August 8, 2011

your famous nightmare


"Oh my GOD," B shrieked, stumbling over the threshold of her room. "WHAT is that?"
"What." I didn't look up from my computer. 
"It's like a bee? No. A big.... it's the biggest... I've ever seen, and it's on my wall!" She scrambled for a weapon, or defense, while keeping an eye on the thing. 
"A bee?" Still not looking up. 
"Please look at this," she begged. "You have to tell me what that is."

I got up, prying my body from the ground between the coffee table and sofa, making no less than a totally strenuous effort. Because I am a good friend. But I am cranky. She thrusts a rolled up L Magazine into my hands, eyes like saucers. I look at it, look back at her. 

"Pleaaaaassseeeeee!" She pleads in the whinny normally reserved for bossing around her boyfriends. 
I take the magazine silently and peer around her doorframe at the wall in question. She stands behind me, hands to the teeth, as if I'm investigating a strange noise in a slasher flick. 

"Kill it, kill it!" She is goading me on. "WHAT IS IT TELL ME!"  
I climb on her bed, to get a better look at the nickel-sized creature clinging to the crease between the ceiling and wall.

"If you kill it, I will buy you all the dessert you want!" She bargains.
I would've done it anyway, if nothing else to spare her the grief of a 6-legged bedmate, but I'm not opposed to accepting a reward. I roll the magazine tighter to stiffen it. 

"Wait, I don't want you to kill it," she reneges. "But what IS that?" 
I didn't really want to. Kill it, I mean. If only because squishing bugs that are bigger than ants or mosquitos yield more guts to clean up, and doing so often produces sound effects that are gross and make me uncomfortable. 

"Give me a cup," I tell her, not taking my eyes off the thing. It has a light brown shield-shaped shell, six small legs, and tiny antennae bobbing around to vibrations I don't hear. I rip the cover off the magazine. 
She scampers off, exclaiming, "A cup, yes!" She returns, brandishing the 12oz measuring cup from the kitchen. 

"I know what you are," I whisper, cupping the creature and slipping the paper underneath the cup to trap it inside. It takes to it, puzzled, crawling all over the place. It has a pink belly. I hop down from the bed, triumphant. 

"That's it, I'm buying you dinner tomorrow," B exhales, relieved. We both peer into the cup, examining. "Oh my god, it's so scary, like queen of the bed bugs."

"No. They're harmless," I say. "Just visiting for the season. It's a kind of beetle. But they don't bite or anything." 
I eyed it suspiciously before opening the window and chucking it along with the leaflet out, fluttering to the ground. The stupid thing didn't even bother to fly, it just plummeted onto the street below. 
Shutting the window, B turned an investigative tone once more. "But how do you know it's harmless?"

"Remember that time I went to that house in Jersey for that wedding party thing in March? It was near a body of water, kind of, and these things were everywhere come nighttime."
Her eyes grew wide once more.
"I mean, not everywhere, but... every time I'd see one and kill it, I'd turn around and another one was there. The people renting out the house left a note mentioning that they were just these beetles that seek warmer temps, usually in people's homes. They live near water."

The answer seemed to satisfy her and she went about her business. As soon as I saw it, it was a reminder. A foretelling plague of one. I didn't know what they were called and I wasn't even sure if they actually were harmless. All I knew was that they didn't put up much of a fight and they seemed to be quite dull as well. 

I remember in March, brushing my teeth in the master bathroom of that house in Jersey, the one with the claw-footed tub in the center of the room. I freaked out when I saw them too for the first time, mouth seething full of Colgate Plus Whitening, gesticulating wildly in their direction while he regarded them with the same nonplussed reaction as I did now. "KILL IT!" I believe I implored, beckoned through foamy chompers. 
He swatted one on the wall, only to find a second walking along the sink. Swatted that one too, and another fluttered from the lighting sconce. They made a pretty weak swarm and didn't seem opposed to brute force. We flushed their bodies down the toilet. 
After rifling through his toiletry bag, it was apparent he had forgotten his toothbrush. 
"Guess I'm borrowing yours," he said, like it was less gross to use another person's mouth-cleaning utensil, than it was to go to bed without brushing. I let him. And I never let anyone use my toothbrush. For good reason, it's gross. 
Though I guess if you're frenching someone, they could probably use your toothbrush in an emergency or something and it wouldn't be too far off. And I guess when you think you are on the verge of telling a person that you are in love with them, letting them borrow your toothbrush is the kind of implicit gesture that says something to that effect. 

The toothbrush was the ergonomic kind, with the head at a slightly bent upwards angle for easier reaching. Soft bristles. I can only find them at Trader Joes or some other froufy health mart that would carry something like toothbrushes made from recycled bottle caps. 
"Oh man, this is great," he remarked through white foam, rubbing it in. I bought him the same kind the next time I found myself at Trader Joes. I doubt he still uses them. I found a beetle nestled on the handle of my toothbrush the morning after that night, left lying next to the sink. I'll bet it walked all over the head of it. Bastard. 

Seeing them again brought back to me the smell of that house, a strange synesthesia. Cedar and fresh paint. The office room with the pull-out sofa bed and polyester quilt with the JETS logo emblazoned everywhere. It wasn't really, but he called it our first sort of vacation. The happy occasion of celebrating his friends' nuptials on a weekend getaway with 40 or so people I didn't know. We stuck with each other, just hoping to make it though the night. I think we had fun.

Beetles may not be a harbinger anymore, albeit very creepy in large numbers. Science can explain most of their inclinations. But just in case it was an omen tonight, I wasn't about to kill the messenger. 

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