A Cockroach on the Tel Aviv Promenade

March 20, 2014
Tel Aviv promenade

There are cockroaches on the bus. It is early-mid-April and nature is groggily waking from her short slumber. I’m on the line-10 Dan bus, making my way home from another uneventful day.

Freshly hatched and uninvited, the cockroaches’ presence is overwhelming and unavoidable. One is surveying the floor, scurrying from side to side. Revolted and trapped for another fifteen minutes at least, I am helpless and stare at this miserable creature. As I continue to watch him, the judgment I assign to his presence starts to transform in my brain. What a playground this must be for him, I muse to myself. Us humans can barely stand the discomfort and humiliation of brushing shoulders and whacking each other with our backpacks and shopping bags on the dingy, cramped public transportation we are obliged to ride every day, but look at how this roach joyfully explores his vast domain!

A gussied-up woman notices him wandering precariously close to her heel and she jumps to the other side of the bus to avoid contamination through contact. High-pitched yelling penetrates the music blaring in my earbuds and I look over to my right. A little boy is attempting to pick up another roach with his stubby, tiny fingers as his sister screeches at him and his mom drags him away.

A small cockroach is crawling dangerously close to me on the ledge next to my seat.

I shudder and turn back to gaze out the window. A small cockroach is crawling dangerously close to me on the ledge next to my seat. I blow on him to try to drive him away but he holds his ground. For a pathetic little bugger, he is surprisingly steadfast. Again I blow, but he hunkers down on the spot. Suddenly, I am acutely aware of the weird game we are playing. I am communing with this roach. I can’t tell where the roach begins and where I end. I want to simultaneously laugh and scream. I forfeit and he wins. He continues his trek along the bottom of the window. I think it’s time we recognize and celebrate the Gregor Samsa within each and every one of us.

A Cockroach on the Tel Aviv Promenade.

We can build skyscrapers and luxury condos and cars and cafes and say this one is posh and this one is passé and call it progress but we will never be able to exterminate the most unsavory of organic creatures lest we usher in total ecological destruction. We seem to hate the tenacious, ugly flora and fauna the most; the weeds, the roaches and the rats that remind us our domination of the land can be undermined by the least powerful and unassuming. Even the most simple of human concepts like indoor and outdoor seem ridiculous and illusory when faced with a roach on a bus. I hope he makes it on time to wherever he needs to go.

The 10 makes its way from Tel Aviv to Jaffa by driving along the Tel Aviv promenade. On one side is the ocean; on the other are the crumbling remains of a few defaced houses, high-rises, and construction sites turning the former into the latter. Too often I forget to look at the side facing the ocean. I crane my neck to take in its breathtaking, mysterious glory. I decide to get off the bus early and finish my journey home on foot. Stray cats frolic in a nearby dumpster.

I walk along the Jaffa sea wall promenade. Old Jaffa sits atop the hill behind me. The sun is setting and the bats are beginning to shake out their wings. The ocean is a silvery, silky expanse in the twilight. Frothy ripples rush to the shore like delicate, antique, white lace. A few fishermen are casting out their lines from their perches on the large, yellow rocks. Metallic clouds loom in a sky striated with azure, champagne, tangerine, and rose. I am a roach reveling in my vast domain.

About Lara Robinson

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