Yesterday Rubaru posted a deeply felt blog about how his paternal side burst to the surface on descrying a sweet little roach that was encroaching on his computer space. This has caused me to re-think my own long and tortuous relationship with these creatures...actually, no it hasn’t: I still loathe them with every atom of my being.
But ‘loathe’ is too courageous a word. I’m terrified to death of them. My recurring nightmares are scripted around them, especially the flying ones. I’ve never been able to kill one, no, not even by the impersonal method of flinging a shoe at it from the next room. (How oft I remember my mother humming "All Creatures Great and Small" off-key as she sallied into my room for a killing operation.) In fact, I can’t even bring myself to spell out the full noun here (the one that begins with a ‘C’), for then I couldn’t bear to visit my blog ever again knowing THAT word was hanging there in its full black, insidious horribleness.
What is it about roaches? On the one hand, there isn’t even a widely known word that denotes fear of them (the equivalent of arachnophobia for spiders). But on the other hand, it’s almost univerally understood (without being explicitly stated) that they are far more repulsive than spiders, which have a peculiar symmetrical beauty of their own. You won’t see films about giant roaches terrorising the countryside. (The one that came closest - Mimic - was more a psychological horror film than an explicit one.) And you can watch the National Geographic for hours on end -- including footage supplied by micro-cameras that have been poking about in insects’ burrows - without seeing a single closeup of one.
A few half-hearted attempts have been made to deconstruct their dark, creepy mystique. I remember vaguely a passage from Gorky’s My Childhood where his grandmother or aunt says she’s terrified of them because she can’t comprehend their purpose. Woodworm and lice signify something, she says, but heaven knows what these creatures are, whence they derive their power and why they have been put here among us. This otherworldly aspect is accentuated by the fact that a roach’s face -- triangular, with bulbous eyes -- closely resembles caricatural archetypes of creatures from other planets. They don’t quite belong among us, seems to be the message, even if they’ll eventually outlive us by millions of years. Whose planet is it anyway?
Of course, I haven’t ever been close enough to a roach to see the details of its face. The closest I’ve ever been was a couple of inches away, and in unusual circumstances. This was class seven or thereabouts, and for a science class we had all been asked to "collect a dead insect and stick it onto a blank page of your exercise book with scotch tape" (adequate grounds for the dissolution of the entire edifice of formal education, one would think). A fellow brat called my name while I was speaking with someone else, I turned around as he opened a tiffin box -- a tiffin box - right under my face and instinct kicked in as I shut my eyes and jerked my face away. I have no clear memory of what I saw in those 0.2 seconds - something glistening, something black - but the smell has stayed with me all my life.
Well, that’s it for this blog. To all a pleasant night.