The winding path of the park leads us to Bethesda where the dark angel statue atop of the fountain blends into the night sky, guarding over the park as a mother would her child. I think we are alone and walk to settle down along the edge of the pond when a male's voice surprises me, and makes me jump to press up against Scout, splashing some Chardonnay out of his glass.
The man's voice is low and gruff: "Beware of the rats," he warns.
Scout now jumps back himself, turning to walk clear away towards a bench. "Nah, nahhh, thanks, man, thanks. I don't mess with that shit; I don't mess with that."
I wave to the man as a gesture of gratitude and follow Scout, "You would be useless if there were ever a mouse in my room."
"Yeah, nah, you'd never see me again," he says, sitting down and beginning to uncork the second bottle. It's just a Sauvignon Blanc. Always drink the nice one first so you can appreciate the taste before you're too drunk and nothing really matters. We pour our glasses full and light cigarettes.
Our conversation drifts, and I notice the rats the man warned us about. There are three of them, scurrying around the plaza, making their pilgrimage to the inky pond. The three must have been sent out as scouts. An entire herd of them follow, waking from their daylight slumber in the fountain and scuttling towards their ritualistic bath in the moonlight. Rats are mothers too and need to bathe their children. I suddenly wince and bend over. I thought these bloody cramps had finally stopped. Maybe it's a good thing. Ninety-five to hundred, ninety-five to hundred. Scout notices.
"… By the way, were… were you okay?"
"Hell, no," I answer without hesitation.
"You probably were cursing my name; I wouldn't blame you."
"Yeah. Yeah, I was. I was lying on my back in pain and was gritting through my teeth, 'Fuck. Fuck you, Scout.'"
He laughs his laugh where his already existing smile spreads wider. "But I mean… you're good now right? Meaning it, like… worked. I mean, if it doesn't work… what would you do?"
My eyebrows arch higher on my face as I comprehend what he is really asking.
"I mean… I don't know what I'd do. What… that. I don't think I'd know until I was in the moment. But I would feel like I would have to – "
The word didn't even fully form until he blurts with relief, "Oh, thank God, thank God. I'm just too young. I'm too young, man. I'm goin' to law school, I'm goin' back abroad, I gotta life, I can't do that, can't do that."
My voice is very flat. "I mean. I think it's fine."
"I'm an anxious person. I've been anxious about it."
"Well, I'm not. There's no reason to be. It's fine."
A mother rat shrieks out to call out to her child. A mouse scutters behind her.
"It's fine," I say again, but I think it's more for me than for him. "I don't know what I would do."
The alarm creeps back into Scout's usually smiling expression, but the man from the pond approaches us. He says he smelt the cigarette smoke and asks if we had one to spare.
Scout stands up again and says between his smile, ""Dude, yeah, 'course. It's all good, dude, it's all good."