Life as a Cockroach

Life as a Cockroach

A Story by Akroma

Life as a Cockroach

by Lauren Stegg

It's between the time you go to sleep, and the moment you wake up, on a bus, traveling at a speed so new and freshly applied the world outside smears into nothing but strokes of color.

A sticky, clammy sweat clings to my flesh, and the resulting anxiety is only compounded by the obnoxious vibration of my palpitating heart pounding in my ears. I strain to hear something other than my throbbing blood flow.

Under the crotch of my jeans, an intense need to re-shave the hundred and one pubic pokes rubbing up against my stolen underwear from the last one who took me back to his humble abode, his daughter's old belongings still residing in her former bedroom's discarded dresser drawers. I couldn't resist the temptation to restock, what with the current circumstances being anything but the norm.

It's a chilled night outside this transportative machine, so my dexterity is constricted under grey cotton and yarn. For the past 3 days, black legging have snaked possessively under my jeans, and I've kept a constant shirt under a far more bulky white sweater. Faux fur cushions my skull, and acts as a rather convenient pillow against these seats, inertia sealing me to its plasticy, sticky slip-cover skin.

At the next pausing point, a man sits next to me, close enough our thighs touch. At this hour, before the world is fully awake, not many reside here. The man had other seating options.

His wrinkled head sprouts grey and white hairs, under his chin exists two fold of skin and fat, his fingers plump and pink and over-filled, as if the smallest prick to a fingertip will result in an explosion of drainage, much like a ripe pimple, eyeing me, begging for sweet release.

He wears shined brown shoes, with the fake skinny laces, with the floral imprint design on the face. His beige pants hang unwrinkled with a single, pre-meditated crease down the dead center, his blue striped shirt barely constrained by tiny pearl-colored buttons. The one-dimpled tie seems to dig deep into his pink, puffy throat.

He reminds me of a stuffed pig, pushing hard against its plastic casing. His squinty blue eyes look me over, his juicy mouth twisting into a grin.

What are you looking at, sweetheart?”

Not a single thought is permitted to escape my lips. Meanwhile, I add another glaze to his flesh, non-blinking, until his wet grin ceases to exist. In the darkened bus window, my twin stares back small and forlorn and distant, while the man behind me seems ready for his trough to be re-filled.

Maybe my mood is biased since I haven't eaten something real and truly filling in 3 days, perhaps longer. I was warned how difficult it would be to keep track, so really, I only blame myself. And only I can remedy this situation.

Can I lean up against you?” I ask him in the sort of voice that begs no response. After I lean my head into a soft and squishy shoulder, his bulging arm rests over my chest, awkwardly. No bother in straightening into a more natural pose. For several seconds we share a tense silence. The face I'm wearing is doubtful to be restful and coy and sleepy and innocent, as the script demands. Instead, I feel I'm projecting something wide-eyed and calculated, tense as a pulled rubber band, stretched to its limit and waiting to snap.

A few other midnight bus riders glare me over, estimating the situation with what only looks like genuine concern.

It's a welcome relief to shut my eyes and by extension shut out the light bright paint smear beside me, the flashing lights blinking overhead, their faces, their wretched faces grimacing and twitching and grinning and spitting, their slimy, infected fingers rolling on every dulled, metal handrail.

Where you headed?” he breaks in.

My thoughtfulness proves annoying to him, and he gives my right breast a sort of reprehensive squeeze. Through my double layers I hardly feel anything.

C'mon, now, you can tell me, little girl.” He chucked as if he had been amazingly clever.

You barely look old enough to drink.”

Only moments longer before my stop, I'm edging my butt up further and further, I'm smiling at him so I don't have to say anything, my fingers gripping the prize.

When the bus stops, I'm the second one out, and once out, I hit the concrete running, the pig man's wallet bulging in my cotton hands.

It's been weeks of solid running, the sort of travel that wears you out almost immediately with its failure to promise future relief.

The law gets to you in a slow and painful way. All the while, you're saying, “f**k the man, I'll do what I want!” And you do, but there it is, creeping up on your spine. Before long, you don't even realize you're heartbeat is operating at a steady 10 paces faster than normal, your formally white teeth have been replaced with yellow tinged, ground down sets, and your shoulders throb from a line of tension tugging across your tendons. Spot a cop out the corner of your eye, and you have the same, steady de-construction of behavior. Turn down that aisle. Look in that direction.

I'm fairly certain illegal fumes escape from my pores. I rouse attention from my desert dry, open, tongue wagging mouth, my eyes always glazed with madness, my mouth pulled in a tight grimace, my feet uncertain, my equilibrium so one sided I walk in circles. The gait of a pill head, the expression of an x-er, the eyes of a tripper, the response time of a stoner.

I know I call attention to myself by trying not calling attention to myself. Still I hole up my backpack with a barrage of empty wraps and piles of tobacco, bloody tampons I feel the need to squirrel up on, empty orange containers that once held promise of relief, maxed credit cards with not my name across the front, fast food plastic and papers. I travel, generally, at night. When the sun hits my face I don't smile. The sun is a cruel reminder I can never hide. Always, always that light will come around to shining on my everything. I may not resemble the three-year old picture anymore, but still, still lies a chance, one of those pigs has seen it, or sees you now, and no need to put two and two together with a face like that, a record like this!

The only sentence necessary. Then what? Not a high speed chase since I sold my ride for fear of the question, license and registration please, more like a slow an embarrassing attempt at escape, followed by a stuck foot in a chain link fence, a fall to the ground, followed by the click of handcuffs.

My face, my fingertips, my DNA, all on file, waiting for it's owner. The threat of imminent danger always present and unnerving, where now merely being in public in and of itself feels like a crime. I buy bread with stolen money, count on coins with ash stained nails.

A real loner out here, dragging my belly and rug burning my chin. Passing conversations make momentary friends, passing meals, places to sleep, jackets, mittens, dignity in exchange for a soda. Nothing has a price tag, at least not when I can afford, so I do what I can. I'd like to claim I save my punishments for the deserving, the wicked advances, the creepy talkers, the slimy smilers, but, truth be told, convenient is convenient, and beggars don't get too picky. At the end of the day the only qualifying factor is that you own something I don't.

On slow nights like this, at a bus station, driving around to wind up nowhere you didn't start from, in a public restroom, the handicapped one or the cleanest one, I spread out blankets and pillows and stare at the bright ceiling, on replay.

Oh yes, I see his darkened face, his dark and growing darker eyes, his face contorting and twisting, his shock, his anger. The only witness to the final breath coming and going, but it's not as special as you might think. I feel his blood thick and gurgling between my fingers, as I press them into his stomach. Self defence, I coulda' argued, but at the time, my damn tongue sealed my throat my sound, my eyes stopped functioning. I slipped on his blood, my blood, and out the door, my drenched knife flinging evidence everywhere.

Mere moments later, it seems not even a minute, before the pain comes.

I filled the white, previously pristine garbage bag, retrieved from under the party's host's kitchen sink behind the blue bottle of cleaner. I filled it with water from an outdoors hose, the guy helping me without question, his grin full of broken plate splinters. The crying halted so quickly, but I didn't stop filling up the bag with lukewarm hose till it floated inside, re-wombed.

Details are not hazy, that much I can tell you. It's not like a dream you struggle to remember. Instead, it's like a conversation, so sharp and important, you can remember every detail of every word. The correlating tone and expression and hand gesture.

The story is either present and accounted for, or absent. I don't remember the party's host, or the house's architecture , but I remember stopping for fast food on the way over, at his insistence, and eating a cheeseburger. And I will never forget the pain, fresh enough that when I recall, I can't help but grip my belly and cry out. Hovering over a toilet seat I still get that jerky feeling in my limbs, the one where I feel like I'm fallig and shattering into a million pieces. Oh god, that pain, I accidentally torture myself with it at least once per week. Replay after replay.

My hair had been pulled back in a ponytail that night. I remember fixing it before I turned from the bathroom mirror, I feel myself tightening the band so the pony sits more erect.

I wiped my mascara tinged under eye bags, and I can see the tissue falling into the minuscule, beige trash can. I remember thinking, I'm so fucked.

The bathroom overflows with fluids, sloshing under my feet like melted snow. When I open the door, it falls out and it flows with me into the hallway. It's dark, but it doesn't matter. The stares of everyone heat my face, and freeze my feet in their spot. I manage to break free, and charge forward into the bright kitchen, full of discarded pizza slices and red cups, shoes and jackets and shirt and wads of socks. Entirely deserted and as good of a place as any to pass out. As people drift in and out they know to step over and around my crumpled form.

Outside, I'm pleading with the first person I see.

He's a tall boy, blonde, skinny, with clothes wrecked enough to be sitting only half on. His thick pupils dive into mine, and I watch the change-over as he goes from knowing nothing to understanding everything.

This is followed by a choking on an acid reflex hatred concoction . The moonless sky over us, watching, the cigarette smokers and alcohol slumpers, standing in little clusters nearby. E gives me the hose, he offers me a cigarette. The wind strangles me, and when the task is done, I just run and run, after yelling, “Bury the bag! Get rid of it!” I look back once, I watch his dirty sneakers step over the garbage bag and continue on talking to someone, bumming another smoke, the stars out shining and shaking, the gravel burning my bare feet as I run to my car.

We had, me and him, together settled on “abbie”. I had purchased most of the necessary items, except the main one. My trunk stocked with sun-burned diapers, random toys, bottles, pacifiers, blankets, white onesies. Ok, maybe two. I never got around to getting a baby-book, though I did have a file full of those scary black and white pictures of the alien monster growing and feeding inside. My best bet is the first matter had yet to be fully accepted, at least not by the good guy of the story, and certainly not by me, so I had to settle it. You might say he got the worst end of it, but damn it if the a*****e didn't deserve it, and damn it to hell if it turns out to be the wrong inspiration.

Dirt under the rug, after all, the literal skeleton in the closet. Worst case scenario may not be getting caught. If I am, well, maybe it wouldn't be like lying in a hammock, living on a diet of sunshine and salty air, but it could in its own way, be a vacation of sorts, that much can't be denied. My reflex decision making is not the greatest, but I really think that maybe we should think this over, ok? On most day I'm fairly certain I performed a world service. If I had to be honest, I would say, directed to the eager audience, “Yea, I've done something wrong. I'm a sour apple, I'm a human mistake., you people are sick f***s. Truly.”

All the hatred coming my way, but it always stops short of truly touching me. I have a wall of my own hatred blocking it. Behind it, the same replay of a closed door strange bedroom with permanently stained carpet, and a milky white trash bag bobbing on the damp grass at a high school party, over and over and over and over...

© 2011 Akroma

Author's Note

Does this make even a lick of sense to you? :D

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Added on November 16, 2011
Last Updated on November 16, 2011



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