So I put down my fork and very quietly alerted Ryan to the presence of this interloper among our onions and peppers. He leaned over to check it out for himself, still chewing, and I could see the same thought process play out in his head. Then he leaned back in his chair, eyes wide and face blank, swallowed and coughed and sort of laughed, and starting whistling La Cucaracha. So I said, “Ryan,” in still a very quiet but URGENT tone, a tone that said, “Perhaps you do not understand that I am doing a remarkable job of holding my shit together at this moment, but on the inside, I am a woman in turmoil, a woman who is seconds away from being COMPLETELY UNABLE TO DEAL with the current situation, and I am begging you as my friend to please, please do something before I freak the fuck out.”
Our first domicile was definitely la cucaracha hotel. One bedroom high rise, with hardwood floors and a decent sized kitchen. Nice enough, except for "the races". You see, at night, if you wanted a glass of milk or something, you had to go into the kitchen. We made sure a can of RAID was within easy reach. So at 2 am, in the whiskey-brown light of the streetlamps below, you could grab it without thinking. Hit the kitchen light switch and they're off. I think the best I ever did was 15. Ellen, who is slightly less flipped out by bugs than I am, I think once got 30.
But that's not the best bug story we have from the old apartment. When we were dating, Ellen had come down from New York for a late-summer visit. We'd done the romantic thing, parking the Alfa in old town and taking dinner and the ol' ghost tour. We'd been back for a good fifteen minutes, and as I walked into the kitchen (to open a bottle of wine) Ellen, who was pulling open the shades on the otherwise spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows, suddenly jumped up on the air conditioner vent* and started screaming and pointing at the door.
I turned and looked at what must have been Satan's own chitinous pet. Swear to God, the thing must've been six, eight inches long, with a yellow banded cylindrical body and flicking long black legs. It looked like a self-propelled banana with a balance problem. It's been nearly ten years and I get the heebies just describing it. No, really!
So Ellen, the one that doesn't mind bugs is freaking her shit out jumping up and down screaming and expecting me, the new strong boyfriend-type, to rescue the situation. So I had a quandary. One part of me, the girly part, wanted to jump up there with her and start playing "who can shatter the windows first?" But another part, the part that had been looking at a hot Italian chick all night, a chick I hadn't seen in three months mind you, was going, "you pussy, it's just a bug, a freaking bug! Get it together and do something."
So the engineer inside took over. What in my house was big enough to eject the intruder but had a long enough handle to keep Jamie Lee Curtis from crawling out of my skull and taking over?
Yup, you guessed it. Brooms are your friend. I crept cautiously past the flicking waving nightmare as fast as I could (because I knew the goddam thing could flip over any second and I was just barely hanging on and ohshititcouldstartrunning), went into the closet and got the broom out. In what must have been a convincing imitation of a demolition guy walking past one of those Iraqi Improvised Explosive Devices (the ones where you know Haji is on the other side of the hill with his finger on the goddam garage door opener) I quickly, cautiously, crept past it again and threw open the door, cocked back, and SWEPT the monster out.
Swept it so hard it first caromed off the opposite hallway wall, then bank-shotted into the near hallway wall, to come to rest right-side-up four full doors down. I swear I could hear its Satanic heh heh heh as it oriented itself for a charge back, but before that happened I slammed the door.
And locked it. Goddam bugs are clever.
Ellen, of course, started laughing her ass off. "I never saw anyone turn as white as you did just then. I think the broom passed mach 1!"
It was only later that the real horror dawned on us. You see, we had parked the Alfa, top-down, under a tree that night. That summer night. There's not a thing in the world that would allow a monster bug like that the creep unaided up fourteen floors into an unsuspecting bachelor's apartment. But there's also nothing in the world to prevent one from hitching a ride on his or his girlfriend's clothing after falling off a tree. That f-er was climbing around on us the entire freaking time!!!
And Ellen wondered why I had bug nightmares the rest of the time we lived there....
* Ok, non-apartment dwellers... you know the way the air conditioners are rigged in motel rooms? It was like that. Ok, it wasn't four feet tall, it was two, but trust me, it wouldn't have mattered, she would've cleared it.