Correspondence from Chicago

by Sophie Johnson – Chicago, Illinois

As much as I try, I simply can’t get behind cockroaches.

I take that back. I haven’t technically dealt with cockroaches, according to the (useless) exterminator who visited my apartment three weeks ago; I have been dealing with American waterbugs. In my opinion, American waterbugs are, in fact, worse than cockroaches for two reasons: first, I’m convinced that they are bigger than cockroaches (research would refute me here, but I refuse to believe that any insect could possibly get larger than these things that crawl around my apartment); second, cockroaches don’t make me wish I were dead. At least, not as of yet.

The first waterbug in our Hyde Park apartment was discovered approximately four weeks ago by my roommate Juell. Juell screamed like she was having her feet cut off.

“What the hell?” I asked her.

“There is a mother-fucking roach behind my mother-fucking bed.” I looked behind the bed, but there was nothing to be found. “That fucker was fast!” I was convinced she probably imagined it. Nevertheless, Juell insisted on sleeping on the living room couch until the cockroach was uncovered and annihilated.

That lasted a few days—until Glendon (another apartment-mate) discovered a cockroach scuttling along the kitchen sink. Then reports started to come in from everyone in the apartment of roaches crawling out from under dirty dishes, the recycling bins, the fireplace. I saw my first one in the bathroom right as I was turning on the shower. Now, I barely let my own boyfriend see me naked; what right did this cockroach think it had to stare at me in my birthday suit like that? These fuckers had to go.

Easier said than done. We called the exterminator—a man with a ratty ponytail and a plumber’s crack who smelled like compost and pepperoni-flavored Combos. He put some red gel in all the sinks and swore that would stop the problem.

It didn’t. A week later, I found no fewer than four of the “waterbugs” upside-down (but alive) in the kitchen. I begged Glendon to step on them, which he was glad to do because he’s a boy and boys like making living things crunch.

Before I go further, there are a few things about cockroaches (closely related to waterbugs) that you should know. First of all, they are meant to live in tropical and subtropical climates, which Chicago in October certainly is not. They do not like the cold, which Chicago in October very much is. Their solution, then, is to find their way into Chicago apartments to get out of the cold and infest our places of living. I guess that’s resourceful of them, but annoying.

Second, it is important for us to recognize that cockroaches do not usually die on their backs in the wild. They are just not used to living on slippery floors, so they fall and cannot right themselves without debris around to grab hold of using their legs. And then they starve. And die.

These are important lessons for us to learn because they teach us irrefutably that cockroaches did not evolve to live in a place like Chicago. I simply cannot understand how they got here, or why. My mom says it’s because long ago people used to keep them as pets, but that got a little out of control, and now they’re running rampant in big cities. If this is true (and it seems unlikely), I must raise the question: WHY? Why on earth would you ever want to keep one of these repugnant, evolutionarily useless creatures in captivity? What could you ever hope to gain from such an action?

Now, I’m a Unitarian Universalist vegan. I am an example of nature’s most spineless, vulnerable, and blubbery. I’m the kind of person who is always saying shit like “Love everyone and everything. Give peace a chance. Hate is not the answer. Try to see things from someone else’s perspective.” If there were anyone in the world to find something good about cockroaches, it would be me. I can find the good in most naturally occurring things: spiders, rats, worms, even the neglected and reviled maggot.

But not cockroaches. Seriously. They’re too robust for their own good. It’s dangerous. They are almost certainly going to take over the world someday in the near future, and I’m going to say, “I told you so.”

It’s about time we voted these mother-fuckers off this island called Earth once and for all. And we should start the cockroach genocide in Chicago. I am not interested in watching another cockroach, waterbug, or any other creepy, reddish, antennae-bearing insect make a home in my apartment ever again. It has far outrun its novelty. The roach has got to go.

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