“What is that, Mama My?” Faith’s worried voice floated out from the bathroom where I’ve sent her to wash her hands before coming to the dinner table.
I stuck my head in the bathroom. “What’s what?”
“There,” Faith’s gaze was fixed on the wall near the door, her forehead was furrowed with undefined fear. I followed her gaze and nearly gave a yelp. Crawling on six obscene hairy legs, its long antennae contaminating the path it aimed to follow, was a cockroach. A dark, smelly, scary, aberration of Creation cockroach.
Kill it, kill it before it gets you!!! A hysterical voice yammered in my head.
But the little girl looked at me, eyes wide with the innocent trust. Water slowly cascaded from the faucet to her palms, washing the suds of Palmolive soap to their subterannean grave past the drain; she was confident that I could explain the cockroach away. I could have easily taken a slipper and whacked the the disgusting thing flat and pasted its entrails on the wall as food for other members of the animal kingdom. But it was only that morning that I gave a self-righteous lecture to the little girl about us humans who are bigger than most things so we don’t harm the smaller things like ants and caterpillars and spiders and lizards.
Uggh. Uggh. I hate these things. I remembered a twelve-year-old version of myself cowering inside the closet one night because a cockroach flew into the room and landed on my pillow. I hid in the closet the entire night, fighting sleep, crying, sweating and shaking in terror because of the evil many-legged horror that wanted to be my bedmate.
Back to the present night in question. Moments passed and Faith was beginning to get anxious that I did nothing to the roach.
And the roach swaggered-scuttled nearer, knowing that it had an ally in Faith.
“Here, baby, splash water on it,” I finally decided, scooping water from the still-flowing faucet and poured it over the roach. It stopped on its tracks.
“We don’t kill it, Mama My, it’s smaller than us,” Faith said, reminding me of my injuction that morning.
I assured her we won’t but proceeded to splash more water on the thing until it fell to the floor. I tipped the half-filled pail, and a deluge washed the roach to the gaping maw of the drain.
“It’s going home to its family,” I told Faith, who calmy stood by as the roach disappeared, swallowed by the black hole.
I followed the little girl back to the kitchen where dinner waited.
In a little while, my heartbeat returned to normal.