An Interview with Lucy, a Cockroach with an Extraordinary Life Story

Val: First of all, please tell our readers how you became trapped in the kitchen window between the glass and the screen.

Lucy: Readers? You have readers? Other than your mother and the fifty-three spammers who tried to post links to their websites on your blog? I’ve got news for you. I don’t think spammers read your content.

Val: Ouch! I’m beginning to see how cockroaches have earned their reputation as pests.

Lucy: Touche! Okay, back to my life story. As a wee cockroach, I could easily pass through the openings in the window screen. Then one day, my body had reached the point of no return. I was too large to slip through.

Val: Wow, that’s almost allegorical, don’t you think?

Lucy: Absolutely. It should serve as a warning to everyone not to live beyond their means–of egress, or anything else.

Val: So true, especially in these tough economic times. Which brings me to my next question: Are you a Democrat or Republican?

Lucy: [laughs]. Well, I rely on handouts from others to survive [editor’s note: Lucy is fed table scraps]. So I’m a Democrat. However, please note that if I represented a corporation in need of a handout, I would be a Republican. It is all a matter of perspective, and power.

Val: Yes, yes. Looking ahead to the future, and the fact that yours is so constrained by your circumstances, do you ever regret not having the opportunity to live like a normal cockroach? You know, the whole “find a mate and leave a bunch of offspring” paradigm?

Lucy: Whoa! Just because I can’t find a mate doesn’t mean I won’t be able to leave offspring. Four out of ten female laboratory cockroaches can reproduce asexually. So, one day, if I am, in fact, a female, and the same trend holds true for wild cockroaches, and I’m a member of that lucky minority, I may leave behind a tribe of “Lucettes” who can escape this pit. I will be able to experience my freedom by living vicariously through them. As far as a mate goes, Mark told me that he almost caught an albino cockroach to throw in here with me, so there is always hope that I’ll find my soul-mate. Although I’d like him to know that cockroaches turn white after molting, so it is likely that he did not find a true albino.

Val: Ah, very interesting. I will tell him.

Lucy: I’d like to turn the tables and ask you a question, if that’s okay.

Val: Sure, go ahead.

Lucy: And I hope that you don’t mind me revealing that you are a total slob, but I’ve noticed that you readily kill the roaches in your kitchen, yet you spare my life. Why is this?

Val: I don’t know. I have empathy for you. You somehow represent the human condition. We are all free to do as we wish, yet to embrace total freedom frightens most of us. We choose to live a life bounded by conventions and our fear of the unknown. Not many of us think outside the box, or live outside the box, and you represent, quite literally, life inside the box.

Lucy: Yet you aren’t nice enough to actually get me out of here.

Val: There is too much risk that you would flee into the kitchen. I’d prefer that you didn’t nibble my apples ripening on the counter, thank you.

Lucy: Okay, well, I believe I’ve become institutionalized by now, anyway.

Val: Lucy, you’ve been an excellent guest. And you are the most charismatic cockroach I know.

Lucy: I’m not sure whether that’s a compliment or not, but thank you. I’ve enjoyed this interview.

The Middle Ground

One day as I cycled home from work, I passed a field overgrown with shaggy Brazilian pepper trees and sable palms. From out of nowhere, a swallow-tailed kite shot above the tree line in a completely vertical ascent, banked into a sharp turn with a slight flick of its forked tail, and dove in a near free-fall back down below the trees. I watched this graceful and dramatic display in a state of awe, then envy. If only I could fly like that.

Not a swallow-tailed kite, but close enough for illustrative purposes!

As I turned my attention back to staying within the confines of the bike path, I noticed the building to my right, across the street from the field. It was an old age home.  Residents lounged in the shadows of the front porch, some stooped over on benches, others in wheelchairs with their attendants. At the time, my grandmother was in a home not unlike this one, and I began to wonder what they were thinking. Had they admired the kite’s acrobatics too? Then it crossed my mind that perhaps they were watching me. I considered the possibility that they might long for what I took for granted—mobility. Suddenly I saw myself occupying the middle ground between the kite and the elderly, and I was thankful for what I had. Still, I felt somewhat guilty that it took a comparison to a group less fortunate than me to realize this.

I try to keep the lesson from this day in my mind as I encounter life’s inevitable aggravations. Sometimes it is difficult. However, when I take a deep breath and decide to focus on the most important details of the landscape, my perspective becomes a little higher…not unlike the swallow-tailed kite’s.