Tag Archives: roach

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.


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?

I thought I saw something

You ever get that feeling like you just saw something out of the corner of your eye, but you’re not sure if it was real or imaginary? I was just sitting at my desk when I swore I noticed some sort of movement, just right at the edge of my peripheral vision. I looked, and there was nothing. But what was it that I thought I saw? Was it real? I have no idea. I don’t want to say it could’ve been a bug, because to verbalize it might make it come true. So I kind of do a quick check behind the desk, alongside the wall. There’s nothing out of the ordinary.


It’s tough because there’s no reliable track record for this type of activity. I can’t go back and judge this experience based off of past encounters with roaches or spiders. It’s like, every once in a while, I’ll think I see something, and then a minute passes, maybe another minute and, yep, it’s a bug, it’s a roach and it’s running across the floor.

But then other times it’s all in my head. Like when I was a little kid and I still believed in Santa Claus, every now and then I’d swear I caught a flash of red out of the corner of my eye. So I don’t know what to believe. I do know that if I’m not careful, I’ll let my imagination get the best of me. If I too actively seek out every shadow or imaginary movement I think I see, it’s only going to increase the frequency at which I’m seeing these phantom blurs.

But I also know that I live in New York, that maybe half the time I catch myself looking behind the dresser or underneath that stack of plates, it’s because I actually did see something. And sitting back and ignoring it, pretending like I never saw it in the first place, it never solves the problem. Best case scenario, it just comes back out a minute or two later, and now I’ve definitely seen it, now I have to take action and kill it. Worst case, it disappears into the cracks and crevasses of my walls and flooring where it’ll spawn an entire generation of creepy-crawlies.

I hope I’m not giving the impression that I’m living in a bug-infested dump. My place is very clean. But I’d say once or twice a year I’ve got to kill a roach, usually a really big one that’s either trying to find a warm place, or that’s trying to get back outside now that the weather is nice. I definitely see bugs all the time outside. And mice. And rats. Luckily my block is overrun with feral cats, and so yeah, I’d much rather stray cat colonies to rats.

Several years ago I was living at this apartment by my school in the Bronx. That was the first time that I had an actual mouse try to move in. Those little guys are fast, much faster than any bug. And so that feeling of seeing something moving in the corner, once you actually get a mouse cohabitating with you, it becomes way more pronounced. You’ll see that blur of darkness every time you enter a room. And the worst part is, once out of every twenty or so times, you’ll actually see it, like for real, a real mouse.

Then you have to lay out traps, and worry that the peanut butter is going to attract bugs. And then you finally catch the mouse and you have to wipe up all of the guts and everything that explode all over the place when the mouse finally takes the bait. Like I said, I’ve been really lucky that the worst I’ve had to deal with here is the occasional roach.

And a silverfish every now and then. I don’t know why, but silverfish don’t gross me out as much. For some reason they always kind of blend in with the floor, and so maybe it’s just like an optical illusion, but I never see any imaginary silverfish.

OK, I just saw it again, the movement, something creeping around. I’m still not convinced that it’s anything real, because I’ve just spent the better part of a half an hour talking about roaches and mice. If anything, I’d be more concerned if by this point I hadn’t concocted some hallucinatory pests. But still, I’m having a hard time suppressing my urge to start stomping on the floor, kicking piles of stuff. If it’s hiding in there, I want to see it. I don’t really want to see it. I hate when it comes true, when it pops out from one hiding spot and immediately dives into another. I just … I just wish I had X-Ray vision, that I could see any bugs in the walls of under the floors. No, that would be a terrible super power. A curse really. I just want the phantom movements to stop.