Years After

By
Years after Colonel Aureliano Buendía faces the firing squad in One Hundred
Years of Solitude, one of his descendents passionately discourses on the methods used to exterminate earth’s most venerable pest. He informs his friends that during the Middle
Ages, “La Cucaracha” survived by taking advantage of “man’s congenital fear of the dark.” If one takes Marquez’s quotation literally, I am a biological deviant in two respects: first in my indifference to the “foreboding” nature of shadows and again in my childhood phobia of cockroaches.

I vividly recall the inception of this dread. It was the summer before fourth grade, and my mom had taken me to the local video store. I figured a mindless comedy would best quell my boredom, so I selected Nathan Lane’s silly looking “Mousehunt.”

I was still getting comfortable on the couch when it happened; while the action occurred on screen, it was infinitely affecting. As the corpulent Mayor McKringle took his seat at a restaurant, a roach scurried into the kitchen, eventually settling in a specially prepared entrée. The dish was swept up, and much to my chagrin, served to the Mayor. “Crunchy!” he commented. A few seconds later the mayor grabbed his throat, vomited, and dropped dead. The headless bug hastened away, soaked in fresh spew.

For years to follow, I couldn’t help but glance into most dark corners, as if I would one day encounter my decapitated demon. But I confronted neither him, nor any cockroach for that matter. The summer before my junior year, I was certain this would change: I was off to León, Nicaragua, a tropical contrast to my New England residence. While I looked to hone my Spanish, make friends and perform service, I secretly hoped to meet the insect. As I unpacked and chatted with my host family, I confessed my anxiety. Mi madre simply replied “No viven aquí.” They don’t live here.

I found this response to be far more conclusive than a confrontation could have ever been. It was hardly the accuracy of her statement that resonated, for I would later hear horror stories from my fellow travelers. The sentiment was pithy in its confidence: the cockroach, its reputation, and its dispositions were nonexistent factors in León’s daily life. Thanks to mi madre, I didn’t see the pests once during my voyage, and know I never will. As far as I’m concerned, “La Cucaracha” is just another theme of my past.





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