The first time you were awakened in the darkness of night by the nightmarish realization that a cockroach was slinking, creeping, crawling up your arm, you freaked. “Shit!” you breathed violently, as you flicked the vile thing off you. It had been huge, too, over an inch long. “What’s happening?” you’d wondered to yourself. “How has my life spiraled so low?”
“God, I can’t do this,” you had said aloud to yourself that night, half-asleep yet wide-awake. It was a dreamlike state, where psychedelic shades of black and ugly swirled around the room Peter Max style. Of course, that was long before all the other cockroaches – way before the millionth one you counted this morning, way before you realized this place was infested. You thought about getting yourself to the library to find a copy of The Metamorphosis.
Franz himself couldn’t make this up, you thought.
You have a hard time sleeping through the night now. It doesn't help that the couch you sleep on is under the window that faces Main Street. You wouldn't have believed how many ambulances and police cars, sirens blazing and lights flashing, race down the main drag of this godforsaken desert town nightly—until you slept here. Plus, the threadbare sheets you use don't do much to keep you warm; they’re so thin that you can see right through them. They’re white with tiny blue flowers on them, but if you put your hand on the other side of the fabric, you can see the pink color of your flesh right through. Joanne told you that she found them in the trash, along with the seashell towels you use in the bathroom. She loves to go trash-digging; to her it's a great treasure hunt. She’s proud of her finds. She even found your couch (well, her couch; you just sleep on it) at the dump, and you know why. The springs in the skinny mattress of the brown-checked-burlap foldout punch through the top, and you have the scars to prove it.
But you can't complain. You’re thankful you have a roof over your head. She didn’t have to let you stay here. Everything spiraled out of control when you lost your job, now here you are. She’s barely even your friend, really, although after spending the past four months here, drinking her cheap beer while you watch NASCAR and root for Junior every weekend, you’ve become chums. How unlikely would that be in any other circumstance? You, college-educated, former office manager for a prominent plastic surgeon in Las Vegas; you, with five thousand dollars worth of work on your own lovely face, now sitting, sweating, in a garage on an obscenely dirty futon, sipping out of a Schlitz can, watching Dale Jr. go round and round and round. Hell, you don’t even like beer. How did you first meet her? You can’t even remember now.
This afternoon you were watching TV in the garage, and a giant roach jumped on Joanne’s arm. She just flicked it off. Then cussed. She opened her mouth in anger real fast, so fast that her dentures popped out of her mouth. You turned your head and kept watching the television, as if it wasn't anything unusual. Cockroaches seem to be a family affair here. This afternoon Joanne told you that Peggy, her daughter in Mississippi, has a cockroach in her kitchen that she named, but you forget the name. You’ve never met Peggy but you heard she has a lazy eye and it’s hard to look at her while you’re talking to her.
Dear God, another night of this, you think to yourself. Another damned giant roach has just tickled you awake. God, you brood silently, you just can’t do this anymore.
Marley, you think to yourself. His name is Marley.