Poetry: Trepidation and Trauma by Connie Woodring

Trepidation and Trauma

My first encounter with these disgusting creatures was when I lived in a second-floor row house apartment at the age of an impressionable seven.
Upon coming home in the dark, we would put the hall light on.
All hell would break loose. Sounds of scratching and skittering.
Hundreds of these bugs would run and hide under the linoleum and the baseboards.
None would ever come into our apartment, but this didn’t stop me from checking my bed every night for three years.
After nightly sheer exhaustion set in, I just hoped none were taking comfort in my bedlinens or hair.
A complaint to the elderly widow landlady was met with,” Hymmpph!”
We didn’t know if that was the name of the exterminating company,
or if it was our responsibility to call them.
No one ever did.
We were very fortunate not to transport these horrors into our new apartment several miles away.
At another impressionable age of 13, I visited my grandmother in Florida.
She was sitting on her chair watching television.
I glanced over toward her, and on her arm was the largest cockroach I had ever seen.
I screamed, but my grandmother just swatted it with her hand.
No bodily fluids came out. It didn’t wriggle or make any sound.
It just dropped to the floor dead.
“What was that?”
“A palmetta bug. They’re all over the South. They look like palmetta bush leaves.”
“Looked like a cockroach to me.”
“Same thing.”
Having had no further contact with cockroaches, except on the front of Raid cans, for many years, I thought I was rid of these abominations forever.
Then I visited my boyfriend who lived in a large urban city.
When he made dinner for us, he would flick off the cockroaches that were on the table and kitchen counter.
When he turned the ceiling light off and on, the cowards would scurry toward the back of the refrigerator.
He stoically noted, “They are everywhere in the city. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
We always ate in the upstairs living room. Lights were always bright, so we could see if we were mistaking roaches for raisons or burnt meat. (He wasn’t that great a cook.)
Just in case he was carrying the cockroach curse I came to believe was following me, I didn’t marry the guy.
It probably wasn’t the best career decision to be a social worker in a large urban city.
On more than one home visit occasion, I had to act like I was being empathetic to my clients’ needs, when I was really fearful that I would find a cockroach in my purse or briefcase.
To reduce my trauma, I changed jobs to a rural psychiatric hospital. I never saw a roach after that, not even in the dank, smelly tunnels.
The man I ended umarrying also feared and hated roaches with a passion.  
This didn’t help when we went on vacation in North Carolina.
The expensive seashore cabin was rife with palmetta bugs.
They were in the garbage cans, in the kitchen cabinets, but mainly in the bedroom.
At night, just like those in my childhood, when the lights went on, they would scurry into the closets or under the floorboards.
If we tried to hit them with our shoes, they would run around in circles.
We realized why they had been on this earth for millions of years.
They were evasive, strategic, diabolical, bent on inheriting this planet.
They had no meekness genes.
When we complained to the owners of the establishment: “It’s the South. What do you expect?!”
I am now 77 and in poor health. I rarely see cockroaches (except on Raid cans).
Having lived in the suburbs for many years, I expect centipedes are becoming the next trepidation, but that is for another poem.

Connie Woodring is a 77-year-old retired psychotherapist who has been getting back to 
her true love of writing after 45 years in her real job.   She has had many poems published in over 40 journals including one nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize. She has had seven excerpts from her yet-to-be-published novel, Visiting Hours, published in various journals.


  1. Cockroach fear mixed with a bit of humor -- what a fun reading!


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