I saw a cockroach on the subway today. Not in the subway; on the subway. On the train. I was standing, as I regularly do, holding the handrails that run along the ceiling. As I looked down to read my book, I saw the bug running laps across the seat back adjacent to me. I was about to alert the seat’s tenants, but it was a crowded car, and given there was nowhere for them to safely flee, I thought it better to quietly watch him. Surely this bold display of calisthenics in plain view wouldn’t last, and he’d soon drop to the ground to be crushed underfoot at the next stop. As if hearing my thoughts, he stopped his laps two and fro across the seat back. Changing direction, he circled the post that connects the seat to the roof thrice, as if gaining momentum or courage, then ascended it. Now eye level with me he politely waived his little antennae then took a right turn onto the handrail I was using to steady myself.
I thought, “You. Don’t you betray our little understanding and crawl on my hand. I didn’t tattletale on you.”
Seemingly in full compliance, at that very moment, he dove off the rail onto the shirt sleeve of the woman in the aisle seat. I gasped, a nearly inaudible gasp, leaving my jaw slightly agape from what I realize now was more admiration than disgust.
I had the urge to warn this poor woman, but I hesitated, musing, “I could spare a bug’s life and a woman’s discomfort by staying mum.” He climbed down her sleeve and into her purse. What could I possibly say now, “Pardon me, Miss, there’s a roach in your purse?”
The train stopped. The doors opened. I exited.
I imagine he is still down in that patent leather purse nibbling away on an endless supply of Lance cracker crumbs. I wonder if he misses the underground family he left behind. I wonder if he thinks about me. I wonder if he is actually a sentient robot soldier from the future and that innocuous lady with the plaid skirt and plain face is a federal employee. He could be hitching a ride to sleuth into some vault or access some mainframe to broadcast back the key to human survival. There are a lot of consulates near that stop. And didn’t she have an ID badge?
How am I supposed to focus on work when these things keep happening to me?