– and what I learned about myself from it.
I was feeling particularly smug about life that morning. I’d hopped out of bed with that feeling I sometimes get: the relish of living alone in my little flat and the freedom I have to do whatever I damn well please – like eating Reeses Cups for breakfast – because I’m a grown-ass-woman and I can take care of myself. Smugly smug smug. And that morning I was going to take care of myself via yoga in my PJs.
I like a bit of morning yoga; I open the curtains and go through a couple of sets in the sunshine. I like the feeling when I’m done and I’m a bit sweaty and my muscles have gone all shaky. I feel like I’ve done something good for my body but also nice and balanced and peaceful and, to be honest, even more smug.
So, this particular morning, I open my curtains and a massive winged cockroach flutters out. It stutters, falters and crashes drunkenly down on my bedside table and I SHRIEK and fling myself across the room. A proportionate response, I’m sure you’ll agree. Here I stand – panting – and consider my options.
I’m not sure where it landed exactly; it could be down behind the dresser or it could have fallen amongst the teddies who inhabit its surface. (A rag-tag bunch, they include Claude the French Christmas bear, Margery the floppy dog who insists on wearing broken aviator shades, and Space Bunny.) I’m scared that if I go over to investigate, it’ll fly out from among them into my face.
In order to ascertain its roachy whereabouts, I decide to send in an advance guard. Lionel, a beany-bottomed lion, is perpetually grumpy and this will do nothing to lift his mood, but there’s nothing for it. I hurl him into the midst of his furry colleagues. No movement. Not a flutter. And suddenly I am very aware of myself, throwing teddies across the room, because I’m scared of a bug.
I gird my loins and approach with caution. On closer inspection, the roach is indeed crouching behind the dresser and it occurs to me that even if I get him out in the open, I need an exit strategy. I open my window and aim the fan at it, wondering if he will get caught in the slipstream and just be wafted out.
That’s IT! I’ll just leave everything like this, go to work, and he’ll make his own way out.
Wait, no. What if I get home and he’s not there, I won’t know if he’s gone or merely lurking somewhere else, like my pillow case. No. I must deal with this now, like an adult. I get the broom.
After a rescue mission in which my fluffy friends are gingerly airlifted to the relative safety of the bed (Lionel eyes me with even deeper disdain), I hover uncertainly, with a broom handle pointing down behind the dresser. Nope, I can’t do it. My aim is terrible and I anticipate the scuttling. Shudder. ‘Aha!’ thinks I, ‘Bug spray!’ I grab the massive can under the sink, shake it thoroughly, aim it down the back of the dresser and let him have it. Scuttle scuttle scuttle! Unngghhhhhh.
So now I’m chasing him; he isn’t flying, thank fuck – he’s definitely already pretty busted, but fuck me, the fucker can scuttle. The spray is puttering but I keep it trained on him doggedly, round the bed, across the floor and almost to the rug where he gives up and collapses, legs in the air, twitching. I scoop him up with a post card, dump him out the window and slam it shut. And now I too collapse in a sweaty, shaky heap. The irony is not lost on me that the very yogic effect I enjoy so much was this morning achieved by something so un-zen as killing a fellow living creature. With poison – the weapon, as they say, of women.
As it turn out then, I am a grown woman, who lives alone and takes care of business; I can take care of myself and my home… by offing, in the most cowardly fashion, a tiny, injured creature that had infinitely more cause to be afraid of me, given he was entirely less well armed.
I am not so smug anymore.