Making 'The Rat Trap'
Mouse (1821) by Jean Bernard
Some years ago, a rat appeared mysteriously in my house. It was quite a shock because the house was pretty clean, not too unkempt. It brushed past my legs one night as I was on the computer and somehow burrowed out of the room. It made very little noise. I was a little scared, but there wasn't really a need to exclaim, anyway, nobody could respond. At that time in my life, I was starting to figure out a few truths about myself. I realized the extent of my father's drinking, my mother's absence, the burdens of my parents weighing on them from the invisible dreams and hopes they once harboured. The rat began to take shape as a metaphor for something quietly seeping in and out of each of us. For myself, back then it was a failing relationship, an unsure path towards making my words come alive, my constant battle with anxiety. The rat was a signal for the mundane, the inert fears we held as a family, the final sigh of overcoming and letting go.
When I first toyed with the idea of writing The Rat Trap, I used the relationship of a husband and wife, fraught with the demands of a household. Later on, as different drafts came and went, I realized the strength these pages could accommodate. I began to be more open and daring with exploring relationships, and the one that withstood the entire spectrum of joy, sadness, anger and everything in between was that of myself and my father. I'm humbled that The Rat Trap was taken on by a team in good hands, and the project came to life as it once did, in that lonely hour of the night where the gasp was stuck in my throat, an alien sensation lurking around my legs. Most of all, through this, I'm humbled by the relationship I have with my father. How he bravely allowed himself to be another vulnerable human, to me, his only daughter. How he tries to stand tall even in the face of crushing defeat.
I think that is the beauty of writing, amidst the exhaustion living brings to us. There is deep magnitude and compassion mined from the craft, brief instances shed light on years of personal history. If we are lucky enough, we catch a moment and let it breathe again in words, lest it skitters away like a quick-thinking rat, used to being on its feet.
(From February 6, 2021)