I didn’t expect the flora and fauna of New York City to be as variegated as I have found it. Though my family has always brought me to the East Coast for holidays and summer vacations, I never fully noticed or appreciated how very different life is here. In my years as a child of the high plains desert and mountain peaks I’d forgotten about fireflies and slugs and the strange leaves the grow in high humidity.
In the mornings, the sidewalk is covered with the remnants of fallen flowers and trees. Leaves press into the cement, then tear away on the shoes of pedestrians, leaving a slick dewy imprint behind. Every morning for weeks I saw strange red leaves crushed flat into the cement. They were shiny and oblong, palm-sized, and unlike anything I’d seen in Colorado.
The insects are different, too. Colorado had moths, which are like butterflies who experience discrimination for being plain and somewhat ugly. They are also discriminated against because moths like to infiltrate your home and dive-bomb your face. They are horrible and hard to catch thanks to their gift of flight. They love lights, and if you ever look at your phone in bed, you can expect a moth to land on your screen, your hands, your face. They’re awful.
New York, of course, has cockroaches. We heard about the cockroaches before we moved here, and were somewhat prepared. When we were looking for a place to live, we briefly worked with a broker, who I’ll call Incontinence. Incontinence told us there’s no escaping the cockroaches. She said they travel through the pipes and come rocketing out of your faucets when you turn the taps on. Incontinence turned out to be a wretch with bad advice, and so far, I am very happy to report, we’ve never encountered a cockroach in our home.
The same is not true for my beautiful pre-war office building. My beautiful pre-war office building is a semi-crumbling fire-hazard ridden with NYC wildlife. In my second week of work, a hot August day, my low-heeled sandals and I waltzed into the Microwave Alcove to heat up lunch. And my toes, peeping out of those summer sandals, came perilously close to my first NYC Cockroach.
I’m not typically one to shriek from fear. Contrary to most cartoon depictions of terrified women, my voice doesn’t go squeaky. Instead, it pitches low. Fear makes me sound like James Earl Jones. I backed away saying, “No, no, no. Not for me. Nope. No thanks!” in the voice of Mufasa/Darth Vader. Then I fled the building and sent about 10,000 texts to my Gal Pals Group Chat about how I needed to leave NYC immediately.
The other day I opened the door to exit the bathroom only to find myself held hostage by a cockroach. It was running back and forth across the threshold, only to turn and charge directly at me. I did a massive grand jete across the room and booked it out of the building.
As I was hustling down the sidewalk, the penny dropped. Those strange smashed shiny leaves on the sidewalk all summer? Those were cockroach carcasses.
So they can be killed, the nasty buggers.