I have a true fear, disgust and hatred for roaches. Unlike most women, I’m not the girly girl type who screams bloody murder and stands on a chair yelling for help. I tend to believe that my fear is somewhat rational and justified. This however, does not help me overcome it, instead helps me rationalize and embrace the phobia.
When I was about 4 years old, my mother would leave me at Ms Louise’s house. She was my babysitter for a number of years as a child. Although my memory of her is very limited, there are a few things I remember very vividly. Ms Louise was probably in her 40s, living alone, in her tiny house in a somewhat shady part of town. She kept several of us including a few infants. I remember she was a plump woman with a kind face and very long mostly gray hair.
For some reason, Ms Louise used to bathe me. Thinking back on it now as an adult, I find this strange and I have this sudden impulse to call my mother and ask her why (at 11:50pm). However, she did. I do not recall this being a daily event. Quite possibly, I was a dirty child and she was merely attempting to clean me up before my mother took me home and probably bathed me again. I think I’m putting way too much thought into this right now!
So, at a young age of maybe 3 or 4, I was receiving a bath from Ms Louise. She would draw the bath water, set me in it and give me toys to keep me content. She stayed in the next room for a while folding laundry or cleaning something while I amused myself. My imagination has always been well developed since I am an only child. Ms Louise would then wander back in and do the hair-washing, bathing part and take me out and dry me off.
This particular bath day was not unlike any other. I was playing alone in the tub, when all of the sudden I screamed as loud as I could. A big, ugly, black, gross, disgusting, filthy, repulsive, nasty cockroach was now in my bathwater. Ms Louise RAN into the bathroom to find me pointing from the back of the bathtub at the uninvited guest. She yanked me from the water, wrapped me in a towel and threw me onto her bed in two seconds flat. I’m sure that unfortunate roach suffered a horrible death shortly after.
I really don’t know why I retain the most asinine of memories from my childhood as this one is definitely unique. Nevertheless, I find it strange that I can’t tell you anything about a movie I just saw last week but I can recall that event like it was yesterday.
Flash forward to the age of 16. My mother and I were living together in a condo she had purchased a few years prior. We each had our own bedroom and bathroom. Hers was the master bedroom with the bathroom attached. My room was right next to hers (darn the luck!) and my bathroom was across the hall. At this point, I was responsible for keeping that bathroom clean and the litterbox scooped that was in MY bathroom. It’s her cat and yet his litterbox was in my bathroom. Life is so fair when you’re a teenager. This was the bathroom that our “guests” used. I use that term loosely as not many people really came by to see us. Basically I kept that bathroom clean for her peace of mind and to keep her off my back.
Every morning, I had a routine. The very first thing I would do (after hitting snooze at least 7 times) was run directly across the hall to my bathroom and start my day. This consisted of brushing teeth and hair and of course peeing. Afterwards, I would stumble back into my room get dressed and walk out the door. My entire process took something like 15 minutes.
One morning I finally dragged myself out of bed after the constant yelling of my name. I got up, tripped across the floor and stumbled into my bathroom.
My mother and I had been fighting the night before, I cannot recall the issue of that night as there was no telling with the two of us. Slamming doors and cussing were completely off limits in my house. Either of the previous mentioned felonies would warrant me 2 weeks or better of being grounded (ie stuck in the house with her).
I managed to get to the door of the bathroom and my worst nightmare struck. Right there in the middle of the floor, a seemingly dead roach. When you have a phobia as great as mine, you tend to learn more about it so that you can at least attempt to react correctly when faced with it. Therefore, I knew from past experience that just because this roach is laying in my floor all dead looking, does in no way mean he’s actually dead.
“Mommy, can you come here please” I said very sweetly.
“What!?” she shot back, sounding VERY perturbed.
“Could you please come get this roach off the bathroom floor?” I asked, …again trying to be as nice as I could.
I had not forgotten that I was mad at her. Rather, I really needed to use the toilet and this roach was making me do the pee-pee dance at the doorway of my very own bathroom.
My mother, not fooled by my sugar-coated tone, refused to come get the roach for me. All she had to do was, walk in the bathroom with some tissue, gather his carcass and flush his nasty ass down the toilet!! I began to get even more angry with her.
“Mom will you PLEASE come get the roach I really need to use the restroom” I pleaded.
“Go in there with some tissue, get a hand-full if you have to, gather it up and flush it down the toilet!, jeez you’re not a child anymore!” she snarled.
“Mom, I just CAN’T do it, please come in here and get rid of it for me, I’m desperate” was my reply.
“What if it’s not really dead yet?” I added.
“Fine, grab a shoe and the toilet paper, go in there hit the roach with the shoe so you know it’s dead and flush it down the toilet” she yelled.
So, to humor her, I marched back into my room, grabbed my combat boot (the best weapon I thought!), marched right back into the doorway of my bathroom and stared at the roach. I got about one foot away and tried my best to make my hand (which was in the boot at this point) forcefully come down and hit this “dead” roach. I had a HUGE wad of toilet paper (which I had to steal from HER bathroom as the roach was blocking the way to my very own roll toilet paper gently hanging from its holder) in my left hand and the combat boot in my right hand. Honestly, I tried to muster up the courage to stomp this roach with my boot and failed miserably.
“Mom I can’t do it, I can’t squash it, will you PUH-LEASE come in here at get this roach!!” I yelled at the verge of tears.
“No!” she screamed.
“Fine I just won’t go to the bathroom or brush my teeth before school then!” I retorted. Yeah that’ll get her! That’s more money she’ll have to pay to my dentist this year. My eyes were beginning to well up with tears as I stood staring at this roach in bathroom my floor.
“PICK UP THE DAMN ROACH!” she screamed. Now, my mother NEVER cussed at me. When I say never, I really mean never.
“NO!!!” I screamed right back at her.
“FINE” she yelled.
“FINE!” I hollered.
With that, I stomped back to my bedroom and slammed the door as hard as I could.
About five minutes later, my mother was knocking on my door. Another cardinal rule in our house, if you need to enter someone else’s room you ALWAYS knock first. Even she abided by this one.
“What?” I shouted. By this point I didn’t even want to speak to her much less have her open that door.
She knocked again.
“Ma’am” I said sarcastically. Another rule of her house, when she addressed me I was to respond with ma’am. A simple “what” was not sufficient because she is my mother and she deserves respect.
The door flung open and I saw my mother standing with her arms on her hips.
“The big bad roach is gone, you can go to the bathroom now” she said sarcastically.
“Thanks” I said softly.