Before moving into Manhattan, I knew that cockroaches were something New Yorkers just accepted, like street garbage or getting to second base with complete strangers on the subway during rush hour.
After being away for a week promoting my book, I returned home to find a cockroach on my bathroom floor. But not just any cockroach. In my four years in The Big Apple I’ve had my share, but they’ve been on the itsy bitsy teensy weensy side. What I found sleeping aside my toilet was something with a wingspan similar to a Boeing 757. I’m also pretty sure I saw a logo on its back.
Once my heartrate returned to a normal clip, I peeked back into the bathroom (which took coaxing from a friend I called) to see if my unwanted roommate was still there. She was, and what’s more, she was on her back. Phew, I thought, dead. I grabbed a newspaper and shoveled her into a plastic bag, then made a special trip down five flights to the garbage bins. Walking back up I spied another whopper of a cockroach – it too, on its back – dead, on the second floor stairwell. Are you kidding me? I said out loud to no one in particular and made a note to call the landlord’s exterminator. In the meantime I needed to pass and was too creeped out to step over the little guy, so I nudged it with my sneaker. When he (yes, I’m pretty sure this one was a male) landed on his feet, he started to sprint as though he were running the 4×4 relay in the Olympics. Before I could catch my breath, he crawled under the door of 2B. Mouth agape, I bolted up the stairs to the safety (so I chose to believe) of my apartment, slammed and locked the door, and called my friend back.
“But he was on his back!” I said. “Doesn’t that mean dead?”
“Oh no,” said my friend nonchalantly, “cockroaches are like turtles, they can’t flip themselves over.”
My skin started to crawl. I pictured my earlier scenario and me scooping up what I thought was a ginormous dead cockroach, only now, the same scenario had the roach jumping onto me. Not pretty.
One of the drawbacks of living in a 90 square foot apartment is that the smallness of the surroundings can make something quite little appear much larger than it really is.