I have reached an age and stage of life at which, when I wake up each morning, I have no real sense of the kind of day I will have. Will it be anxiety attacks today? Acne? Dysmorphia? Crushing fatigue? Or will I be full of energy with love in my heart? Maybe I will become enraged at a meme today, with such blistering fervor that I write a whole essay about it and email it to myself, then immediately forget about it. Today might be a day when the sports bra that was tolerably roomy 18 hours ago suddenly has a death grip on my ribcage. Pants that fit normally in the morning may be catastrophic by 2:00 pm. Maybe today I will stare at myself in the mirror for 15 minutes marveling that somehow overnight my face became noticeably and grotesquely more asymmetrical. At some point, I might smell like a 12 year old boy skateboarding into a dumpster.
It could be any or all of these, any day, including today. But what really threw me this morning was the centipede in my kitchen sink. I opted first to ignore it. If I waited, perhaps it would go somewhere else that I definitely was not going to think about. He – this centipede is a he – was nowhere near the faucet, so I filled the kettle, made coffee, and pretended he wasn’t there. Later, I pretended he wasn’t there as I rinsed my coffee mug and had a second cup. I filled my water bottle and pretended some more. Had breakfast, pretendo.
The centipede wasn’t going anywhere. By noon it was a standoff. An inter-species cold war.
Something had to change. I had dishes to wash that required full use of the sink. The time had come to retrieve my trusty Official Insect Relocation System (see photo). As I did, I realized that I’d been using this technique for years – probably my whole adult life – and I’d likely moved into this house with this specific Official Insect Relocation System setup. Did I have this piece of cardboard and this solo cup in the rental where I lived before moving here? The apartment before that? I thought all the way back to my last apartment in State College, which was on College Avenue directly across from one of the westernmost Uni-Marts in town. Each morning I’d wake up at 5:30 to shower before work and find a centipede in my tub. EVERY morning. Back then, I had an early iteration of the Official Insect Relocation System: the top of a shoebox from a pair of clunky black wear-to-the-bars college shoes. I’d coax the centipede onto the shoebox top, sprint to the front door, then fling the centipede out into the wild. All the while, I’d wonder what the overnight workers at the Uni-Mart thought, when early each morning a strange woman across the street would throw open her door and lurch outside in her robe, yelling at a piece of cardboard while waving it at the parking lot.
Anyway, I was thinking about all that as I coaxed the bug from my sink onto the cardboard, covered him with the cup, and escorted him out to the side yard. I’ve been flinging bugs for a long time. I’ve had my trusty Official Insect Relocation System for a long time. While the Official Insect Relocation System can be tricky with crickets, it always works. Crickets, centipedes, spiders, bees, mysterious spider-bee things. They’ve all seen the inside of this red solo cup, then freedom.
At present, I cannot rely on my endocrine system. I’m pretty much bound to it and whatever it decides to throw my way in any moment. I’ve changed my life around it – how I dress, how I work, how I eat. (Does anyone prepare you for this part of middle age? That unless you are one of the lucky ones who sail through Le Change with no real disruptions, you will have to turn your life on end to manage yourself, and it is both miserable and also will mature your worldview and set you right in the most unexpected ways despite your despair, if you let it? No. No one tells you this. They give you movies with Diane Keaton wearing a white turtleneck and looking charmingly exasperated and moist, and that is all you get.)
I have this, though: a piece of cardboard, a red solo cup, and that thing that has always dwelt within me that won’t let me squish a bug.