The first thing I noticed was the cleanliness of the hotel room; the second thing I noticed was the intruder.
I was on a business trip to one of the “kidnap capitals” of the world. I had prepared by reading the city’s State Department warnings and convinced myself there was a statistical likelihood that I would, in fact, be kidnapped. From there, I hoarded mal occhio charms, watched Buffy re-runs, and wrote heartfelt letters to my family in case I was sold into a human-trafficking ring and never returned. By the time I checked into the hotel, I was sporting three different evil-eye necklaces and had texted my mom that I wanted Andrea Boccelli’s “Sogno” played at my memorial mass.
While the intruder in my room wasn’t the kidnapper I feared, he was horrible all the same: a cockroach the size of my palm in my bathroom, sitting in the center of the multi-colored tile. Diablo was staring at me, his antennae twitching slightly. (I named him El Diablo, obviously.)Relieved that he hadn’t run past me to lay eggs in my suitcase, I figured Diablo was either a) injured or b) napping and in the middle of an REM cycle. Regardless, he was the physical manifestation of my current travel anxiety. As such, I had to destroy the beast, and stepping on him wasn’t an option because ewwww. And so I found myself thinking, “What would Buffy do?”
Inspiration struck as I looked around and spotted a large, glass vase on the sink. I grabbed its base, dumped the fancy soaps and shampoos it was holding (making a mental note to steal them later) and approached the critter. I made the sign of the cross and then crying out like the Hulk, I swooped down and successfully trapped the demon. Diablo immediately awoke and twitched around his transparent prison. My heart racing, I turned to the nearby phone and realized that securing backup might be difficult as I only had an eighth grade Spanish education. In quel momento, I started thinking in due lingue at the same tempo. Unfortunately, neither was going to be helpful.
As the phone rang, I gave some serious side-eye to Diablo while trying to remember the details of insects’ respiratory systems. Could he suffocate? I hoped so.
Me: Hablas ingles?
Her: No, Senora Festino. Lo siento.
Me: Escuchame! Necessito ai-uuu-do! Porque c’e … la cucaracha grande nel mio bagno!
Me: La Cucaracha! Muy grandissimo! Il mio prigioniero!
Me: Cockroach! Grandisssssssssimo!
Her: Ah, si! You want big cock-tail?
I paused. Now that she mentioned it, a drink couldn’t hurt.
Me: Escuchame! El Diablo esta mio prigioniero! Comprende?
She didn’t respond and so I did the only thing that made sense: I started to sing.
Me: La cu-ca-raaaa-cha, cu-ca-raaaa-cha…la-la-la-la-la-la.
I’m not sure if she thought I wanted a cocktail, exorcism or dance lesson, but she finally interrupted my singing and jazz hands and said, “Ok. I send.” Satisfied, I stuck my tongue out at Diablo because I’m very mature.
While waiting to see who would arrive at my door, I looked up the lyrics of “La Cucaracha.” Turns out, the song tells the story about a cockroach who can’t walk because he lost one of his legs.
Hold. The. Phone. Was it possible this injured cockroach was the reincarnation of the infamous bug? I bent down and whispered to the roach. “Mr. Cucaracha? Is that you? Are you … hurt? Is this a sign to help me face my fears?” He hurled himself at the glass in response and I read it as a definitive, “Si.”
Just then, there was a knock at the door. Feeling empowered, I went to see what the front desk sent me: martini, man of the cloth or mariachi band. I hoped it was the latter. That would make for a great story.