Everyone has a fear. Maybe it’s a dreaded way of dying, like fire, drowning, or strangulation. Maybe it’s heights. Maybe it’s flying.
For me it’s cockroaches. Oh, how I despise the things. They represent all that is filthy. They scurry around in the dark spreading disease and destruction, and when you shine a light on them, they disperse and create as much distance from one another as possible, kind of like Republican politicians.
It started as a childhood fear of bugs in my bed. The fear wasn’t founded on anything: I never really had bugs in my bed as a kid. My mother was fanatical about keeping the house clean. Pets were never allowed on the beds for fear they’d have a genetically superior flea that somehow made it past flea collars and flea dips. My father tended to capture, with a glass and a piece of cardboard, any bugs that made it inside and set them free outside.
Well, almost any. Not silverfish. He hated those, and they would meet their doom at the end of a rolled-up newspaper. It was almost comical to watch. Sometimes he’d miss and then they’d take off and he’d work up a sweat swatting the wall until he got them, muttering all the while. “Damn things eat the glue in books and your mother has all of those books downstairs and GOT YOU, YOU S.O.B.”
Come to think of it, I kind of despise silverfish, too.
Regardless, it wasn’t that my childhood home was crawling with bugs. I was just terrified by the schoolyard stories, notably the urban legend about earwigs crawling in people’s ears and laying eggs. Little did my parents know, but every night before I went to bed, before my father came up to recite prayers with me, I would pull the covers back on the bed and check to make sure there weren’t any many-legged critters lurking about, waiting to journey into my ear canal and feast on my brains. I did this all the way until I left home to go to college.
Once I got to school I decided it was childish, and now that I was a woman of the world in a big, classy, urban university, I intended to put away the fear and go to bed without pulling the covers back.
You know where this is going.
The very first morning I woke up in a dorm room, when I got out of bed, there it was, smushed flat where my hip had left an impression in the mattress: a cockroach. Not big, maybe half grown, but still.
Right. From that day forward, I have absolutely despised cockroaches.
And I pulled the sheets back every single night until I was in my 30s.
I know cockroaches are living things. I know they have a right to exist. And they are welcome to–elsewhere. See, the reason I am reminded of this is that earlier this evening there was one in the elevator of my apartment building.
This isn’t the first roach I have seen in this building, unfortunately. A few months ago I saw one on a wall in my kitchen. I called for extermination and the guy told me that someone on a lower floor in my tier is the source of a major infestation in the building. He said they’re having trouble getting a handle on the problem and that the roaches must be making their way up the walls, even all the way up to my floor, which is the eighth.
But now I know. They’re hitching rides on the elevator.
If I hadn’t already planned on moving out in December, I sure would be planning to move out now, boy howdy. When an exterminator tells you there is a problem unit, there is no hope. I learned that the hard way in the apartment my ex-husband and I had when we were married. Someone two floors below us in a garden apartment moved in with two things that pretty much guarantee cockroaches: Boxes from a grocery store and a couch that someone had left in their front yard with a sign that said “FREE.”
Kids, get moving boxes. You can get them from U-Haul, Self-Storage, or Unpakt. Don’t use boxes that you find from grocery stores or behind restaurants. And for the love of all that is holy, once a couch has been put out in someone’s yard, LEAVE IT THERE.
Of course not everyone has issues with cockroaches. One of my father’s artist buddies used to catch the biggest ones he could find, paint them with glow-in-the-dark paint, put them in a terrarium, turn on a black light and some Pink Floyd, get stoned, and watch them crawl around. He had the whole thing set up the same way people set up fish tanks for fish, with a castle and other little buildings, a few seashells, and a few plants.
My father had some interesting friends.
Anyway, I’m no fan of cockroaches and I will not live in any building that has an infestation. I saw one roach in a hallway in the five years I lived in my last building. I saw no cockroaches at all in the seven years I lived in the apartment before that, although I did see the occasional silverfish as the apartment was in a garden complex in a wooded area in the middle of some pine barrens–and of course they met their demise at the end of some rolled-up paper. The damn things eat the glue in books.