I dreamed of roaches last night.
Displaced by hurricane Irene, our family lodged with my parent’s friends, the Denneys. As a child, the Denneys were our “wealthy” friends, who lived in a split-level mansion. In my dream, they retired to an abandoned textile factory in Maine.
Beyond the factory, a post-apocalyptic landscape swarmed with homeless flood victims. An aura of chaos and menace pervaded. We were fortunate to have shelter.
Our factory-home dripped and crumbled around us. The top floor, however, housed two sunny, dry rooms. My son Liev slept in one of these rooms. I resided in the lower level. My husband was oddly absent.
Every morning, I hustled to do chores. I feared jeopardizing our security by displeasing our hosts. I scraped moldering wallpaper into buckets and collected pails of foul water for a huge cistern. I washed sheets in inky vats that blacked my nails. I pasted piles of broken glass to the walls of empty bathroom stalls. After my strange tasks, I went downstairs to make my bed.
I slept on a deteriorating mattress the floor above a flooded basement. Water streamed down an algae streaked wall. Along the far side of my room, rusting metal pipes tangled with dripping broken sinks. Sodden, decaying and neglected, the damage predated the hurricane’s advent by decades. I wondered if our friends were being opportunistic, working me so hard.
I stuffed more layers of newspapers under my bed to keep it dry. As I began to gather my sheets, I noticed roach tracks. Despite working in filth all day, I had not seen a sign of insects. Now, their droppings encrusted the perimeter of where my sleeping body had lain.
Then the smell hit me. I have dealt with a roach infestation in real life, and the stench is unmistakable. Sweetish, musky, fecal and oily, the scent was pervasive. Pushing the sheets away from me, I inspected the room.
Roaches, thousands of them. Wedged in cracks along the wall and jammed between floorboards, roaches jostled to get a look at me. I could feel them, sentient and waiting for me to return to bed. They would spend the night trundling around me. A moment of terror gripped me and passed.
I calculated the risk of complaining—could it result in Liev’s expulsion from the sunny room? I peered at the roaches, glistening and restless. I decided to quietly wash my sheets and pass the night with the roaches.