On Roaches

I found a medium-small one nestled into a small crevice in my can opener, elated as it scampered out into a perfectly good can of Bumble Bee tuna. My lunch became his.

I found a medium-sized one — maybe the size of my thumbnail, its exoskeleton miniature but sinister — on my toothbrush, straddling the space between “Oral” and “B,” and I thought of Kafka’s Metamorphosis as I flicked him off and squished him in my sink. Down the drain, Gregor Samsa, though scholars will debate whether or not Samsa was a roach or a beetle. I later read online that squishing roaches only attracts more — they like to eat the guts. Sounds like a bit of internet lore to me, but I haven’t squished one since.

I found a pretty big one in my shower, big-toe-sized, which I, on sight, pissed all over. I strained and forced the pee out with as much force as I could muster, arching my back and squeezing my glutes, wincing a bit — I imagine my bladder looked like a cartoon rendering of a plug being pulled from a comically exaggerated bathtub while my urine-flow was reminiscent of somebody removing their finger from a hole in the Hoover Dam. It actually hurt a lot, and I farted loud enough that I’m sure people in the hallway heard, but pain begets pain, and I was hellbent on inflicting it on my insectile shower companion. I pondered the mathematical formula that must exist, somewhere, for calculating the water pressure equivalent of my piss-stream on that roach’s belly (it flipped on its back once it got hit with my first golden blast). Firehose didn’t seem a proper equivalent, since the circumference of my urine-stream was enough to cover the majority of the roach’s breadth. Maybe two fire-hoses, then. I also harbored the nightmarish superstition that roaches can climb up piss-streams and lodge themselves into my (to avoid scientific jargon here) dick-hole like candiru, laying eggs and crawling out in my sleep, up my belly and into my eyeballs — ravenous insects nurtured by my own yellow swill.

If I don’t leave any dishes in the sink, then usually I usually only get little ones skittering around like dozens of poppy seeds suddenly struck with life, all fighting to get at the olive oil residue on the sponge resting on the edge of my stainless steel kitchen sink. I don’t mind those so much. I pour bleach in the sink and it washes them down, then I let the water run for few minutes or so, fantasizing about where their bleach-stained corpses are being whisked away to on their morbid water-slide ride far away from here. If I leave the kitchen lights on, that usually keeps them at bay (speaking of bay, they allegedly dislike bay leaves) but then one of the bulbs blew out and they’ve been doing a victory lap ever since — all over the dishes I leave out to dry after I wash them twice a day in an effort to maintain an empty, roach-deterring sink. I can’t win.

One of the tabs on Wikipedia’s “cockroach” page is “collective decision making,” which I’ve opted not to read (out of my own best interests, I simply do not want to know) but has prompted me to embark on an elaborate and disturbing imaginational terror-ride. Neat lines of roaches, congregated under my bed, in my sock drawer, using my shoes as bunkers in this war of attrition: plotting against my boot-heel, my Combat brand roach traps (for large roaches only, which did momentarily decrease in number, though the poppy-seeds scurried on). The roach furher makes clicking noises and wiggles his antennae emphatically, as the troops plot my demise.They wear little hats and march about, becoming resistant to the poisons, learning the outline of my boot’s shadow, running drills like the bomb-drills during the Cold War — except training the baby roaches in looking for the contour of my heel’s shadow, in knowing when my hand hides behind a tissue, ready to squish and flush. They speak German. I fear that one day I’ll wake up like Gulliver, but in lieu of Lilliputians it’ll be roaches that tied me down.

I think about them when I’m away, out and about. I figure one day I’ll come home and just find a giant roach perched on my wall, like Jake Gyllenhaal finds a giant spider in Enemy. I think about them crawling all over my things, laying eggs, eating my leftovers, finding their way into my refrigerator to swim around in my drinking water, chilling out like athletes in an ice-bath, resting up for the next big dirty-skillet raid. I long for the mastery Tyler, the Creator shows in his “Yonkers” video —  letting the roach crawl all over him, laying hands out for it to crawl to before eating it. I bring them up in conversation more than I should (“How was your weekend?” “Have I told you about the roaches?”), and I think about them when I eat — I’ve developed the habit of washing my dishes both after and before eating, after finding a little roach-platoon in my flatware drawer, probably eight of them, dancing around the tines of my forks like strippers on poles. Seductresses of the order Blattodea. I’ve put out the traps, the poison — no dice; I’ve started to accept that this apartment is more theirs than mine.

I feel them where they aren’t, like in my sweatpants while I sleep, tiptoeing up my legs and on my ass-cheeks; so now I sleep nude, on my couch, uncovered, so any roaches that make a pass will be in plain sight, right in my crosshairs. They keep me entertained I guess — they provide an enemy, and as Katharine Hepburn said, “enemies are so stimulating.” So I am stimulated, and I guess I mind, but not as much as I let on.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi James! It is very hard to “like” a post about cockroaches, but yours was awesome. I grew up in Alabama and Mississippi and was absolutely traumatized by Southern cockroaches in my youth. We grew up poor and on the wrong side of the tracks and the duplex we lived in was absolutely infested with them. They were the large black ones that would fly at you if you acted too aggressively towards them. I could hear them in the walls or in my room at night when I turned out the light to go to bed. I spent most of my youth with my skin absolutely crawling at the thought of them and to this day I feel my loathing of them was one of the primary forces in my life that made me get an education and leave the South and to get to a point in my life that was free of cockroaches. I felt every line of your post and sympathize greatly. Stay strong! And keep up the great writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. James Freitas says:

      Thank you very much! If you ever end up writing anything about your roach experiences (outside of your comment) let me know, i would love to read it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Will do! Have you read “The Cockroaches of Stay More” by Donald Harrington? I read it a few decades ago and it became one of my all time favorite books.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. James Freitas says:

        Haven’t read it—I’ll have to check it out, thanks for the recommendation


  2. I hate cockroaches with a PASSION. They are the bane of my life. I hate watch documentaries about those brilliant, filthy, loathsome creatures. Cockroaches in drawers and in the linings of cupboards, lined up under beds and sofas. Those darned creatures get everywhere, and they have their backs to you whilst plan their devious plots to scoot away only a few centimetres at disgusting speeds. I could never squish one. It is beneath me to do so. I pour bleach on the big ones and watch them flip on their backs and die slowly, their kicking legs and writing bodies clicking on the tiles like dirty scuttling things. I feel satisfaction in their pain, but also I wail in disgust and helpless fear. They multiply so quickly. Once I caught two teenage cockroaches having sex on my bathroom wall. Well, their butts were fused together. I blasted them, not with urine but with the shower head, and watched as they disintegrated under the pressure. No way will they breed on my watch. I freaking love this post, it is so brilliant. Such detail, such thought that went into this. Cockroaches are good for one thing, I suppose. I can’t believe I found your blog!


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