Everyone has a story from their college housing days; there was that one roommate, or that one time, or that one crazy pest.
I've lived everywhere, in campgrounds, in mobile home parks, in apartments, and when I got to college the moving seemed to get worse.
I couldn't find a roommate who was not psycho or a living area that made me content. Until one apartment.
It sat across campus, taking maybe five minutes to walk to class. When I first walked in, it felt welcoming and warm, like a reading nook. I knew I'd be here for quite a long time.
Over the course of some months, the apartment treated me well.
I didn't really have a spider problem, and when there was, the spiders were stringy, almost like hair. Barely a threat. It wasn't perfect, but in comparison to where I had lived, it was great.
Come Finals Week of Spring Semester, my boyfriend and I were perched on the couch watching television. We were in the midst of conversation when something in the ceiling began to scratch. It sounded like something small and light running around on little clawed feet.
My boyfriend and I glanced at each other and shrugged. It stopped a little later, but I emailed my landlord to let him know.
I had gone away on a week-long trip with a group through school and I came back to my apartment and set my luggage down, which included my rabbit Kramer, whom I had just picked up from my boyfriend's house.
To be sure he couldn't get into the kitchen, I made a wall with my luggage on the edge of the kitchen and sat on the couch.
While watching Kramer in his cage, I heard rustling in the kitchen. I was confused because I knew it was not Kramer, yet it sounded like an animal.
Then it hopped onto my duffle bag, staring at me. I stared back, like an epic showdown between man and mammal, and neither could make a move. I chased it, trying to get it out the door, but it ran up the curtain of the window in the living room and into a hole in the ceiling.
I then noticed some new additions to the apartment. There was a hole above the couch where it had wiggled through, and ceiling guts strewn over the arm of the couch. Another hole was near the television, more ceiling material below it.
I found little feces piles on the couch and in my bed and it sickened me. I washed everything and contacted my landlord.
My landlord was out of town and could not do anything until the following Monday so I had my grandparents, locals, set up traps in the ceiling. All we could do was wait now. I duct taped all of the holes in the ceiling so it could not get back through. Sometimes I'd hear it scratch at the duct tape, trying to get through it. I'd freeze, stop everything I was doing, and listen.
It was terrifying.
See, I did not really know what it was. It was not a mouse, for it was too large and had buggy black eyes and a slightly bushy tail. Yet it was not a squirrel. I did not know what it was and it was invading my apartment.
The following weekend before the landlord's return on Monday, I had a friend come for a few days.
I warned her about the disturbance and showed her the holes, and we waited for it to come around at 10:30 p.m. like it always seemed to do. We forgot about it and sunk into our television show.
We heard the scratching and paused.
She let out a little scream and we waited.
Then the scratching moved into the kitchen and it was gone so we went back to TV. I was not worried because it couldn't get through the tape and I had this place all taped up.
While deep into our television show, my friend pointed, screamed, "There it is!" and jumped onto the couch.
Without waiting to hear the end of her sentence, I also jumped on the couch and screamed.
There it was, his black eyes looking us over, standing on my backpack. I grabbed an ice scraper and opened my apartment door. I tried to coax him out the door, but he ran behind the couch.
We pulled the couch back and it jumped onto the arm. My friend screamed and it jumped from the arm and flew into the kitchen.
"Oh my gosh, that thing flies!" I shouted.
I had no idea what was going on, it all happened so fast. It tried climbing the door frame, but I knocked it down and it ran towards my friend, who held a pot and was going to try to capture it.
In a moment of panic, she dropped the pot and it hit the creature, paralyzing it. It sat before us, twitching. I knew what I had to do to put it out of its misery. And I hope I never have to end another animal's life again.
Out of guilt, we wrapped the creature in a paper towel and buried it outside, said a few words and said goodbye.
After some research, I found out it was a flying squirrel. How it got into my apartment, I'm not sure, and why it chose this apartment, I will never know.
It seems my living situations will never be boring, or uneventful, no matter where I live.
Kayla Herrera's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.