Yesterday, while Henry was napping, I was leaving my bedroom (where I work) to get a glass of water from the kitchen (where I obtain glasses of water), and there, on the floor in our hallway, was a waterbug.
For those of you lucky to never have experienced the unique horrors of the waterbug, let me tell you a little story. Once there was a cockroach who grew to monstrous proportions—say, 3-4 inches in length, 1-2 inches in width--with long spiny scrabbly legs and fucking WINGS that enabled it to FLUTTER ABOUT sickeningly and make Alice SCREAM HER HEAD OFF.
Basically, yeah, they’re gigantic, meaty cockroaches, that live in the basements and walls of NYC apartment buildings, and emerge periodically from the slimmest of cracks in the walls or around fixtures to die. It is their dying wish that before they expire, they watch humans scream and flail their limbs. Smelling our fear, they can finally die in peace. Fuckers.
So this waterbug was, thank God, on its back, which meant it had breathed its last putrid, breath, and had joined its ancestors on the shorelines of the River Styx. I ran to the kitchen to unroll the entire paper towel roll. You see, when picking up a dead waterbug—which I have done exactly one other time, and that was only because my cat had dissected it and I didn’t realize that the giant bug I thought I was picking up was actually the TORSO of a waterbug, but where was its head, OH GOD WHERE WAS ITS HEAD—sorry. Where was I? Yes. When picking up a dead waterbug, it is essential that you avoid being able to feel any of its contours or textures, be it the chitinous exoskeleton or its meaty underbelly with the legs GET IT OFF ME! GET IT OFF—
Okay. So you don’t want to feel it, because then you risk dropping it in horror, and then you risk it landing somewhere on your person, and that as we all know leads to death, because there’s no reason to live once that happens. So you get a whole roll of paper towels, wrap them around your hand so that you have created a Paper Mitt of Protection, and you lean over carefully, and quickly scoop it up, hoping that it wasn’t only pretending to be dead.
Which this one was. Pretending, that is. To be dead.
When I touched the thing with my PMoP, it flipped over and ran right at me, over my toes, and past me.
Let me repeat: Over my toes. My toes. Right over them.
It blindly skittered around my hallway, attempting to climb the walls, falling back, fluttering in the air for a sickening moment or two, and then climbing again. Meanwhile, I was in the kitchen, doing my best imitation of Lucy Ricardo when she had just had a waterbug's legs ambling across her toenails. What, you never saw that episode? It's a hoot, my friend. As you probably guessed, Ricky saves the day.
Now, I have never actually killed one of these things. When I lived alone, I simply ran from my home, screaming, and hoped that when I returned, it would either be 1) dead or 2) gone. As long as I have lived with my husband, he has usually been home when a waterbug has emerged for its Make a Wish Foundation moment, because I made sure I always had a JOB, so I would be out of the house as much as possible, thus limiting my chances of exposure.
That’s how much I hate these things. I would rather spend my days in a cubicle—a nice, vermin-free cubicle—then risk encountering a waterbug. This is how sick I am. Now you know.
So! What with this gargantuan insect rushing about inside my house, I got busy! Making calls! First I called my friend Sarah, who wasn’t home. My hysterical message provided hours of entertainment at her house, I'm sure. Then I called some neighbors! Maybe they were sitting on their couches, hands folded in their laps, waiting for me to call and invite them over for some cockroach-smushing! Nope, they weren’t! Then I called my husband, who was no help at all. "Kill it!" he said, somewhat obviously.
I got out some roach spray that has been under our sink from before we moved in. Using every ounce of guts I had left, I got close enough to the thing, who was now running! Everywhere! Trying! To find! An exit! and I pressed down the nozzle—only to see that the can had no pressure left at all. Still I kept pressing, and the roach spray drip-driip-dripped down on the waterbug, who began to slow down, and then flipped over on its back to wave every single one of its horrible legs at me, and then died.
And then I ran away again. Then I went back. Then I ran away.
Finally, I managed to get it. I got it. It’s gone. But there will be another one. There’s always another one.