I saw a roach on the back patio the other day. It was early in the morning, and I spotted it through the sliding-glass door as I was about to step outside to feed Salem. It was at a glance and without my glasses, but there was no mistaking the narrow, orangish-brown oblong shape on its back with its legs tangled in the air and long antennae flat on the concrete. The sight of it threw me into a panic. I wouldn’t be able to avert my eyes. I wouldn’t be able to walk around it and pretend that it wasn’t there. It was right in front of Salem’s bowl. It was exactly where I’d have to crouch down to scoop out her food.
Here in Phoenix Metro, this is how we know it’s officially summer. It gets hot, and the large roaches come out at night. This one was dead because I have Creepy Crawley come out regularly to spray. Not that it matters. They freak me out when they’re dead as much as they do when they’re alive. As far as I’m concerned, roaches are nature’s abomination. Something has to be, right?
I stayed in the house and thought about what to do, and then I braced myself to carry out my plan, which would be to sweep the roach away from the area without looking at it. I knew that some amount of looking at it would be necessary, but I figured if I could glance down quickly, just once, just enough to position the broom where it needed to be, then I could follow through with the sweeping motion without looking.
It’s internal chaos with this paralyzing phobia. I could feel my heart pounding my stomach into knots as I stepped outside. My lungs were afraid to breathe, and the crawling sensation on my lower legs made it hard to move. But my baby was hungry, and I had to get ready for work. There was no time for messing around.
I gripped the broom with both hands and stretched my arms out to their fullest extent so I could stand as far away from the roach as possible, then glanced down quickly, lowered the broom to where I thought it needed to be, and swept. It didn’t work the first time, but the second time, I stepped back and bent forward to get a better reach with more accuracy (should I take up golf?) and executed a more forceful sweep. The roach went flying out of the patio area and onto the path leading to the back gate.
Sitting off to the side, Salem, who’d been watching me intently, followed the roach’s trajectory with her eyes and pounced on it. This actually gladdened my heart. Another sign of Salem’s transformation from feral to domesticated! She’d been playing with her toys in the laundry room for months. I’ve found them all over the place, even outside of the laundry room, but for her to actively engage with me while playing would be taking it to the next level. It would be another milestone in her development!
With this thought in mind, I was able to feed Salem with a little happiness to take the edge off the horror. But dismay lingered in my mind for the next few days as I contemplated the issue of roaches outside on the hot summer nights.
Because my habit is to go out to the backyard every night to be with the stars and the moon and the planets. Going outside at night to gaze at the celestial bodies while bonding with Salem is the highlight of my day. How was I going to manage it with the roaches out there, too?
At first, I thought I’d just have to stop doing it. I couldn’t see bonding with the stars and the moon and Salem AND THE ROACHES. The idea of standing out there with roaches skittering around was pure nightmare fuel.
But in the end, I was not going to let the roaches keep me inside and away from my beloved night sky and sweet daughter of the night. And that is why there’s now a pair of combat boots in the basket by the sliding-glass door. I have an official uniform for summer nighttime skygazing: jeans tucked into combat boots with whatever t-shirt. It makes me feel safer.
Salem seemed disappointed when she found a roach rather than an actual toy, but when I got home from work that day, the roach was gone. Either she’d deigned to play with it, or a bird had come to take it away. Either way, good riddance.