Lately, I have had trouble sleeping. I always have trouble sleeping, of course, but it is usually the result of some emotional pain that I create for myself. But, right now, I have trouble sleeping because I live in a place that has a cockroach infestation. I see cockroaches littered throughout my room during the evenings. One scuttles past my feet into crack in the wall while I am reading at my desk. Another would crawl up my wall while I am sitting on my bed, getting ready to sleep. I am constantly fearful that a cockroach will climb onto my bed during the night, that I will wake up to a tickle on my foot or a squashed brown biomass on my pillow. This is my fear.
God, I hate cockroaches.
I cannot think of something more repulsive than cockroaches.
I used to think that I want to live as frugally as possible regardless of my income. In my mind, I only had two expectations: a window and walking distance to a subway station. But, now, in this one month that I have stayed in this neighborhood in Brooklyn, I realize that I don’t want to live in a neighborhood like the one that I am living in now. It is not even that the neighborhood that I am living in is particularly poor. It is New York, so the property values can only be so low. But cockroaches next bed sometimes is horrible. The tap water turning brown sometimes is horrible. I don’t want to live this life. Because, while there is the frugal lifestyle that I had always envisioned myself, there is also the lifestyle that is truly in store for me if I continue to live in, which is one with cockroaches.
I grew up in the Main Line, so the level of comfort I had known throughout my entire life was the Main Line. And, to a large extent, I feel as if my desires to live a frugal lifestyle is a direct challenge to the rich, suburban neighborhood that had defined my childhood. It is, after all, a vibe. Of course, the Main Line is not representative of normal living condition, but I thought it was. I thought having a membership to Costco was normal. Likewise, I thought growing up without seeing cockroaches in my house was normal. Of course, there were house centipedes, but at least house centipedes exist to eat cockroaches. House centipedes don’t spread disease. House centipedes can die in a nuclear holocaust.
I am more comfortable sleeping on the F-train to work than I am at 11 PM on my own bed. I am afraid of leaving my feet on the ground. I have to lightly tap all furniture and clothing when I wake up and get back from work for fear that there is a cockroach hiding inside. That is the nature of my life at the moment. Nothing has reminded me more of feeling human than fearing the cockroaches in the walls.
The cockroaches dart around my room. They move so quickly; it scares me so much. As I am writing this, I see a cockroach dart under a plastic bag in which I had purchased a bottle of bottom-shelf wine a few days ago. I grab my pair of two-year-old Vans that I had worn to every music festival that I have ever been to, wrapping the worn cloth heel around my thumb and index finger. I ready myself to be traumatized by the crispy brown mass of disease. I lightly tap the black plastic bag. I wait. The cockroach comes scuttling out. I let out a shrill grunt and bring down my shoe against the ground with a resistance by my head. There is a part of me that believes that I will miss, and the cockroach will just crawl up my hand.
My worries were unfounded. I smashed the cockroach into two. Immediately, I could see that I had taken off half of its legs. The body was still moving as I pulled away, so I smashed it one extra time. Harder. The cockroach was still twitching, but I was sure that it was dead. The long antennae darted around a couple of times in rapid succession, like a wind-up metronome whose pendulum was accidentally hit by a sobbing violin student. Some black goo oozed out of its side. Eventually, the singular antennae (the other antennae had been violently severed by my shoe) twitched in to an equilibrium that constantly propelled it towards the right side. There it rested, finally, in an awkward position, as if someone had broke the cockroach’s antennae joints.
This cockroach was smaller than the one that I had seen yesterday, which means that the bigger one — around the length of my pinky — is still alive, crawling in the walls of my room somewhere. I had killed one cockroach, and this is one battle one. But, as for the war — this is a war that I cannot win. Between the cockroaches and me, the cockroaches will win every time. I cannot standard against the living embodiment of pestilence. I still cannot sleep at night, knowing that for every cockroach that I kill that there are hundred that are waiting to get their revenge on me in my sleep. I wonder what they will target first. My eyes? My ears? I sleep with my mouth open.
I sincerely hope cockroaches don’t like climbing up. Or flying.
Just kidding. Cockroaches are probably indifferent towards their own species. Like humans.