It was late and I was lying shirtless on my uncarpeted linoleum tile floor, screwing around on the computer. In the periphery of my vision I saw movement and with a slight shift of my eyeballs, I noticed there was a cockroach chillin’ out by my side. He wasn’t huge, which I hear would define the unwanted resident as a water bug and not a cockroach, but he wasn’t tiny enough to be “cute” by default, , which is the general case for all creatures from land and sea.
If you saw a full-grown lion in the forest, you would high-tale it out of there as fast as you could. Same Greenpeace “Save The Rainforests” expedition and you see a cub lion, you would hug and squeeze it like a stuffed toy, while looking around to make sure it’s mother was nowhere in sight!
I usually catch and throw any cockroaches I see out my window, an animal rights dilemma that basically says, “I’m not going to kill you, as all creatures have the right to live—now out into the snow to freeze to death, you little bugger!” I have been making an exception for some small cockroaches that move very slowly, in part because I have yet to transcend the instinctual human trait of being freaked out by fast moving vermin. But I also have hopes to become a saner Dr. Moreau and, through selective breading, create a future generation of cockroaches in my apartment that are very easy to catch and throw out the window.
I never spare a bigger cockroach because these bigger bugs are like Arnold from Different Strokes after he outgrew his cuteness factor and they had to bring in a smaller child called Sam to fill the vacuum. This is called “The Oliver Factor,” named after the character Oliver who came onto The Brady Bunch after the youngest boy and girl grew past cute and into what Michael Jackson would call a CILF (figure it out). But this little bugger was different than any cockroach with which I have ever interacted.
He stood right by me, in part because cockroaches don’t have a bendable hip to facilitate sitting. I brought a finger close to him and this didn’t faze him in the least. His two flailing antennae were whipping around his head like Bruce Lee doing nunchukus. I ended up touching his antennae—and he didn’t move! From one who has been studying cockroaches unscientifically for years now, let me just tell you, this doesn’t happen.
Apparently, in a manner similar to the experimental spirit of a ham radio enthusiast, he had converted his antennae from acting as a radar to sense danger, into the equivalence of a dog’s tail, to wag in delight. Now I know the cynic in you may be considering a more obvious explanation for the cause of his docility, like too many hits on the Raid nozzle, but how about if we just stay out of our heads for a second and just say that he was a friendly chap. If you don’t buy this premise, I’ll never be able to convince you of the proceeding dialogue.
“Hello,” said the friendly cockroach and if he were human I think he might have tipped his top hat and offered me tea and crumpets.
“I’ve never seen a cockroach like you, so friendly and approachable,” I said in amazement.
Referring to my finger he said, “While I’m not a mammal but rather an arthropod, I can imagine this is what it feels like to be pet. Rather nice, I would add.”
I lowered my finger and he crawled onto it, not in a making a dash for the jugular sort of way but more with a “Beam me up, Scotty” excitement for being transported with little effort. He turned around and I lowered my finger and he crawled back down to the floor.
“That was fun but I get a mild unsettled stomach when I am elevated and so have to limit my high-altitude crawling,” he said, then queried, “What are you doing?”
“Looking at girls’ pictures online. Nothing perverted, mind you,” I explained.
“And what is the jar of baby oil and tissues in arm’s reach for?” he asked.
“I have dry skin and sometimes cry watching YouTube videos,” I responded, like a perverted Nixon who had just tried to sell the lie, “I am not a masturbator!” He turned to the screen and watched with me. He stayed still and silent and after awhile I said, as much out of interest out of fear that he was bored, “Do you see anyone you like?”
He said, “I liked you right away.”
“No, I mean on the computer!” I laughed.
“I don’t really have a sense of what is physically appealing in humans. I get more a sense of their energy and am not picking anything up from the pictures on the screen. I was just enjoying sitting with you and basking in the light. Your energy is very peaceful and loving.”
I put my finger down again and he climbed aboard. After a three-second ride, he turned around and I brought him down. While we were certainly no Abbot and Costello, we seemed to have a routine going at this point. He then walked under the overhang of my leg down to my knee and back up to my chest and then hung out again while I watched him.
“You’re much more interesting to me than any pictures on the computer,” I said. Shifting my weight and sitting up, I shut down the computer and said, “I should be going to bed now. But I’ll hang out with you as long as you’d like.”
“What’s that?” he said looking past me.
“That’s my dog.”
“No, not the dog. I know what a dog is. What is the circular thing underneath her?”
“It’s just a pad she likes to lay on,” I said, not really seeing the appeal.
“I’m going to check it out,” he said. And he was off. He had a kind of waddle as he ran to it like a human clumsily seeking shelter from a rainstorm under a store awning.
I came over and lifted the edge of the pad a little, as he was hard to see where he was. Seeing he was good on his own I said, “I’m going to hit the hay. You’re welcome to hang out here, or anywhere else for that matter. I kind of prefer you stay out of the bedroom, though, as I don’t generally like insect company in my room when I’m sleeping. Please don’t take any offense by that. A few pesky mosquitoes ruined it for the rest of you.”
“No offense taken,” he said, neither losing his courtesy or his smile. “Those mosquitoes are the ones who earned us the epithet ‘pests.’ I certainly understand your perceived need for a hard and fast rule governing all traffic both aerial and pedestrial.” This friendly cockroach was starting to become downright charming!
“One thing I’m curious about, though,” I started. “Most, with few exceptions, of the cockroaches I have seen in my apartment have been in the kitchen. What brought you into the living room area?”
“They are looking for food. I was looking for you. Food is in the kitchen. You are here.” Stated so simply and clear, like a spiritual master cutting through all the flowery language of religion that keeps people separated from Truth.
“I hope I see you again,” I said. “But how will I recognize you? No offense, but you all look somewhat alike to me.”
“I’ll overlook your speciesism as just an underdeveloped sense of perception. Your eyes aren’t refined enough yet. But if you look beyond my exoskeleton with your heart, you will know. I’ll also be the only cockroach who walks right up to you and says hello,” he added with a smile.
Before my head hit the pillow, I glanced over at my altar and thought, “Osho, Jesus, Buddha, Babaji, Lokenath—these guys have nothing on my little friend in the other room with the mild case of altitude sickness.”