Consider the Roach
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Consider the Roach
I just slew a bug. First of the season. It raced across the carpet the moment I switched on the light. I was instantly on my knees and searching wildly for a weapon. I ended up smushing it with my fist. Not a noble kill, but I got the job done.
I hate cockroaches. I admit it. Their hairy legs. Their waving antennae. Their shiny carapaces. Gack, my spine writhes just typing those words. Roaches don't disgust me, though, or gross me out. Who cares if they eat garbage? My reaction is sharper than "ick," more piercing, like how some people shudder when they hear nails scrape a chalkboard.
Maybe it's the speed. If a roach ambled, I could handle it. How can a bug that size move so fast? If you don't crush a roach immediately, it slips away like a drop of grease and wedges itself into some crevasse the width of a dime. You'll see the bug again, of course, when you least expect it, probably sometime late at night when you get up to pee.
Or maybe it's the intelligence. Flies are annoying simpletons. Butterflies are their pleasanter cousins. Spiders keep to themselves. Ladybugs always oblige. Roly-polys wonder what happened. Cockroaches? They scheme. A roach will test the air for danger, like a tiger, then slip out under cover of darkness, sharp feet tapping the ground. Tick-tick-tick-tick, pause. The long antennae wave. Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. As this hilarious and humbling article puts it, "They creep up on you."
Wikipedia tells me that there are thirty-six hundred species of cockroaches, the largest of which is almost four inches long and the heaviest of which weighs more than a double-A battery. The English name is a corruption of the Spanish cucaracha. Most languages capitalize on the cockroach's love of decay and general grossness: blatta (Latin), cafard (French), scarafaggio (Italian), kakkalakki (Icelandic). Different species have different habits. The German cockroach (which you can find here in the US) is social and loves to cram its aunts, uncles, and forty-two cousins into as many areas of your home as it can. Fortunately, you can tell when you have an infestation of German roaches because their feces leave a strong odor. Lovely...
Why am I so afraid of that which God called good? Because my tastes are still being formed. May I one day accept this fascinating, horrifying creature so that I can say, with Rachel, God hath taken away my repROACH. (It had to be done, sorry.)
Reading: David Foster Wallace's Both Flesh and Not
Watching: The Spanish Prisoner, the first Mamet film I ever saw
Thursday’s newsletter will be devoted to your replies to this question.
What is something you have an irrational fear of?
Time’s Corner is written by Christian Leithart, who teaches at a classical Christian school in Birmingham, Alabama. You can subscribe or read previous issues online. To add extra balderdash to this baloney sandwich, visit his blog.