I walked into the house from a rare evening yoga class, as I made yet another attempt to jumpstart my practice. The class theme was Ahimsa, non-violence to all beings. I was in the zone. I let the emotional hip check from one of the three teenagers waiting for me in the living room float by like the yogini I wished to be.
I had my yoga-buzz forcefield on full throttle and was going to lead by example.
I’m agnostic in my approach to things unseen. I find myself believing in everything and nothing at the same time. Although, it does seems uncanny that when I’m feeling a little too content with myself is when the universe sends a mentor to help me make the necessary adjustments.
This particular evening, my teacher arrived in the form of an American Cockroach.
I went to college in New York City and lived in some pretty nasty student apartments. The last one didn’t even have a kitchen. Instead we made a makeshift foyer-kitchen with a mini fridge, hot plate and toaster oven. My suitemate and I, along with the Other Girl who hated us, had to do the dishes in the bathtub.
I learned to be at peace with cockroaches. It was part of the terrain. They were small and nocturnal and it just wasn’t that big of a deal. If anything, it added to the story of being young and living in NYC. It was my chance to earn my insect grit.
My teacher was different from the cockroaches of my salad days. This Texas cockroach was as big as our cat Ruby.
I felt its shadow first, from over in the corner. My twin thirteen-year-old daughters (it’s as bad as it sounds) saw it lunge toward me and let out a scream. I knew it was there, though. It had been whispering disparaging remarks, at an almost inaudible level, in a similar voice to that of the devil in the original Exorcist. I guess that’s appropriate for a lifeform that will survive every end-of-the-world scenario.
I had a paper towel and my sandal off, prepared to swipe or catch and release, whichever came first. However, when I pivoted and was face to face with the creature, I realized that my enemy was more formidable than I had expected. My puny weapons looked useless.
This cat-sized cockroach was going to take me down. It moved fast and the insults, which only I could hear, were rapid fire.
“Thanks for doing the dishes later, again.”
“Did your parents not teach you how to clean?”
“Remind me of what’s more important to your kids’ health than a sanitary home.”
Ahimsa, my ass. I was going to have to get physical.
I jumped on the back of the now leopard-sized cockroach and it dragged me around the kitchen. My daughters, vegetarians since their 4th grade Free-gan teacher spent most of the school year evangelizing about the evils of industrial farming, pleaded for the invader’s life.
The twins are outraged at the killing of any sentient being regardless of size or classification. For years I have been carrying bugs out of our house and helping caterpillars cross the road. They continued to beg me to spare the cockroach’s life even as it bodyslammed me against the cabinet.
I was at the Big Ahimsa Crossroad.
With one hand on the cockroach, I grabbed the sandal that I dropped with the other. Fast as lightning, I whacked my opponent on the head. It fell to the ground and I rolled off its back.
The cockroach was stunned and I knew that I only had a few seconds. I yelled for the girls to open the back door. I grabbed it under the wing pits, dragged it out to the back porch and slammed the door. The cockroach was spared.
I was confident that I had learned my lesson.
Later that evening, after everyone was in bed, I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water. I heard a knock on the door and looked over. It was the cockroach, standing bi-ped, looking in through the window, an evil grin on its face.
“Are you waiting to do the dishes in the morning, again?”
I took the photograph at Mayfield Park, Austin, TX