Hi. I don’t like cockroaches. Here’s an easy way to tell if your friend/girlfriend/lover/whatever likes cockroaches:
1. Is s/he a girl?
2. Is s/he a human?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of the above, the answer is NO. THEY DO NOT LIKE COCKROACHES.
My reasons for not liking them are a bit more personal. A few months ago, I moved into my first apartment. I loved it. It had blue walls and a patio and a pink bathroom and an adorable little basket for silverware. It was great, life was great, everything was fabulous. UNTIL THE COCKROACHES SHOWED UP. I panicked, I screamed at my boyfriend, my boyfriend screamed at the cockroach (yes, screamed, hahahahahaha), I screamed at my landlord (in an email), I sobbed at my dad, I got out of the lease (thank you, Chicago Charge Speech and Debate training!), I moved into the most fantastic apartment known to mankind, I am madly in love, end of story. Needless to say, that’s why I hate cockroaches.
OR IS IT?!?!?!?!?!?!
Friends, journey back with me to a time long, long ago, to a land dry and dusty and speckled with the greenery of cacti. A land called Eritrea. A land of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten–red lentils, sugar-spackled doughnuts, and cardamom-spiced coffee–but also a land of horror, a land of darkness. A land where pet goats die, a land where people eat cow eyeballs, a land where skinned oxen hang from butcher hooks in open doorways, black with flies. (Hi vegetarianism!) The land of my childhood.
I was seven. I was sitting on my bed and putting on my shoes. Shoes, at the age of seven, are not as manageable as they are in adulthood. So there I was, tugging on my dirty sneaker, when I felt a lump in the toe. “That’s weird,” I thought. It was too large to ignore. “Probably a stone,” I thought. OH, THE IRRETRIEVABLE INNOCENCE!
I pulled out my foot.
There, clinging to my toe: A COCKROACH.
ON MY TOE.
IN MY SHOE.
I screamed as loud as my petrified lungs would allow. My parents came rushing in and I clawed at them. But instead of the soothing propaganda I expected–Honey, you’re seeing things. It never existed. There is no such thing as a “cockroach.” Here, swallow this pill–they were relieved. RELIEVED?
“We thought it was a scorpion,” they said. (A few days earlier, my little brother–obsessed with flipping over rocks–had discovered, and tried to pick up, a scorpion. Stupid kid.)
Call me crazy, but I’d rather die the death of a thousand scorpion stings than ever see another cockroach. There’s a reason Scorpio is a sign of the Zodiac, and not Cucaracha.
Epilogue: Insects of the order Blatteria have always plagued the Tori family. Here, for instance, is an excerpted email from her father, currently in Guatemala: “I feel a bit guilty to have basically a whole little house to myself. I guess I do share it with one other inhabitant–a 2.5 inch cockroach (or I should say I did share it!).”