Thursday, March 31, 2011


This evening was wonderful—-rather than going out to eat or going to sit at the pier to read, I decided to indulge in some domesticity—-laundry, casserole, and cleaning. First, I slipped out to Dollar General for paper towels. I wore a ratty t-shirt and jean skirt, my hair in a pony tail—-in that get up I sort of felt like a housewife, minus the five kids screaming in a mini-van out in the parking lot. It felt good, somehow.
I came home and put together a tater tot casserole, stuck it in the oven and proceeded to take out two loads of laundry and clean my entire house. As I was folding the laundry, a former student called me and we chatted for a while—-what I’m trying to say is that the evening was going wonderfully.
Until I walked to the bathroom to brush my teeth.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a dark piece of something on the floor in the spare bedroom, right outside the bathroom. Having just vacuumed, I took another look. When the dark ‘something’ darted toward me, I jumped back. A roach!!
Recovering quickly, my single woman survival instincts kicked in-—I grabbed a cup from the bathroom and lunged, clambering after the roach that was making a beeline for the crack under my roommate’s bedroom door where she was already asleep. I slammed the cup down once, but the little fiend evaded capture. About a foot from her door, I caught him, pressing the cup down as hard as I could into the carpet.
At once he began searching for an escape, scratching at the sides of the plastic cup. I held the cup there for a minute, trying to catch my breath. When it seemed that he had calmed down a bit, I stood up, taking pressure off the cup slowly, making sure that it stayed pressed down in the carpet. Everything was silent for a moment as I stared at the cup. It was as if the roach and I were waiting for one another to make a move. He made the first move and started scraping the sides of the cup again, rocking the cup back and forth! I jumped back, muttering to the thing and trying to decide what to do. I thought of just leaving it there and waiting for my roommate to deal with it in the morning. But she would probably come out and accidentally kick the cup over and then we’d be back where we started with a roach on the loose. I thought about texting her or sliding a note under her door, but I didn’t want to wake her up-—she’s been sick and needs her rest.

I, however, wanted back up. I scrolled down the numbers in my contact list, searching for someone, anyone I could call to come over and kill the thing or at least be moral support while I dealt with it. As always, a good man is hard to find so I snapped the phone shut.
“Suck it up, girlfriend.” I growled to myself walking back out to inspect the little red cup. Of course, the obvious thing to do would be to slide something flat under the cup, flip the cup over, and dispose of the varmint. But what if he managed to squeeze out under the cup while I was sliding the paper under and crawl up my arm and entangle himself in my hair? What if he escaped and scurried into my roommate's room?
It takes me a while, but I can eventually talk myself into doing just about anything, given enough time.
I ripped the cover off a phone book and took a deep breath. Then yelped again when he resumed his escape attempts. “Stop that!” I snapped at him.
Now, I can’t fault him for wanting to be free; I didn’t expect him to accept defeat so easily—-think of how boring life would be if bugs carried little white flags. After all, I have long been a defender of bugs, roaches, in particular. Ever since I made a peace treaty with the one that nearly scared me half to death last year when I found him sitting on my toothbrush, watching me while I washed my face. Yes, I hate roaches as much as the next woman, but I believe they’re grossly misunderstood. They’re not fiends—-except the ones that hiss (but who’s to say that isn’t just communication, like a purr or a puppy sigh?) They don’t come to harm us-—why do you think they run away so quickly? Yet we’re bent on killing them when they’re really only little victims of circumstance, entering our homes searching for water or food, and instead encountering shoe soles or streams of Windex or (like my little buddy here) the reddish confines of a red Valentine’s day cup. I had almost decided to let him free downstairs, once I managed to get this cup turned over.
But then he did something that negated all sympathy in my heart, that ruined his chances of ever seeing his crunchy family or little roachy residence again. As I slowly moved the cup onto the paper, he stuck his antennae out from under the cup and started waving them at me. Oh, that was low!! I held back a scream, bit my lip and pressed the cup down a little harder on top of the paper, severing his feelers from his head.
I had come this far-—it was either him or me and I think that outcome was pretty obvious. Even the weakest of us (namely me) will fight to survive. Married women have the luxury of calling their husbands to come kill their pests—-creating a twofer chance to be rid of the bug and boost their husband’s ego. Single women have their pride—-not to be bested by bugs or have their homes infested by them. We’re survivors, in other words. So there was no way that roach was getting the better of me.
My determination to wrangle that piece of paper under the cup was commendable. But the problem came when the carpet bunched up under the cup and I knew I might have to lift the cup a bit to get it all the way onto the paper. I could see his dark shape through the cup, crouching, ready for even the tiniest slit of light to reveal a crack for him to squeeze under. Not willing to afford him that chance, I got an idea. Gingerly leaving the cup, I walked out to grab boxing tape from the kitchen drawer. I’d tape the cup to the paper and that little sucker would have no escape.
I bent over, refusing to sit on the floor because if he should make a break, I could spring away out of his path. Pressing the cup down with one hand, I attempted to wrap the tape around the base of the cup with the other. Instead the tape wrapped around my fingers. I couldn’t let go of the cup because he was scratching around again. So I stuck my finger in my mouth and tried pulling the tape off, (If my actions in certain parts of this narrative don’t seem logical, it's because. . . eh, I have no defense. They weren't.) The only thing that could have made it anymore hilarious would have been for my roommate to have opened that door with me bent over, trying to rip the tangled boxing tape from my fingers, and my shorts riding up to a scandalous level.
When, at last, I wrapped the final piece of tape around the cup, I scooped the whole package—cup, paper, tape and roach—into a trash bag, sealed the bag and threw it out onto my porch. I bet he’s still out there scratching around.
But me, I’m sitting in here with muscles that I didn’t even know I had, screaming at me as if I had just completed a P90x workout, rather than having captured a roach. I’m also reflecting on how this encounter has made me feel.
Finding a roach, in and of itself, is not what disturbs me. What bothers me is that I’m sure he represents others that I just don’t know about. And now for days, I’ll look both ways before I cross the hallway. I’ll see imaginary roaches out of the corner of my eye. And I’ll find a renewed determination to make at least one male friend who lives close to my apartments. One that seems likely to be a willing hero in the future should any other pestilence show their faces in my house.
Here I sigh, because there’s nothing like a roach to remind me of how much I wish I had a husband. Then again, how exciting would it be to simply scream for my roach slayer while I climbed atop the nearest chair to watch him execute the invader? Where’s the fun in that?
So I suppose I’m thankful to be in the trenches, vigilant and eager to guard my apartment by my own womanly means.
Besides, I only see a roach in here maybe once a year. I can handle that. I just need to stock up on little red cups and boxing tape.

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