November 27, 2010

Peace Corps Moment – 8-Legged Wonder (Part 5 – The Long Kiss Goodbye) – Sri Lanka 1997

I could easy write another dozen small incidents which occur over the next month and a half, while sharing my bathroom with the creature. Sudden appearances, creepy hairy legs sticking out from behind the sink, noisy scurries across the floor behind my back, etc. But why bother? I have long ago given up any retaliation. The splashes of water or the classic broom jab only make the situation worse as once again I witness the incredible speed of The Spider. I realize that an unspoken détente is easier and safer. There reaches a point where you simply have to shrug and accept him for what he is: a large, poisonous predator that would kill and eat me, if only he was the size of a Chihuahua.

So, in that light, I’ll move to the end.

I'm beginning my shave, when I see him on the opposite wall, near the ceiling, legs spread out and motionless. Nothing new. He is a good 10 feet away and I barely even think about it. However, this morning, what is unusual about my bathroom is the large number of cockroaches crawling on the walls. Normally by sunrise, the cockroaches have fled to darker, moister places. Yet, for some reason, the air is especially chilly and there are 6 to 10 of these insects moping around the walls and corners.

(the internet has a picture of everything)
Now, these are Asian cockroaches: about 3-4 inches in length, brittle brown wings forming a back shield, large clicky legs, and two thin long antennas. Unlike the American/European cousin, these are large, unafraid, outdoorsy insects that are more like small armored tanks than speedy racecars. And yes, they do fly. [One day, I’ll tell you some of my cockroach stories.]

So, I’m not concerned about the cockroaches at all, even as one lumbers down the wall towards the sink. No doubt, it's attracted by the incandescent light and warmth.

As I continue to shave, I see in the mirror, over my shoulder, that Spidey has suddenly moved. He’s tenser. More erect and scurries about a foot and then freezes. What’s up with that, I think.

The cockroach continues to move, slowly, towards downward at an angle. Spidey rushes a few more feet, and then freezes again. Repeat.

Wait a minute, I think. That monster can distinguish a cockroach from over 10 feet away? That’s 20 times its body length. That’s not … but there it is unfolding before me. I step back and watch as The Spider stalks his victim by circling the room, sneaking in from the rear of the cockroach. By the time the poor insect is near the sink, Spidey has crept along the perimeter of the room and is a mere 2 feet away.

On the shelf by the sink are a line of old empty spray paint cans. Why are they there? Oh, that would require a dissertation on the pack rat habits of Sri Lankans. Just trust me when I say that the dozen or so spray cans are there (and are probably still there to this day, 14 years later). The cockroach seems to be heading for that space between the cans and the wall. It squeezes its body into the gap, and at the same time The Spider makes the last dash, zooming in for the kill.

They both end up behind the spray cans at the same time. The metal cylinders rattle and bump and tussle violently, but I can’t see a bit of what’s happening. Then, as quickly as it begins, it stops. So goes the cycle of life, I say to myself.

Then, as calmly as if nothing happened at all, the cockroach crawls out from behind the cans, slowly moving up the wall. I stand and watch, waiting, but nothing follows. Though I live in the house for another month, I never see the creature of the bathroom again.

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