I have never lived with bugs before. At least not the kind of bugs I seem to be shacking up with now. This morning my wife opened a box and was startled to find a cockroach the size of her thumb inside. As if a surprise like this would not be enough for a delicate heart- the cockroach proceeded to spread its wings and fly away! When my wife came to me in a fit of exasperated panic and said “honey, the cockroaches fly,” all I could do was look at her and then ask my omniscient God….. “why?” Maybe it is my karma, or simply the way my deck of cards have been dealt- but flying cockroaches….common. Fifteen years ago my father and I stayed at a remote Mexican fishing village, where we spent our days fishing and drinking Pacifico beer. On the second night when both my father and I discovered flying cockroaches in our hotel room we packed our bags and left for an upscale hotel that was a moderate airplane ride away. I grew up in a family that detested bugs, did whatever they could to keep bugs astray- and now I have found myself in the nexus, sexus and plexus of a bug haven.
My small home sits on a rose lined corner where a busy cross section funnels and filters cars, cyclists, skateboarders and buses like a large liver. From the outside, my home looks like a normal lower middle class home. My wife and I have done much work on the garden that surrounds our home and we have wind chimes and a sitting Buddha out front that helps give the appearance of tranquility. However, if you dare to venture up a bit closer to our house you may get a quick glimpse of the various bug kingdoms that live within. On the doorway you may find a mass of ants or fallen moths, on the windows a slew of centipedes, in the garage an assortment of cockroaches and mice, and if you enter into our backyard you may behold the greatest spectacle of all- the bitchy black widows.
Upon renting our serene home in the country, the landlord failed to mention that we would be sharing the home with bugs. I have occasionally considered calling the landlord and cursing him to hell with regards to leaving this important detail out- but then I remember my spiritual vow of remaining loving, accepting and kind to all (this vow was not made with any particular religious denomination in mind. Instead, I made this vow simply to help myself along in my quest for inner peace). However, I must admit, that this vow has been difficult to keep considering the circumstances. Prior to moving into our home in the country I would abstain from killing bugs. I believed (and still believe) that all life is holy holy holy so I abstained from taking any form of life. Now I am a hypocrite and a murder. I cannot refrain myself from killing bugs. It is the only action that I can take in my defense. I indignantly spray ants and cockroaches until they curl up and die. I squash anything tendril legged that comes near my shoe. I swat flies and flying beetles with books or magazines and I have even managed to crush a few life threatening black widows with a large rock. And then when I am done, I am surprised to find that I have no shame. I go about my business with the satisfied feeling that I have made the world a little safer for all of us.
My wife tells me that I need to make friends with nature and co-exist peacefully with all its slithering creatures. She also tells me that in the end nature will always win “so just let the poor bugs be.” What she fails to understand is that I am a man who grew up in a white walled and white-carpeted suburban mansion that had zero tolerance for the existence of any bug. My parents hired a bug specialist to keep bugs away and some of my most bleak childhood memories are of this “specialist” dressed in an orange jumpsuit taking away boxes, cages and traps filled with dead bugs. I never had to fear waking up in the middle of the night and crossing paths with a cockroach or going into my kitchen and stumbling upon a rat. When I recently admitted to my father that I moved into a place that is infested with bugs I listened to his bitter testimony of a long gone youth spent squashing cockroaches and chasing rats. It is almost as if he was saying good for you son, now you get to know what it is like to live with bugs. Maybe it will make you into more of a man. I found myself getting irritated with his passive implications and in my defense I wanted to say, it is not my fault that I have this aversion to bugs. It is because of the home that you chose to raise me in. However, since my new path to enlightenment demands that I be kind and loving towards all beings (except bugs) I listen to his stories and try hard to make him feel loved.
It is difficult getting used to living with bugs. The strange sounds in the walls when I am trying to sleep, the awkward noises on my floor and window when I am trying to silently write or read, the strange antennas crawling out from my showerhead when I go to take a shower- all unnerve me. This is no easy feat for someone who already has fragile nerves. I have noticed that my consumption of alcohol has increased in order to mitigate the anxiety that comes along with sharing my home with creatures from the underworld. Last night while I was lying in bed what sounded like a tap dancer with claws frantically scratched its way around inside my walls. It would claw, tap, crawl and then stop to catch its breath before moving on. I looked at my wife and said “what the fuck is that?” but being more consumed by sleep than I (and less concerned), all she could say was “just let it be.” Even though every part of my body wanted to jolt out of bed and get the creature out of my walls- my mind just kept repeating let it be as I lye with the blanket pulled up to my chin listening to the varmint crawl. Eventually all three of us fell asleep and in the morning when I awoke it seemed as if the creature was gone.
Today the landlord has come to our home with some laborers to help take away a mass of cut wood that is littered all over our backyard. “You pay the rent and I’ll get rid of the spiders,” he said to me with a confused smile on his face. Yesterday, my wife called him to ask what can be done about the black widows all over the backyard (who have my cat and I so scared that we refuse to venture “into the outback”). The landlord’s response was that he would get rid of the wood, branches and ivy (where he says black widows like to hide), which he thought should mitigate the amount spiders we come across. My wife and I have spent most of today in our front yard (while our landlord wages a holocaust in back) where we planted a variety of different kinds of summer flowers (all of which are known to be favorites of the deceased writer, Edger Allen Poe). I feel good planting in the sun, allowing my skin to tan as my hands get covered with the earth. There is nothing like digging in the dirt to take one’s mind away from all of the anxiety and unease that seems to come with life. I can spend hours in the garden forgetting where I am in space and time, happy to be alive and mindful of every breath I take. And then I come inside for some water or lemonade and suddenly I am confronted with a bug.