Eight Months Later
By: Jaimie Malphrus
It’s official. The bugs are out, living their best lives and terrorizing the general public. The big ones.
Since I’ve moved into my new place, I’ve had one giant spider, two roaches that I highly suspect were one and the same, and a wasp. Not that I’m counting. Not a lot considering I’ve been here since October. And I EXPECTED IT. I’ve been waiting. This building I’m in was built in the 1950s, there are lots of trees… nature. And it’s South Carolina. It’s unavoidable.
As far as wasps go, not a huge problem. Sure it sucks when they sting you, but they don’t gross me out and make me scream. I can knock them out the door with a broom. Summers in the park have helped with that, I guess. Spiders aren’t too bad either. The big ones creep me out, but it’s always been a catch and release situation. When 21 four year olds are watching you after they spot a spider in the classroom (and believe me, they will spot it), after you JUST taught them the difference between living and non-living things, then you have to catch them and show the kids how “cool” they are.
It’s not like you can just say “Kids, I know I just said these are good for the environment… but whoever’s got the biggest shoe is going to have to give it to me NOW. See, it was living and now it’s non-living, understand?”
Whole different lesson plan.
Roaches, however, really really freak me out. Whatever you want to call them, cockroaches or palmetto bugs if you’re fancy (*cough* Adam Knight)… they’re gross. And too fast. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, they FLY.
Now that I’m living alone (I mean, I have my dog Billie but she’s more scared of bugs than I am), I have a touch of anxiety every time I turn on a light that I’ll come face to face with a giant roach. Dealing with it on my own is TERRIFYING. And loud. And probably very scary for my neighbors. Although, my first experience with the giant monsters this year ended with me knocking it down the garbage disposal after 45 minutes of destroying my kitchen. I left that running for another 10 minutes. Just in case. Success? Success.
Honestly, though… David was useless when it came to bugs. He just didn’t care if there was a bug in the house. I could tell him there was a Tarantula in the living room and he would just stare at me and change the subject. Nope.
One night in our first few months together, David spent the night at my apartment in Charleston, and we had an “incident.” It was 2 am. He was asleep. I was staring at my phone (because sleeping is HARD and I know phones don’t help but that’s not the point). I felt something run across my chest. I turned my flashlight on on my phone and saw the tail end of a giant bug crawl off of me into the crack between the bed and wall. I know it was a roach. I know it. But it was GONE!
I woke up David screaming and completely disassembled my bed. Down to the boxspring. This sweet man silently stood there and grabbed pillows and sheets as I shook them out and handed them to him. Completely silent. 20 minutes later my mattress is half off my bed, pieces of my bed set are scattered everywhere, and I’m about to get out tools to take apart my bed frame. I know he thought I completely lost my mind.
We didn’t find the bug. I felt bad for waking him. He thought I imagined it, and I had no PROOF. So we reassembled the bed, David immediately went back to sleep, and I stared at my phone all night prepared to turn my flashlight on any second I felt a twinge.
I should’ve known that early on that he would never be the “come kill this bug” guy. But I kept trying until he really proved to me, no matter how much he loved me and spoiled me (and y’all know I was spoiled), that he would never be that guy.
That day came in Atlanta. We were living in a dingy little townhome, and I spotted a great big cockroach in our upstairs bathroom on the wall. I screamed. David came with a flip flop in hand (like that was gonna work). He went into the bathroom and closed the door. Ominous, right?
So I stand outside listening for the telltale flush of a bug disappearing from my life forever. Instead I hear a flip flop frantically banging on the walls, the cabinets, the tub… and then I hear the muttered phrase, “Oh shit.”
“Did you lose it?!” Terror.
“No. It’s fine.” I hear the flip flop. This time half-heartedly tapping on various objects in the bathroom. Silence. Then a flush.
“Did you get it?!”
“Yeah, it’s gone.”
“Are you lying to me?”
“No.” That was it. Just no.
I tentatively leaned in the doorway.
“David. It’s right there on the ceiling…”
“...That’s a different one.”
Trust. Gone. Forever.
He shut the door again, actually squished it, and this time I made him show me the proof. Because someone’s a liar.
I spent the night laughing in disbelief and pure horror at the man that I love, wondering how many times he said he had “gotten the bug” and really just given up and LIED to placate me. David, for years, swore it was a different bug. That looked exactly the same. In the exact same spot. BUT he said it with this face *see picture below.*
I mean, I get it. I’m a lot.
Sometimes I need to be placated for the sanity of all involved.
Sometimes I need someone to tell me everything’s totally fine so that I can sleep.
Sometimes I need someone to stand next to me while I neurotically spin out and rip apart my bedroom.
David became the “moral support” person and I became the “get the bug” person after that moment. I’d run around screaming with a shoe and a broom, scaring the neighbors, and he would sit silently and eventually talk me down. Sometimes he would say, “There it goes.”
The point is, I know I can do it. I KNOW I can. I mean, honestly, at this point in my life I know I can do anything. Not in a “I’m super evolved and strong” way. In a “shit happens and you deal with it” way.
You do what you have to do.
Kill the roach after screaming and chasing it for an hour.
Teach kids and be emotionally supportive even when you haven’t slept in days.
Do paperwork and call banks and credit cards and tell them your husband died.
SOMETIMES you put a “cry session” on your google calendar and invite your friends.
There is nothing graceful about any of this. It’s not glamorous. The world keeps moving even when it feels like it shouldn’t.
I used to struggle with being such an active character in David’s blog and shows and stand-up. Stand-up was easier; that was usually some jokes about me being Jewish and good in bed (sorry Nelson family) and then it was over. And there was wine. Once the blogs started, or at least started to transform into a play, I began to feel pressure. Pressure to be this person that he was writing about. The person that people were reaching out to-- like I was doing something completely unheard of just by staying with my favorite human. We talked about it a lot, but I don’t think I ever truly believed him; it’s hard to believe the good things other people say they see in you sometimes.
I felt like when I met people that had followed his blog or seen his show, that they had no concept of who I was in reality. That there was an expectation that I could never truly reach. That they were meeting a whole different human that didn’t actually exist. I am not selfless. I am not endlessly patient. I am NOT a person that should ever be put on a pedestal. There were a lot of times I felt like David put me there.
Just recently, I started rereading David’s blogs. I found myself sprinkled throughout them, even the ones that were completely unrelated to our life together. The amount of love I felt in those words... it was overwhelming. I was able to see myself from his perspective rather than the fear of how I couldn’t live up to it.
It was such a beautiful realization, that all of those stories and memories and whatever else he put out into the world, came from a place of love… not ideation. Of real, true adoration. David knew damn well that I didn’t belong on a pedestal. He knew me better than anyone else. He knew every single flaw and vice that I have. And still, he loved me… and wanted the world to know. He put my best foot forward even when I couldn’t.
Now I know he was simply stating his truth. The truth of our life together and his love for me. My fear was my own, because everything he ever said about me was true-- even if it was just true for him.
If other people seemed to “idealize” who I am? That honestly has nothing to do with me. I have no obligation or desire, to be frank, to be what other people expect. They may feel as if they went on a “journey” with David and me, but the reality is that they went on their own “journey” with him. Through his perspective and his voice.
Which, to me, is even more staggering and profound that he was able to create a meaningful, personal connection with so many people.
So, now I know. It’s hard to see your capabilities when you’re living with so much fear. Right when you’re in the midst of crisis mode. Especially when it feels like your whole life is “crisis mode.”
It’s hard to see who you really are until you absolutely have to prove it to yourself. Until you have to kill the cockroach without someone there to hype you up.
But you know what? I can.
And yes, I just wrote 4 pages about a cockroach. Kind of.