Las Cucarachas

February 23, 2010

Several years ago, I was working in Mexico a great deal and my employer rented a house for me there (FYI: I still work in Mexico a great deal, but now I stay in a hotel – you’ll understand why in a moment). It was a nice house, except for the nest of dead baby rats which my wife discovered one day while scrounging for spare change under the couch cushions, abruptly ending her heart-felt commitment to live with me in Mexico during the project I was then managing. So I started commuting.

And since she’d left me to fend for myself, I hired a cleaning lady to come in on the weekends, after I’d left to drive back home and visit my deserting wife. The cleaning lady and I would sometimes leave notes to one another – she would ask for money and cleaning supplies, and I would praise her work because my cheapskate employer only paid her ten bucks a week and I was afraid she would quit, leaving me to clean my own toilet. She signed the notes Esmerelda.

On Monday nights, I returned to the house, unpacked my things, grabbed a beer from the fridge, and sat on the end of the couch opposite the rat grave, channel-surfing for CNN or Judge Judy. Anything in English. And later, nature having taken its course, I would visit the bathroom. And every week on Monday night, I found that Esmerelda had left a paper cup sitting inverted over the drain. What the hell was this? Every week, the same thing – I left on Friday, and by Monday there would be the paper cup. It bothered me so much that I actually hid the paper cups from Esmerelda one week, but my enterprising maid must have borrowed a cup from the neighbor, because there it was again on Monday.

Finally, I asked a friend of mine who had also been suckered into spending an inordinate amount of time working in Mexico, and guess what he told me?

 The cup is to keep out the cockroaches. Yuck.

And here’s the weird thing. Sometimes late at night, long after I’d learned the Mexican way and covered the sink with an inverted paper cup before going to bed, I would wake to the sound of that paper cup falling over – tink…tink, tink. As if they were climbing up out of the drain, and coming for me, a cockroach carnivore army.

So now I stay in the hotel, and ask for the highest floor available.  And sometimes the maid leaves a paper cup over the drain. Just in case.

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