but unfortunately the TV wasn't free and there was no wifi, so Vincent brought me my laptop and (new) external hard drive, and I spent the rest of my Parisian hospital adventure watching Torchwood, RTD-era Doctor Who, Horrible Histories, Conan, and videos of me and my friends goofing off in the dorms.

I wasn't allowed out of the bed until Monday, meaning I had to use a bedpan. When they did let me up I couldn't believe how utterly delighted I was to go to a toilet on my own. My whole bed confinement had consisted of me avoiding drinking water and holding it in in order to spare myself the embarassment of ringing for the nurse to put that awful thing under me and having to essentially soil myself in the bed I wasn't allowed to leave.

I could see the top half of the Eiffel Tower from the window of my hospital room, which was pretty cool. Honestly, it was kind of nice to stay in a clean, quiet environment for a few days with three average meals brought to me and no one being surprised when I just stayed in bed watching movies all the time. The downside was all the needles that were coming at me. I had to get a shot morning and night with this horrible stuff that burned like HELL. They had to use it thin my blood so no more clots will form, and I'm on a pill that I'll be taking for at least six months. Every morning they woke me up around 6 or 7 to draw blood, but since I have deep veins there was this one attractive but not-so-bright nurse who could never find them and would just dig around in my arm with the needle.

Basically, my thighs and stomach are covered in bruises and puncture marks from the shots, my inner elbow creases and the backs of my hands are also bruised and punctured from blood being drawn, and I do not understand why IVs are considered a good idea. My IV hand is still all bruised and cripped.

Anyway, they say as long as I'm on this medication it should be impossible for new clots to form, but they're also edgy about me taking a plane in less than twenty days. I didn't mention my eleven hour train ride to them at all... nothing the doctors say will make me change my flight. I will DIE if I have to stay here much longer. I am so overwhelmingly homesick. I dreamed I was home multiple times over the past week and my heart broke every time I woke up and realized it wasn't true. I'll wear the fancy compression tights they're going to give me and I'll get up and walk a bit once an hour or so and I assume I'll be fine.

Oh, I'm never allowed to take birth control again, by the way. So... buckle up for my period to come back in full force. I did not miss the days of crippling cramps and my sudden urges to punch everyone who looked at me.

You fall in flames

Wednesday, 26 September 2012 09:38 am
princesse_incongrue: David Tennant with his arms around Billie Piper, holding her protectively (hugging rose and ten)
I had a really strange day yesterday. I slept a LOT, at least ten hours, maybe more. Then I ate leftover pasta and brownies that Vincent and I had made the night before while still lying in bed watching shows online. I'm not sure what else to do with my life right now.

Anyway then I went back to lying down watching shows and without realizing it fell asleep. The window was open and it was really cold out, but I was enjoying that after the hot summer we'd suffered here in France. I woke up just before Vincent and I were scheduled to go back over to my recent host family and have dinner. I felt groggy having just woken up, but I was excited for the dinner and seeing the family again. I noticed I was lightheaded, but I assumed it was because of all the unnecessary sleep I'd gotten.

Well, we were about two streets away from home when suddenly I got really dizzy. I told Vincent to wait and went to lean on a nearby storefront for support. I felt the dizziness totally take over and the next thing I knew, I realized I was dreaming, felt pavement against my hip and hand, and heard a lady's voice asking from a long way away if I needed a doctor. I mumbled I was fine and then I was on my feet again somehow, wondering what on earth was going on, and staggered a few feet away to sit on the curb while my hearing and vision slowly came back. I remember mumbling "Whoa, I think I might have fainted!" to Vincent, who said "Yeah, you were unconscious for about two minutes."

I felt really nauseated and my stomach was burning so I wondered if I was going to be sick, but I still tried to get to the dinner date. We crossed the street, Vincent hovering awkwardly nearby, and I realized I needed to sit again. It was hard to admit I wasn't going to make it to dinner. We went back to the apartment, only about two blocks away, but I needed to stop and rest at least six times and really doubted my ability to keep moving. I just wanted to lie down.

The scary part is that I'd noticed that taking deep breaths made my lungs burn a little bit for about a day, but ever since I fainted I've had something that's not quite heartburn, more like a dull throbbing pain in my chest. For a while I was secretly terrified it was a heart attack, but it's nowhere near that severe. I talked about it on facebook and a friend who's a nurse told me it sounded like my blood pressure was really low and my heart was having trouble getting enough oxygen. I've been taking deep breaths and the pain has decreased but even now, the next morning, it's there. It wasn't there when I first woke up, but by staying awake I've made it come back.

So yeah, color me freaked out. I've never fainted before in my life so I honestly thought it was cool and was rather disappointed that I only had Vincent to tell me what had happened, because he thinks of himself as a writer but he sure as hell isn't a storyteller. I had to ask him fifty times for various details before I got a vague idea of what he saw. Apparently I was about to lean on the building when suddenly I just dropped--the other way, so it wasn't even a graceful slide down the side of the store window or whatever--and Vincent's reaction was to try to drag me back to my feet. He said I said something about being fine (bizarre because I was absolutely unconscious then with no memory of this but I wouldn't be surprised since "I'M FINE" is my immediate reaction to everything that goes wrong) but as soon as he got me up I collapsed again. He said he was holding me on my knees for a while and that was when that passerby asked if she needed to call a doctor. At that point I was coming to and quickly responded in English about how fine I was.

Very strange! I'm planning to be on my feet a little more today, but unsure if I want to risk leaving the building in case something happens again. I'm thinking I'll start doing a TLC-level cleaning job on Vincent's place, one pile of mysterious items at a time, which will at least keep me walking around this little room. I might try taking some of his empty wine bottles down to the recycle bin in the courtyard if I feel up to it.

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