Forever Unclean

We found a dead cockroach on the living room floor last week.

Little did we know, that was the best possible scenario for meeting a cockroach, for if you meet a cockroach and it’s NOT dead, it’s scrambling over your dishes in the pantry as you shout every profanity you know with Megan screaming and hopping from foot to foot across the room while you fling all of the boxed appliances out of the cabinet onto the floor and you stare that twitchy motherfucker in the eyeballs and it unleashes its secret roach speed and sprints for the crack between the cabinet and the wall where you know all its family and friends are waiting, breeding, building whole roach civilizations in YOUR FUCKING WALLS that YOU’RE paying money for therefore only YOU have the right to live and have sex in them, and you know that if this roach escapes he and all his roach buddies will be back, they will have won, so you start bludgeoning the general area the cockroach is darting around in with the tool in your hand, a cup –


This cup.

– until you manage to come down on its ass with such force that the blunt lip of the tumbler severs the bug’s disgusting head from its disgusting body with a mighty crunch and spray of bug juice and you fall back on your heels, panting, swearing that you will not rest until all cockroaches are still and dead and cold in the ground by your hand and Megan stares at you because she’s never seen your murder face until now.

Then, when you think peace reigns again in the kitchen, everything gets much, much worse. The cockroach head starts flinging itself around by the antennae and the roach’s brethren stir in the walls audibly for you’ve unwittingly given them half a dead cockroach body to consume (Cockroaches are willing cannibals, you see, and can also survive on an endless loop of eating their own shit. The life cycle and habits of the American Cockroach prove, irrevocably, that there is no god.). I ask you, which is more horrifying: the sight of a disembodied head rocking itself in a wide, panicky circle, or the scritch-scritch sound of an unknown number of enemy bugs in your walls?

Wordlessly, Megan and I agree that now we are at war.

Scene of the crime.     The battlefield, which we completely dismantled to kill one cockroach.

The battlefield,  dismantled to kill one cockroach.

We’d lost control of our home. We’d engaged with an enemy that WAS A METAPHOR FOR SHITTY ENEMIES. There was a period of time while I stared at that bug carcass that I truly wished I had died instead of it so I didn’t have to deal with the next step in this struggle, the part where I would never win, no matter how many roach traps or cans of Raid I purchased, no matter how clean I swore to keep the apartment (No more wanton snack tray consumption for this girl). Doomed to vermin forever. Emotionally curb stomped and shamed. Never again would I pull back a shower curtain without bracing for the bug orgy that may or may not be going on in the bathtub, or enter a room without scanning every corner for movement. My life was ruined.

I went to a very dark place as we drove to Walmart. Megan, shellshocked in the passenger seat, could only listen as I pontificated on how adulthood was just one shitty revelation after another, time eroding away layers of assumed truths until you were left with a little nub of reality and that reality was full of cockroaches and there was no joy in the world and your apartment might LOOK nice, but really it was festering with pestilence, and wasn’t that an apt description of what lay in the hearts of all men – barely concealed evil? This day would be forever known as the Shittest, Shittest Day in the World 2013.

Worth it.

Worth it.

We arrived at Walmart – not the best place to go to restore your faith in humanity. But it did have reasonably priced chemical weapons which we held to our breasts like lifesavers. Geneva Conventions be damned, this was our life now. Exterminate or be eaten by bugs in our sleep. We would become merciless shells of our former selves saturated with synthetic pyrethroids and prone to genetic mutations.

So we shuffled toward the checkout lines, each of us contemplating our shared crappy destinies. When, Lo! Megan spotted hope in a freezer case.

She pointed to a pink bakery box on the shelf. “Do you think it’s true?”

I narrowed my eyes at the Carvel ice cream cake, it’s packaging boldly declaring that it was WHAT HAPPY TASTES LIKE!.  I scoffed. “I don’t believe in those kinds of fairy tales anymore Megan. I’ve seen too much. So have you.”

“But…what if it is what happy tastes like?”

“I’m telling you, kid, happy is something people like me* sell to schmucks like you. It don’t come in no pink box and it sure as hell don’t come with blue icing on top. Happiness is a louse free bed, a place where your food is safe and free to live outside Ziploc bags. It’s a memory to us now, kid, ya hear me! It’s a goddamn memory!”

She defiantly whipped open the freezer door and pulled the cake into her arms. “We’ll see about that. You may not want to taste happy ever again, but I sure as hell do. We can’t let the bastards win!”

So she bought the cake. And after I tore open the roach traps and placed them around the apartment loudly declaring our intentions to the enemy and calling them all the names I could think of (psychological warfare, yo), after I settled onto the couch with my knees tucked into my chest, jumping at every dust mote that floated past my periphery, Megan cut a slice of cake for herself and one for me. We tasted it, and for the briefest moment a sweetness like those childhood years where you believe in Santa Claus and magic and the world being a simple, safe place washed over us. And I thought, well maybe if I don’t get any of this cake on the floor the roaches will never come out again. And maybe – MAYBE – we could learn to be happy again.

And then Megan photoshopped this for me.

And then Megan photoshopped this for me.

*I work in advertising and am therefore Don Draper.


2 thoughts on “Forever Unclean

  1. I’m living in Taiwan right now, working in a cram school for young children who have lost all hope in learning English and have come to me for salvation (the poor fools).
    On a bright innocent morning just yonder in memories, I walked to work with one of my teachers, Chinese dumplings and soup at the ready to prepare us for another day when she suddenly wrinkled her nose and said ‘Do you smell that’?
    ‘Sorry, that was me’.
    ‘No not that. Something else’.
    He brow furrowed for a moment and then the realization hit.
    ‘Oh, they are gassing the cockroaches’!
    She then asked do we have cockroaches in my country (Ireland is damp wet dark and wet, so not really) and told me that the roaches in Taiwan are much bigger than in America.
    We get to our school, and enter to find one of the other teachers on her chair, for the gas has driving the roaches from out of the sewers and into any place of shelter they can find.
    And that, dear ladies, is our school.
    Me and the only other male teacher, who can speak no English, but we are forever united in our pact of death against the vermin horde, venture outside with brushes and dustpans and begin to beat them back.
    An hour later, A FUCKING HOUR LATER, we are STILL there, Killing every single one of the bastards that comes from the sewers.
    Have you ever played Halo? It was like the fucking Flood from that game. They JUST. KEPT. COMING. By the time we were done, and I swear I am not telling tales, there was a pile I could have stacked as high as my boots at my feet and STILL they kept coming.
    My arms were weary, my shoulders ached, I had a thousand yard stare and I knew perfect sublime truth.
    We gave up. We had to. The brush was matted with bug guts. My dust pan had become a cockroach catapult, at one point actually launching the bugs towards a crowd of high school girls who I can only guessed swore at me in Chinese I could not repeat (because I cannot speak good Chinese) and we could not stem their flow.
    I finished the day at my desk, trying to make lessons for the kids, with the little fuckers scarping around my feet.
    Heed my warning ladies. You cannot win. They know no fear, no remorse and have no word for retreat. They will sit beside your head while you sleep and mock your impotence. You will become the butt of their jokes, the laughing stock of the society they have built in the walls right beside you.
    Give up and move on. You will not win. Your apartment is now owned by the roach.

    • David. DavidDavidDavidDavidDavid.

      What you just described is, I’m pretty sure, an episode of XFiles where cockroaches get together and eat people. In the sewers. I can’t even reread your words. The horrors.

      it’s so much worse in a foreign country. But goddamn. If that volume of cockroaches exists in my FUCKING WALLS I WILL KILL MYSELF.

      Since it sounds like you fearlessly put up a fight, you’re invited to come protect Megan’s & my home. We have a broom and a dustpan and will provide you any other weapons you require.

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