Almost every morning I wake to the sound of a mosquito buzzing around my ear. In my slumber stupor, I usually nail myself in the head trying to kill the motherfucker. Being from Minnesota, which is supposed to be the motherland of mosquitos, I can tell you with certainty that we aint got nothing on the deep, tropical south. Where I come from, we were told since we were pretty much embryonic that the mosquitos that make noise are the females, which don’t bite. I’m pretty sure that’s just a convenient old wives tale to get kids plagued by buzzing bugs to shut up and go back to sleep. But I take a small amount of comfort in that tale when I go to swat at this darting bug, and then don’t see him (her) for long minutes. When I finally get her, she meets her demise with a smear of lipstick red blood.
I live in a modest little efficiency apartment, just a room really, adjacent to a fairly typical New Orleans courtyard (although mine is missing some iconic sculpture of a lady that converts to a waterfall). No matter—we don’t need more aquatic breeding ground. The courtyard, with its palm fronds and climbing vines and tropical mist is its own ecosystem of toads, and frogs the size of your baby fingernail (I’ve even seen them about the size of an ant) and lizards and even the occasional bluejay and squirrel (which make me feel more at home).
When I came down here, I wasn’t exactly prepared for battling (or acquiescing) to nature to the extent that you must in a tropical environment. Since its easier to live in this climate, everyone wants to be here, not just sexy humans like myself. Virtually every day, I do some kind of battle with some kind of cockroach.
Down here, you have a sort of rainbow of fruit flavors of roaches.
Palmetto bugs, by conventional wisdom the most terrifying because they are roughly the size of Chihuahuas, mostly stay outside. They are slow and lazy and dumb, and you mostly get used to them because they are always underfoot, but like I said, almost always outside. Occasionally one wanders in, and if you can stomach it, I guess you could stomp it. I’m too disgusted by the notion of the aftermath, so I just hope they’ll find their way out the same way they made it in.
Next, you have my least favorite, what I think of as the standard roach. They’re big (not as big as the Palmetto, but big enough) black, ugly, and they move really fucking fast-- their least charming quality. I’m not sure how they see (I don’t want to know) but they hide from you when you approach. I can’t stand the idea of scooping them up alive, no matter how giant the wad of tissue, so I’ve developed a strategy of whacking them with a shoe first. Sometimes it works, and sometimes they get away. Sometimes they just fall behind the TV, and again, you try and pretend they’ve vanished into thin air.
Finally, you have perhaps the most diabolical sort, what people around here call German roaches. I’ll spare the obvious metaphorical references, and just say that these are at once seemingly the most innocuous, but I’m told the most troublesome sort. They’re just roughly the size of a large ant, nothing more, and they move slow, so at first blush they’re not nearly as terrifying as the others. And yet, when you look close, they have the same body structure and horrific tentacles as your standard roach. I’m told that these travel in “packs”. By packs, I’m guessing the hundreds of thousand. I try not to think about it as I find these on the floor of my shower on a daily basis. I cover the drain with a wet rag just in case that’s where they originate from. No one really knows. I’m guessing no one wants to know.
Besides the roaches, I’ve seen rats chasing one another through the French Quarter as playfully as cats another greasy (yet clearly terrified) rat traversing the side of a building in broad daylight looking for a place to hide (he was probably crazed on some poison,) a spider lodged in a straw (thank Jezbus the straw was transparent,) and too many sneaky feral cats to count. At night, bees swarm my outdoor lightbulb. I'm not exactly accustomed to seeing bees at night, and I wonder what they want with the light.
Being down here is just a reminder that we share our world with all kinds of critters, and try as we might to fight nature, nature always wins.