Quarantined with a Cockroach
Cockroaches terrify and repulse me.
Sam and I live at the beach and are told that these bugs are part of the territory, but that doesn’t comfort me in the slightest.
Surely it doesn’t help that our townhome neighbor recently had a team of guys tear up her floor. I imagine all of these dirty cockroaches scattering, trying to find refuge in our clean home.
A note about Sam: he’s the cleanest person I know. He showers three times a day. He washes his hands constantly. If a piece of food drops on our clean kitchen countertop, he insists on throwing it away. The Coronavirus has not changed a single thing about his day-to-day habits. In fact, he told me, “I’ve been preparing for this my whole life.”
One night, we’re on the couch watching a movie, and when I turn my head to look at Sam, something catches my eye. High up on the wall behind him, where the wall meets the ceiling, sits a massive cockroach.
I don’t say a word, but I don’t take my eyes off the bug, and the look on my face must be one of sheer disgust. Sam doesn’t even need to look to know what I’m staring at. He slowly turns and joins me in my stare. The longer I stare at it, the bigger it looks.
Up until this point, I have only seen them on the ground or on the kitchen counter. I have never seen a cockroach so high up before. I didn’t think they could or would go upstairs, where our bedroom is located. This proves they can. Also, I didn’t know that these mother fuckers could scale walls.
Seeing one ends in one of two ways: we either kill it or it gets away. And when I say we, I mean Sam. I can’t bring myself to kill one - not because I care about living creatures. I do, but cockroaches don’t count. I can’t bring myself to kill one because we don’t want his guts to get everywhere. So instead of being able to smack it with something hard, Sam uses a few paper towels to grab it and squish it between his fingers. The thought of it sends heat coursing through my body.
Sam pauses the movie, and it’s on. I have no idea how he thinks he’s going to get this thing, but he grabs a broom and bangs on the wall on one side of the cockroach, coercing it to crawl towards the stairs. If Sam can get it over to the stairs, he’ll have a better angle to reach it with the broom. I’m paralyzed on the couch, watching.
The cockroach doesn’t move. Sam tries a new tactic by ever-so-slightly touching the cockroach with the tip of the broom. That does it - it’s on the move, but instead of going towards the stairs, it crawls the opposite way.
As soon as it’s mobile, I’m on my feet. I grab a sneaker. The plan seems to be: knock the cockroach down to the floor, then kill it. There’s zero chance of me doing the paper towel grab and at this point, Sam doesn’t care. He’d rather there be bug splatter on the floor than bug splatter on the kitchen counter, so he approves.
I move over towards the fireplace, sweating. I’m not ready for this. And I’m really not ready for what happens next:
Sam touches the cockroach one more time, and instead of the cockroach falling straight down to the ground, it starts FLYING THROUGH THE AIR.
FLYING. THROUGH. THE. AIR.
And not only is this cockroach flying, it’s coming straight for my head.
Sheer terror and wonder. My brain cannot comprehend what is happening. Naturally, I scream as I try to get out of the way, which means stumbling into the fireplace as I swing my sneaker at the cockroach.
I completely miss, and the cockroach CONTINUES FLYING ACROSS THE ROOM AND LANDS ON THE OPPOSITE WALL.
The cockroach flew from one wall to another wall. Our living room isn’t that big, but it’s still a freaking living room. This thing just took flight. IT FLEW.
Cockroaches can climb walls. And they can fly. And they just won’t die. I’m learning all of these things in the span of two minutes. There’s no time to digest this new information. We still have this intruder in our house.
I am no help. Instead of going towards the cockroach to try and kill it, I find myself running away.
Sam now has the broom in one hand and a shoe in the other as he moves toward the cockroach. It must feel Sam’s presence, because it drops to the floor and takes off like the speed of light.
How are they so fast??
Googling this answer was no fun task. I don’t need a huge picture of a cockroach on my desktop, but I learned that, “Once all six legs are in motion, a cockroach can sprint at speeds of 80 centimeters per second, or about 1.7 miles per hour. And they're elusive, too, with the ability to turn on a dime while in full stride.”
It’s under the couch. Sam stays in front of the couch and I run behind. This cockroach isn’t stupid. He knows what we’re doing (when did “it” become a “he”?). Even if we could reach him under there, there’s no way we’d have the leverage to kill him. We need to get him out in plain sight.
Now that he’s on the ground, he looks even bigger. I have very conflicting feelings of wanting him dead but not wanting to be anywhere near him.
Why am I afraid of a tiny bug??
It makes no sense. He’s not poisonous, he doesn’t bite.
He’s just gross.
I fear that if he comes out on my side, I might not have it in me to kill him. I might do that thing where I sort of swipe at him but don’t fully commit to the kill. I’m also afraid that he’ll be too fast for me. That I’ll bring my sneaker down and hit the floor and he’ll be gone. He’ll find some crack in a doorway and we’ll be living with this monster for the rest of our lives.
I can’t let that happen. I have to be brave.
It’s like Neil Gaiman wrote in Coraline, “Being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. Being brave means you are scared, really scared, badly scared, and you do the right thing anyway.”
Sam pokes at him with the broom and here he comes, out into the light, right by my feet. This is my moment. I scream and bring the sneaker down as hard as I can.
Bug guts everywhere. I’m panting and dripping sweat. I did it.
I use six Clorox wipes to make the floor spotless. Good as new.
Sam calls the exterminator the next day. We kill one cockroach and think we have an infestation. Now Brian comes to visit us for quarterly sprays. We love Brian. Because without Brian, I (read: Sam) would have to actually kill tiny, helpless, terrifying, monster bugs in our home.