Monologue from the Rat You Made Eye Contact With

What the hell are you looking at?

This is my house. I don’t come into your house and then start screaming when you walk through the front door.

These are my streets. I own this town.

My ancestors came here on a boat from the old country 2,000 generations ago. We were here before the Empire State Building, back when the Gowanus Canal was a beautiful blue stretch of water that we would all laugh and play and piss in. My grandmother was a Rockette. I was born here and I’ll die here and so will all 500 of my brothers and sisters.

You moved to New York City four years ago to go to NYU and major in bisexuality. We are not the same.

Me and my 500 brothers and sisters and also 7,000 cousins have all lived under your apartment for hundreds and hundreds of years. What makes you think you have more of a right to this place than we do? We have a civilization down there, you know. There’s a rat city council (democratically elected), a thriving music scene, and universal basic income, which is a big hunk of cheese that we all take a few bites out of when we’re hungry. It rules.

What do you have? The Vessel in Hudson Yards? That’s so sad.

Now you and your people have elected a Czar to exterminate all rats. That is her whole job. And yes, the Rat Czar is a woman. This girl boss is trying to genocide us. So far she hasn’t made good on her fascist promises but if she ever does, we will be spiriting her away in the middle of the night to the Hague. You ever seen a group of ants all working together to carry a Cheeto? That’s what we’re going to do but with the Rat Czar. Rat Czar: sleep with one eye open.

And don’t get me started on the double standards when it comes to the unrefined and indiscreet creatures known as squirrels. News flash: they’re nasty vectors of disease too. You just forget that because of those tacky tails. They will straight up snatch a potato chip right off of your picnic blanket and oh, it’s adorable, it’s so cute. If one of us did that, you’d shoot us on sight.

I have seen the jokes you make about us online (we rats have free publicly-owned Wifi). I do not mistake your wretched memes for genuine tolerance. Pizza Rat, Chicago Rat Hole—are we but clowns to you? Evidently we are only useful to you insofar as we entertain you. You laugh at us if we happen to do something that will go viral on Twitter, like wearing a little hat or holding a lit cigarette.

But God forbid we exist normally (by congregating outside your local pizza joint for lunch, for instance) or you’d be pulling out your phone—not to record us, but to call 311. You should know, also, that calls to 311 go directly to our rat headquarters down below, and more specifically, to a small uninhabited rat cave with a very overfull voicemail box. This was not a mistake on the part of New York City but an intentional bit of city planning dating back to the 1980s.

I truly do feel pity for you ugly giants. You don’t even have tails or fur or any of the things necessary for life’s greatest pleasures: scurrying, darting around, running up a wall real fast, etcetera. But I’m done staying silent. If you ever so much as look at me the wrong way again, understand I could ruin your life. I could scurry right up your pant leg. I am actively choosing not to do that because I’ve been working on radical empathy. Remember that.