I’m sorry it has to be this way, Mr. Cockroach

I walked into the kitchen and I saw a cockroach. It was a big one, which, despite that gut-wrench reaction that made me want to immediately pack up and move, was kind of a relief. I read something in a short story years ago about how if you see a really big bug, it’s probably just a loner lost inside your house, an event more than a trend. It’s when you start seeing little cockroaches on a regular basis, that’s when you know you have a problem, an infestation.

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And like I said, that was in a short story, a work of fiction. I write fiction and I make up stuff all the time, little convincing sounding facts, just whatever pops into my head really. And so I don’t know why this provided me any comfort. I’ve never looked it up to confirm or deny its validity. But for whatever reason, whenever I see a big cockroach, I cling to this potentially made-up snippet of fact, that it’s not a big deal, that its presence in my house is an accident.

It doesn’t happen all the time, but they show up with enough regularity that I can never just enter a room without bracing myself for a potential intruder. I’m being mostly paranoid. It’s really no more than one bug every three months or so. But that’s enough. The basement is even worse. Aside from the bugs, one time about a year and a half ago we had a squirrel trapped downstairs. I’d open the basement door and just catch a glimpse of its tail before it disappeared between this hole where the pipes from the washing machine made contact with the wall.

So even though it’s not a super regular occurrence, I’ve still been surprised enough times that I’ll turn on the lights and my body is constantly ready for a possible attack. Because you have to attack, as soon as you see the cockroach, your only option is an immediate kill. If you let even half a second slip by where you hesitate, where you consider a course of action, you’re screwed. It’s going to disappear, you’ll never see it again, but you’ll never forget about it either. It’ll be everywhere and nowhere at the same time, constantly projecting its image in your peripheral vision in the form of phantom blurs and mistaken appartitions. And who’s to say that the shadow you can’t be sure you really saw wasn’t the cockroach? I mean, it’s got to exist somewhere, right?

I saw this cockroach in my kitchen and with lightning fast survival instincts, it vanished underneath the Swiffer sweeper. OK, at least I wouldn’t have to go moving around furniture to flush this thing out. But this put a lot of pressure on my next move. Should I move the Swiffer and go for a targeted strike? Or would it make more sense to slam my foot down on the broad surface of the mop, hopefully knocking it out without giving it a chance to find a more secure hiding spot?

I decided that, in an effort to not destroy my Swiffer, I’d give a little nudge, wait for the cockroach to make a run for it, and then I’d come crashing down with a final stomp. When I tapped the handle, I saw it move a little bit, but the pest must not have seen any available avenues for escape, so it went around to the other corner of the mop.

And it just stood there, most of its body obscured by the hiding spot, but its head and antennae clearly visible. I wanted to be like, “Hey, buddy, I can see you.” Like when I come downstairs and my dog is “hiding” in between the two couches. I’m almost insulted, like did you get in the garbage? Huh? You don’t think I won’t know something’s up?

But these thoughts shot through my brain over the course of maybe a half of a second or so, because remember what I was talking about earlier? Roach. Urgency. Kill. I brought my foot down, hard. As I got a huge wad of paper towels, so I could clean this thing up without having to feel its body against my fingertips, a part of me wished it didn’t have to be this way. Why the need for such strong reactions? My crippling fear, the surge of adrenaline that surely might be put to better use during aspects points in my life. There’s really no choice, I mean, I couldn’t have that thing free in my house. But can’t there be a simpler way? One involving a little less panic and stomping and skin-crawling sensations of existential terror?

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