Recently I returned from a work related trip in Dallas Texas. While there, I had an unexpected encounter with a peculiar big little fellow. One evening as I lay in bed in my hotel, pondering the busy events of the day, I saw a cockroach climbing the wall of my hotel room. Immediately, I felt my muscles seize up with hysterical fear from the sight of long lost creepy crawly that I hadn’t seen in years and years and years. Not since I lived in Kuwait long time ago, had I seen what was once a familiar sight of the hairy legged winged insect. I suddenly missed my husband and yearned for his presence next to me. Under normal circumstance I would scream “Aaaaaaaaah! There is an insect in my bed room” and make a quick exit. Waiting for the reassuring voice of my beloved husband: “It is fine Habibati (my beloved in Arabic), I dealt with it, you can come back now”. But since my husband was not with me, hysterical shouting and a quick exit – method wasn’t going to achieve much. I remembered the wise words of a brave woman – “A woman needs a husband, like a fish needs a bicycle”. “Come on ihath, you are a strong woman, you can deal with this on your own”, I tried to tell myself. But despite all my strength, strong believe in feminism and claim to bravado, I am one fish that knows intellectually that she doesn’t need to ride a bicycle but emotionally enjoys a ride on it anyway. My yearning for my bicycle – ehm! I mean husband only increased the more I thought about how to deal with the unexpected visitor. “Oooooooo! Where is my bicycle – ehm! I mean husband when I need him the most” I told myself. Finally, in complete desperation, I called the front desk hoping for an easy resolution to my dilemma. “Don’t worry ma’am, I will send somebody to deal with it right away” was the response of the lady at the other end of the phone. A few minutes later, my hoped savior arrived in the form of an elderly Mexican gentleman who didn’t speak English. He said something in Spanish which I didn’t understand and I pointed at the wall where the cockroach was leisurely crawling around and quickly exited the room to seek refuge in the washroom, feeling too embarrassed to stand in the hallway in pajamas. I could hear the rusted bicycle – ehm! I mean elderly man moving around in the room and moving things around for about 15 minutes. I could hear him dragging the bed around and then dragging the desk in the room around and some rustling sounds, followed by huffing and puffing. Finally, Mr. Rusty, as I decided to nick name him walked towards the washroom and I opened the door so that I could hear what he had to say. He mumbled something in Spanish which I didn’t understand, the expression on Mr. Rusty’s face was saying: “I am sorry the cockroach hid somewhere, I tried to find him, I even moved furniture around, but I can’t find him, you are on your own with this guy, there is nothing else I can do for you”. I said “Thank you” and my failed savior left the room.
So I guess not all bicycles are created equal. My beloved bicycle back home would have rode roughshod over the creepy crawly in seconds to appease the damsel in distress. Darn!
So I sat back on my bed feeling panic wash over me, unable to sleep from worrying that the thing would re-emerge any minute and jump on me or something of similar nature. As I sat there staring in all directions, paralyzed with fear, I remembered days from long time ago, many many years back, back when I lived in Kuwait. Where the hot weather, similar to Dallas’ would attract cockroaches to roam proud and free especially in the summer months. It was peculiar that a sight of a heinous hairy legged creature would remind me of childhood years from long ago and far away. In my insomniac state, I started thinking about all the similarities between Dallas and Kuwait. The hot and humid weather, the massive air-conditioning everywhere you went, the contrast between hot and cold each time you walked in or out of a building, the flat terrain and off course cockroaches. So far away, yet so close. A blast from the past. Then I started remembering my mother’s hysterical fear of cockroaches when we lived in Kuwait. I remembered one particular funny incident.
One evening, in Kuwait, we returned home from an outing. My dad turned on the light and right in the middle of our living room was sitting a cockroach, right on the floor. I was a child at the time, probably around eight or nine years old. My mother started shrieking hysterically and jumped on dining table. The poor cockroach didn’t move an centimeter. He was probably too terrified from my mother’s continuous screaming. My father tried to tell my mother to calm down, but she wouldn’t stop screaming at the top of her lungs. Finally my father decided to ignore the screaming and went to fetch a newspaper. Al-Watan (The country) was his favorite daily read. A few quick bangs on the cockroach with a news paper followed and finally my father threw the whole mess in the garbage. The he came to where my mother was standing on the dining table and commanded her to stop screaming and to get down from the dining table since the crisis was over. The next morning, bright and early, we were visited by our next door neighbor, Amina. She was a close and trusted friend of my mother’s. My father had gone to work already. Amina sat on the couch next to my mother and started to talk to her in a counseling voice: “I am sorry about what happened yesterday, I know that these things are tough. But these things do happen. You can come move in with us and I will get my husband to have a talk with your husband”. My mother looked surprise and replied: “Ha? What are you talking about? talk to my husband about what?”. Amina replied: “Look! I know that you feel embarrassed about what happened last night, but you shouldn’t be feeling that way, it is important that you know that what happened wasn’t your fault”. Amina heard the screaming from the previous night and thought that my mother was receiving a severe beating from my father and tried to the best of her abilities to be the sensitive and supportive friend. When my mother assured her that the hysterical scream was at the sighting of the dark winged hairy legged creature and that the only beating was conducted on the poor creatures head, Amina looked in disbelief. Despite my mother’s assurances and swearing that the events as that had been described were truthful and were not a cover-up for a shameful family dispute, Amina was not persuaded and left our house with a suspicious look on her face. My mother laughed at the incident while recounting it to my father’s horror. “Great! Now the whole neighborhood thinks I am a wife beater” – was my father’s response.
Back in Dallas, in my hotel room, I remembered my other funny incidents involving cockroaches and my mother in Kuwait. At least my response was not as extremely hysterical as my mother’s. An hour of reminiscing passed until the unexpected visitor emerged again crawling on the wall. “What do I do now?” I asked myself. Screaming and exiting my room wouldn’t help me because my husband wasn’t there, calling the front desk proved to be equally ineffective. And so, I had no choice but to take matters into my own hands. Armed with a copy of “Dallas Morning News “, I executed the number one enemy of my sleep with several firm bangs on his head. The whole mess was quickly deposited into the garbage. I washed my hands thoroughly twice afterwards. Even though the enemy had been successfully disposed into history’s trash bin, I wasn’t able to resume my normal sleep procedure for the rest of the night. The thought “Eeeeew! I killed a cockroach” wouldn’t leave my mind. The next morning I was tired but I felt proud at having proved to myself that I could handle the situation without the aid of a man. Gloria Steinman would have been proud.
I am a fish that doesn’t need a bicycle, but enjoys riding it never the less.