Some nights Papi would sing “La Cucaracha” to me & my brother. Back when we were kids & Papi still had his bushy black mustache & still wiped our butts because we were too spoiled to do it ourselves.
I never understood what the song meant, except that it storied a lovable cockroach
who danced & travelled & made us smile. So different from the repulsive swarm of black cucarachas crawling in the crevices of our apartment, dispersing in five directions & burrowing between gunky bathroom tiles whenever we turned on the lights.
I would sneak the can of Raid, ambushing the little suckers by pressuring the nozzle until the dizzy smell of poison chemical permeated kitchen, pooling gloss & overturned roaches for me to scoop up & toss out. I hated when they kept twitching, so I’d douse them with more death-spray.
They were tough, those little crawlers, hiding in the most unexpected places, able to dodge & dart past unreachable corners, as if they knew my line of fire could be circumvented
by a table leg or open drawer.
If I was too slow, they’d be gone before I could react. If I was too loud, they’d cling to their spot of shadow, just out of sight.
Sometimes, if I thought I’d crushed one beneath my shoe, it would reappear, unharmed, and zig-zag to safety.
Other times I’d feel the crunch of shell beneath me & feel regretful, not so much for killing the damn thing, but for knowing I’d have to wipe the gut-smear off the floor. But I’d seen Papi do it enough that I became better at it with practice.