How to Take a Life When You’re a Coward

Possibly one of the reasons I have trust issues is that I once tried to save a carpenter ant off the passenger window of a car and the insect took a bite out of my wrist. My philosophy for dealing with bugs is typically one of “do no harm”—last year, I roomed with a couple thousand sugar ants, and last week, I spent an early morning trapping a roach in a to-go box before gently removing him from the premises.

But last night, as I was out at a karaoke bar for my friend’s birthday, I received a picture from my roommate of a dark blob on what looked like our bathroom wall. Guess what I found when I was going to take a shower, she texted. A SCORPION.

If there’s something that puts a damper on “Africa” by Toto, it’s visualizing facing off in a Nicole v. Scorpion showdown. What were the stakes? Would losing mean dying? Would the scorpion become head of household? Would my assets revert to its name?


I asked Roommate if she needed the can of Raid, to which she responded that the bug was—conveniently—too high up on the ceiling. She affixed a sticky note to the door (“REMINDER-HUGE BUG INSIDE”) before heading to bed. I thought about the scorpion awaiting me once I got home and wondered if we could outlast the bug by never showering again.

When I returned home at 1:30AM with, of course, a full bladder, I tiptoed into the bathroom, staring up at the ceiling. Apparently, what’s infinitely worse than seeing the scorpion in your bathroom is NOT seeing the scorpion in your bathroom. Horror movie material.

This morning at 7AM, I checked the bathroom ceilings again to find nothing. I figured the scorpion might’ve retreated into the crack near the ceiling light, lowered my gaze, and did a double-take.

There was a bug on the floor, and it wasn’t a scorpion. It was a medium-sized roach. I stared at the roach. It stared back at me.


Usually, if a bug is on me and I can squish it on my skin without a mess, I don’t mind it. But killing anything at least as large as a fly turns my stomach. I’m not positive why I didn’t consider sparing this one, as I’d just relocated a larger roach last week, but this situation felt different. It felt personal. The bathroom is a vulnerable, sacred space, and I couldn’t stand for it to be violated.

So I gathered my materials and knelt in the bathroom doorway, equal parts anguish and revulsion. I positioned myself at an angle around the door, the only exit, in case the bug flew straight out at me. I set my finger on the Raid nozzle, my heartbeat accelerating. Aimed. My finger hesitated. You are capable of murder, I affirmed, gassing myself up for the kill. You are a cold-blooded, merciless—

I started spraying. The roach began to run. Neither of us made a sound.

Our actual dialogue



Our mental dialogue



I followed it to the edge of the toilet, still spraying. Foamy liquid had begun to pool around the roach, but my finger mashed further into the nozzle. I remember thinking you probably weren’t supposed to drown the bug in Raid, just give it a couple good sprays, but I couldn’t stop. The cockroach started to writhe. I let up.

After the roach stopped twitching, I picked it up with a paper towel and a shudder. Then I flushed it down the toilet and placed my murder materials back onto the hallway shelf. The experience had hollowed me out. I felt different, like I had lost something, and by something I mean my innocence but also my last few brain cells because I’d used and inhaled so much Raid (in a room with little circulation) that I might as well have also been exterminating myself.

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