I was coming out of the shower this morning when I found something dark on my floor. I didn’t have my contacts on, so I had to bend down and squint to figure out what it was. Three quarters of an inch long, dark brown. Belly up, not moving. Crap, it’s a cockroach. Again. (I found one in my room two nights ago. I trapped it with a paper cup.) I was relieved at having found it belly up, but I was tense nonetheless. I’ve done this before, I can do this, it’s going to be alright. Hastily I looked around for a container 1) with a flat opening large enough to effortlessly enclose all parts of the bug at once, 2) that I’m ready to throw out, and 3) hopefully with an airtight lid. My objective was simply to contain it, so I could deal with it later. It was a dirty creature, and I didn’t want to think about how I’m going to get rid of it.
Unfortunately, I found none. An empty water bottle was too risky; I might crush its legs or miss it entirely in the process of containing it, and neither scenario sounded too appealing. My best bet was to cut the bottle in half. And when I returned to the scene, the bug was moving its legs. If I were a cat, this is when all of my fur would be sticking up. Frantically, I put the half-bottle over it and watched. I was a fool to think that I was done.
Did you ever feel life is just full of lessons? At that moment I did, and this lesson was called great execution is just as important as a great idea. The cut I made under the half-bottle wasn’t level. The roach escaped and disappeared. And to put it lightly, I felt doomed.
This nasty pest is going to crap all over my apartment, crawl over me while I sleep, and eventually scare the shit out of me. It might lay an egg case somewhere I can’t see, or even worse several of them, and once they hatch it’s only a matter of time before their lethal germs put an end to my existence. I hadn’t moved a bit since the bug escaped, and while standing there blankly I mistook dark spots on the faux wooden floor for more cockroaches. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been this scared. I had do do something.
I found, dug out, and grabbed an empty jelly punch can from the trash. My double-decker closet was only a foot away, and there was a gap under its doors. It was the only place I could think of where the cockroach could go. More specifically, the closet’s bottom section. At this point trying to capture the cockroach meant the following: opening the closet, inspecting my suitcase on the floor and my shirts on a rack, and chasing down the bug inside the dark closet. All of this requires – as you would imagine – a great courage. Last night East of Eden taught me that conquering sin takes bravery, but I think capturing a cockroach takes more. I really believe that.
Breathing lightly, I opened the closet doors. No insect in sight. I lifted my suitcase out of the closet, and there it was in the dark: my enemy. I reached into the closet, and my shadow fell over the bug. The damn thing was smart – it stood where the floor meets the wall, so I couldn’t enclose it at once. And when I got closer, it ran along the edge into a corner: the darkest corner there was. Unfortunately, the closet protrudes outward to the left of the doors, meaning it has an extra-dark corner where the protrusion ends by the doors. And that’s where the cockroach decided to hide – the top of the corner, in fact. I launched my 7-Eleven lunch box from the trash into the corner to make it move, and when I looked in the bug wasn’t there anymore. I looked back, and it was on the other side of the closet. After some struggle and suspense, at last, I captured the cockroach with the can.
Sadly (for me, since it meant contaminating my closet floor) it lost its head and a few legs when I dragged the can on the closet floor, but I reclaimed them by steering the can in reverse. I covered the bottom of the can with a Taipei visitor guide brochure, flipped it over, taped the edges of the guide around the can, and dropped the enclosure into the trash. My breath was heavy, but I felt happier. And now that I was feeling brave, I figured I’d trash the first cockroach too. I used more of the same brochure to cover the bottom of the cup, flipped it over, and quickly put the plastic lid over it. I let go of it with relief. I know, I know. It’s not over – not any more than the battle was over for the Na’vi when the Avatar ended – but I felt safer.
So now there are two cockroaches in my trash – one of them inside a paper cup with a plastic lid, and the other clumsily decapitated and trapped in a can with some brochure taped to the top. They may or may not be dead. I’m just hoping that I’ve demonstrated enough will against them living that they died. But even if that’s not the case, I’m pretty sure they won’t be able to escape the confines I’ve created for them. So I’m not going to make sure they’re dead. Besides, I’m afraid of having to come in contact with them.
What’s strange to me to think about is that I don’t recall feeling this way about insects before. They used to be fascinating and lovable. In sixth grade the first thing I did every morning was to play with my praying mantises (my favorite pets at the time), and I recall watching on TV this Australian woman who kept as a four-inch-long cockroach as a pet and thinking that’s cool. If someone asked me if I would consider keeping cockroaches as pets seven years ago, I would’ve probably said yes, because I could always wash my hands after touching them. And now, I find the idea that there are insects sharing this building with me repulsive. Right after I dumped the cockroaches today, I pictured insects being eradicated off the face of this planet with a nuclear weapon. In my mind today, they’re just these gross creatures with deadly germs that shouldn’t exist. I don’t know what happened to me.