I have lived in my current apartment for five years next month. Mostly I love it; it has a working fireplace, hardwood floors, big bay windows with a killer view and a bathtub. Also, within twenty paces outside of my front door I can find the dry cleaners, the hardware store (which sells great candles and hand soap, coincidentally), the deli, the liquor store and the pharmacy where I usually buy aspirin on the mornings after I've visited the liquor store. In my most recent past life, I had jumped between four apartments within the same amount of years which left me exhausted, resentful and swearing up and down that when I found my next place, I would stay put. And time has shown that I did, in fact, do just that.
There are things about this place I'm not crazy about; those big bay windows are lovely in the summertime but come winter, the ledges are often coated with snow - on the inside - meaning I literally shovel indoors; my kitchen is nothing more than a tiny counter space with a small stove top and an attached mini fridge. I haven't purchased a pint of ice cream or put ice in my drink since 2009. The building is old which means it has "character", but also means dust bunnies are weekly critters to be managed in addition to the occasional mouse which one time found its way into my oven just as I reached inside to retrieve a baking dish I had intended for nachos. I still sometimes cringe at what would have been had I elected to preheat. The bathtub isn't particularly deep and the paint is chipping around the drain exposing rust and many layers of lead that I'm sure can't be good for you, but almost every night since I first dropped my bags here, I have bathed in it.
A few years ago I dated a guy I met at a book club gathering which turned out to be less about books and more about booze. I was head over heels mad for him, and I'm fairly certain that those feelings were driven in large part by not only his willingness to indulge me, but his actual enjoyment of baths too. He found the soaking to be as meditative and clearing as I did and we would wake up on Saturday mornings, pick up chocolate milkshakes from the deli and sit in the tub - talking and waiting for the water to cool and naturally drain a bit before filling it back up and continuing on with what felt like the perfect weekend activity. There were even the occasional nights when we would come home, build a makeshift stand beside the tub, prop up the computer on top and watch old episodes of Murder She Wrote on Netflix with the lights off...like our own personal drive-in except the car was a bath and clothing was prohibited. There was no sex and truly, no want for it in that space - just the bath, the conversation, the chocolate milkshakes and our pruned digits. It was pure bliss.
Somewhere in there we started fighting, I threw a tube of lipstick at him outside of a restaurant, he moved to Los Angeles and I cried out loud to a friend, "Do you know how rare it is to find someone who wants to watch TV in the bathtub with you!?!?" I replaced the milkshakes with beer and sulked many a night in the murky, soapy water, the ends of my hair getting wet but never fully submerging my head because I didn't have the energy to actually wash it anymore. It was love and heartbreak and all the shit that comes along with it housed in this old, porcelain bin. It's the church of this apartment and I've worshiped and repented there religiously since our introduction.
Earlier this week, after a day at work and a night of forcing myself through a podcast while I ironed in an ill-fated attempt to be smarter despite my debilitating boredom, I made my way to the bathroom to pee, take a bath and go to bed. And then, just as I pulled back the shower curtain to run the water, I saw him. He was big and black and definitely not a man waiting to watch TV with me. He was a cockroach and the first of his kind that I have encountered in my apartment since inhabiting it.
I can say, unequivocally, that on my Top Ten List: Reasons I Like Boston More Than Texas, the absence of cockroaches in ones home, depending on the time of year you might be asking, falls somewhere between the #2 and #4 spot. I would rather have a run in with a rat than a roach and I mean that with every last drop of sincerity in my body.
This horrible creature was in my bathtub, my safe haven - scattering all over its surfaces, leaving its vile, disgusting, unholy mark on my church. It was like watching the person you love get another girl's initials tattooed on their arm and I had no choice but to throw myself in front of the needle.
As a woman of 34 who lives on her own, my cabinets don't house things like bug spray and WD-40. I'm typical and perhaps a tad repugnant in that I use storage for things like too many samples of eye cream, books I forgot to read and serving utensils for that dinner party that I swear, one day I'm actually going to host. The closest weapon I have for which I can assault a cockroach is a travel size bottle of cheap hairspray that I smuggled home from a hotel room once upon a-I-don't-know-when.
And as a woman of 34 who lives on her own, on this night, I found my full body outside of the bathroom doorway while I aimlessly waved my arm inside, attempting to take down a cockroach from the walls of my bathtub, with a can of Loreal Professional Hold. This went on for a good five minutes or so - me, peeking my head in to evaluate his position, aiming, spraying, watching him wiggle and seethe, regaining his footing and starting the whole process over again. Finally, at some point, he caved behind a small tub-side stool, falling out of my line of sight. I stood there a bit longer waiting for him to reemerge but he stayed hidden, not letting me know if he was dead or alive or really alive and just waiting for me to turn my back before he came looking for revenge. I didn't dare venture into the bathroom to look for myself - I was too afraid - so I retreated to my bedroom, still desperately needing to pee but unwilling to put myself in harms way and thus deciding, worst case scenario, I could go in the water bottle by my bed in the middle of the night. I closed the door, piled pillows up around the bottom crack and buried myself under the sheets to wait out the night.
This is the moment when there is no one to call. No one cares that there is a bug in your bath tub. No one wants to hear, that despite how stupid it sounds, and you know how stupid it sounds, you're afraid to go to sleep - you're contemplating unrinating in a bottle because you're so afraid! - no one is around at 11 o'clock at night to talk you through your nonsense.
It is in this same moment that you are transported back to another apartment, the one in which you lived when you were 24 years old, in Texas, one week after you and your first love broke up at a Sonic drive-thru at midnight on a Saturday. You said, "We can't do this anymore..." while desperately ringing the car hop because you knew you were going to need that Route 44 cherry lime-aid and tater tot order stat if you had any hope of getting through it in one piece.
You're in your bed again, and there is another cockroach scurrying across your floor and you can't kill it. You're too afraid. And the boyfriend is gone, you're alone, there is no one to call now. You don't cry, but you're overcome with sadness as you remember the essay you read where the author quoted his friend who had just lost someone she loved...she said, "I have plenty of people to do things with. I miss having someone to do nothing with." You sleep with the light on.
The next morning, back inside of my barricaded bedroom, I pulled back the pillows from door, crept out of my room and very, very slowly made my way into the bathroom to see if my previous evening's dueling partner was mortally wounded by the tub. I couldn't spot him so I kept on, delicately moving the shower curtain, gently pushing aside the bathmat, carefully lifting the towels...there was nothing, he had escaped.
And here's the bit I stumbled over again as I painfully regained the courage to reach inside my cabinet for my toothbrush, wash my face with one eye open and finally, finally, finally pee. I do this every day. Every day I do this. I go to work, I carry heavy groceries home, I walk my dog at 6AM when it's snowing out, I assemble my own furniture and I've even taught myself how to install an air conditioner - I'm pretty damn self-sufficient. Women like me will meet you for a beer, tell you that they're happy, they're proud - and for the most part, I believe them, I really do. And they should be, because they've earned that. But I also believe that women like me still wait for the person who will answer the call when the cockroach returns. And in the meantime, we invest in a can of bug spray, we bleach the bathtub, we sink back in, we pray.