Block Cockroach

/ Marina Lee (Writer), Kevin Phan (Illustrator)

Nonfiction3 min reading time

No. 3

A college girl lies on her back in her room. She looks towards the viewer or door where the large shadow of a cockroach reaches towards her. The blue light coming from the door illuminates her eyebrows to her chest. A bottle of cleaner and her glasses sit atop her desk.

You feel that? Fuck yeah, black mold. You get closer—why? You haven’t put your glasses on and everything is blurry. Three years ago, you learned dorm rooms looked better that way. If you were a masochist, you’d take a blacklight, absolutely. If you wanted to make a night of it, you’d make a shroom tea first. Or one of those mugwort teas you keep seeing on TikTok. I could see a psychedelic sludge being more pleasant. Maybe it would appear to you as little friends greeting you from the cute little darkened corners of your cute little residential cubicle. Hiiii.

Heyyy... what’s that? You’re doing yoga because you promised yourself you would try to be flexible this year. You’re on the ground, face up. You glance to the right, and what do you see? A cockroach. Obviously not a registered student, and frankly really disrespectful when there’s a no-guest policy in effect here at the university. Literally so incredibly rude. It’s the largest insect you’ve ever seen in your life, and you lie completely still as you watch it scuttle about with its spiny disgusting legs. Back it up right now!! Too, too close. You have to bust out the household cleaner. You have to. It gives you the ideal bug-to-self ratio, though you must mind the furniture.

Oh god, where did it go? It left while you were internal monologuing.

Knock-Knock? They’re drilling through your sexy bathroom floor. You curse the sulfurous ceiling of the room below you and sigh as a maintenance worker tapes off your toilet in lovely orange. You were fully prepared to seize the day, but now the whole day is shot, and all is completely lost. You take calls with sawing in the background and contemplate the consequences of screaming. You apologize for the mess. You weren’t expecting anyone to see your ADHD goblin lifestyle. Now they’ve seen. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to clean a bit. You glance at the mango you’ve left on the shelf, the roasted potatoes on the desk, the coffee cups in military formation, your collection of bed pens and bullet journals. At least you’ve kept your plants alive.

If you don’t look at them, they aren’t dead.

Cuh-motherfucking-caw? A group of crows, or ravens, or whatever—you never took the time to learn San Diego birds—dances on the tree outside of your third-story window. They crank out what you honestly imagine to be a really homophobic bird song from about 5 A.M. to about 5 P.M. Their beady little goddamn eyes mock you every day of the week as you attend calls. They know exactly what they’re doing and they simply don’t give a shit. When they grow tired of the tree’s texture on their stupid bird feet, they head on over to the roof and perform a little tap routine just for you, just for your own personal enjoyment. Isn’t that so nice? You love it.

Uhhh, excuse me? The night’s storm has apparently brought you globs of water to fall through your window and startle your 3 A.M. self, right in the face. You stare your rainwater eyes at the popcorn ceiling, waiting to graduate. If the rain falls once or twice more in the same spots, it will most definitely poke itself all the way through, and it will most definitely not be a good morning. Your university housing wakes up daily and chooses absolute violence. You stretch your arms out and slap your knuckles into the thinly painted walls. Ugh. You look up. A bright red fire alarm glares at you with a condescension worthy of a queen. Fear of that fire alarm keeps you from lighting candles and that’s why the energy is so, so off in here. You get up and attempt compensation with three essential oil diffusers. The solution to internal conflict is to make a cloud for yourself to sulk in. One that smells like eucalyptus and thickens the air to taste like droplets. Petrichor pills for the slumber send-off, over the eyes, and in the nose. Sleep.