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In which I encounter a cockroach, in my nakedness…

May 23, 2011
Cockroaches, originally uploaded by Destinys Agent.


Giant. Shiny. Crawly. Wiggly. Cockroaches

and they were crawling and scuttling not two feet from my face.

Not exactly the situation one wants to be faced with when standing buck naked in a public shower room. No, not at all.

They were close enough that I could actually see the definition of color on their legs, the light reflecting off their backs and their antennae waving. Given my level of nearsightedness, this is quite close. Too close!

However, I was less phased than I thought humanly possible. Isn’t it in our nature to be disgusted by bugs? To run away screaming? To jump and try to swat at the creature and make it go away? Wipe it out of existence and shudder at the memory of such a pest co-habitating with us in our nice enclosed buildings?

I spent much of my youth more terrified of odd beetles than I was of spiders. We had many spiders and very few beetles in my childhood home so I was much more used to the harmless presence of eight-legged insects than creepy crawly shiny things with visible mandibles. I think it was the mandibles that set my nerves on edge.

I had turned on the water and stepped into the shower to rinse off before my swim when my eyes were caught by the moving of a dark amber bug, 2 inches long with waving antennae and too many legs. I jumped a bit, no doubt about that. I jumped a little inside and watched it carefully. Nudity does not afford one many weapons and I wasn’t about to sacrifice my shower shoes to swat at something in a way that would involve me being a) closer to the bug, b) barefoot near the bug and c) potentially missing and rendering the bug even closer to my bared skin…and angry.

No, no. I had a moment of panic and then watched the bug warily.

It didn’t seem to like the water. In fact I am fairly certain that the water was what drove it out of it’s darkened hideaway in the common shower drain. Probably the perfect place for the insect and I’d just flooded it’s home. I imagined it was royally pissed.

The roach scurried about haphazardly on the wall in front of me, avoiding the water. I was safe. As long as I was in the water, I was far from the roach. But I had to reach out, grab the handles of the faucet to turn the water on and off…bringing my arm within inches of those waving antennae. I watched the cockroach a bit more, splashed some water on the wall to try and drive it further from my person and then reached out to turn off the water. That being done I stepped quickly out of the showers and headed off to swim.

Part I complete. Roach 0, Rachel 0.

Coming back from my swim, I walked into the showers and looked around. No sign of the roach. I switched on the water, no racing roaches from the drain. I went to grab my soap. When I came back, I checked the floor and walls for roaches: none to be seen. My inner self was relieved but still on guard. I stripped down and began to soap up. Within moments, I saw a black shape about two inches long moving about in the drain trough to my right. It was far enough away to be indistinct in my blurry vision but I knew instantly–it was the roach! No, two roaches!

Oh great misfortune! I could feel my body tighten and I checked to see how wide my water radius was. These things were descended from the only critters to survive the age of the dinosaurs in style. There was no messing with these bastards and I wouldn’t put it past them to be both willing and able to swim should they realize that I was the cause of their domestic distress.

I watched. They ran in little circles. One scuttled across the floor to the other side of the shower room. The other came closer to me. I held my breath and splashed some water. It retreated slightly and then took refuge on the wall a few inches above the drain several feet to my right.

Other swimmers had entered the shower room but they had not yet noticed the roaches, I hoped they wouldn’t. Nothing seemed like it would make the situation worse than screaming and swatting by other naked people. I kept my wary eye on the bugs as I scrubbed and rinsed. They seemed fairly content. They weren’t bothering me or anyone else. No one else had even notice their presence. I started to relax a bit, conditioned my hair, and rinsed out my suit.

I got to thinking, perhaps they’re not so bad. I’m not going to stop going to the gym because of them. I’m not going to avoid showering because of them. Maybe we can co-habitate…as long as they don’t come too close to my bare flesh. For an instant, I flashed back to myself as a 6 year old: the me that wanted to adopt every worm we found in the garden as my very own pet and name them each Peter. Don’t ask why. I couldn’t have told you then and definitely can’t tell you now why I was partial to the name Peter. Nonetheless, my thought in the showers went something like this: ok guys, you keep your space, I’ll keep mine, I’ll call you Margot and Benny and think of you as odd companions on the road of life, perhaps we can call this a truce?

Perhaps we can. We didn’t exactly shake on it. And I wouldn’t have wanted to if we could… But it certainly made me feel better. When I think about it objectively. When I do my best to strip away all the layers of disgust and social disgrace heaped upon these creatures, they’re actually not all that bad. If they lived in the forest we wouldn’t find them as disgusting. Like dirt–rich life giving soil outside, disgusting disease ridden dirt inside. Literary figures and poets throughout the ages have referenced cockroaches and if I saw their semi-translucent amber shades in jewelery or natural stones, I’d probably find it aesthetically pleasing. Oh, the conundrums we create as we boundary ourselves away from nature. Not to say we should all go wandering barefoot in the tropics. No one needs a hefty inoculation of tropical parasites coming in through cracked flesh. But, perhaps I could see these roaches as something less than wretched. Is it odd to say I’m ok sharing shower space with a cockroach or two? As long as we keep our distance?

Thank you Destinys Agent for the great photo!

One Comment leave one →
  1. aubrey permalink
    June 3, 2011 9:02 pm

    I have often seriously thought why bugs terrify/disgust me so. They have made me hysterical, they have made me cry – I once saw a potato bug and I nearly lost my appetite…something very unusual for me!

    It’s sad – in a way – that I feel like this; because they are fascinating tiny dinosaurs – a world of monsters scuttling (GAH!!!!!!!!) at our feet.

    I could only share shower space with a cockroach if I had a ‘Chicago Typewriter’ Tommy Gun – 700 rounds per minute – to keep me company.

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