Roach




Its hot.  I am in the shade and still baking, still waiting for R(i)TA the patron saint of desperate, lost causes.  She stays busy in this city that care forgot.  

 

My head sags, soaked in the steam rising from the cracked concrete beneath my feet.  A slow yawn stretches out of my mouth and in to the syrupy atmosphere.  I am bathed in August New Orleans, waiting for the Regional Transit Authority bus; St. R(i)TA, my ride home.

 

Have you seen her, she is a rolling porch from which we perch and witness the central business district to the city limits, Ghost Town to Bayou Sauvage.  She is dressed in purple, green, gold and white like a Mardi Gras float.  

 

There she goes, coming grumbling, farting smoke.  She hobbles and throttles to a stop with a choke.  Her arms, long and lean, fold open with a hiss.  Black rubber steps lead up to bliss.  A heavenly cool.  Ascend and drop in a doubloon.  

 

There is plenty room between passengers and thank God for that.  Imagine being packed in like some booty on a pirate  ship or piled on top of each other like hot coals in a bar-b-que pit.  If there is space, we will take it.  

 

I counted myself the seventh person aboard and as I'm apt to do, I sat near no one to leave space for observation and imagining people's life stories for fun.  I picked up my pen and started character sketching.

 

St. Rita ran through a burst of rain on Piety and stopped in the sun at Independence.  Big Easy weather is unfettered by logic or common  sense.  Then a baby roach broke my focus on nature's impetuosity as scurried across the bottom of the window next to me.  That's too nasty.  I leaned to the side to let his little body pass me.  I thought to smash him but an old man said, "No.  You ain't no better than that roach.  See him and his kin witnessed dinosaurs give birth and you'd best believe they will trample over you and me once we turn to dirt.  Despite wind or water, in war and peace, in trouble and in the rubble left behind; the little things remain still.  They must be in God's grace or just Goddamn hard to kill."

 

I nodded and was in the middle of sparing the roach his life, when a lady intentionally cleared her throat twice.  "Excuse me," she said.  "I'd appreciate if you'd smash his little ass for intruding on your space.  He damn near crawled up your arm and on to your face.  And now I can see him coming my way.  Oh, I can't stand no roaches."

 

The old man laughed and spoke on the roach's behalf, "Now what is something so small going to do to you, besides how do you know this isn't his house and you're not bugging him by passing through."

 

They went on for a while and I tuned them out to write a reflection on how the moment.  What is it about bugs that is so unnerving?  Is it their limitless energy?  Their indestructibility?  Is it fear that they will swarm over our body with a ravenous insect armies?  Is it that their whispered touch hides a sting?  Is it just that in their smallness they can invade anything?  

 

I stopped writing when I realized the roach had stopped and turned to face me.  Under the pressure of its undivided attention, I felt the need to act quickly.  The time had come to make a decision.  Would I protect the lady or listen to the old man's wisdom?  

 

I tore the piece of paper I had been writing on and coaxed the little roach into climbing on.  I opened the window and shook it free to the street.  The lady thanked me.  The old man smiled.  And that was that from Dauphine to Lesat.