Dreading June

There are lots of important stories in the news, about the U.S.-North Korea summit and the Stanley Cup playoffs, about flooding in New Brunswick and escalating tensions between Iran and Israel. I’m well aware of those, truly I am, but there’s one news story I can’t seem to shake off.

Did you hear about the cockroach that crawled inside a woman’s ear while she slept? I can’t even type those words without a shudder, an actual one that gives me goosebumps.

I should be more thick-skinned when it comes to such gross stories, shouldn’t I? I’m a country girl from Nova Scotia, after all. We have all manner of gross bugs worming around under our feet, not to mention other horrific creatures like mice and rats. But if you ever want to render me pretty much catatonic, put me in the same room as a junebug.

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When I was a kid, my friend Amy told me a story about her uncle getting up in the middle of the night to eat steak and while cutting it in the dark he didn’t notice that what he was cutting was actually a junebug that had somehow crawled onto the plate. He had already eaten half before realizing what had happened.

I realize that this story was probably fabricated for the sake of scaring her friends. (Why was he eating steak in the middle of the night? Why was he eating in the dark? Why didn’t he see the bug in the light of the fridge? The details don’t exactly hold up under scrutiny.) To that I say well done, Amy, because I’m 39 and still have post-traumatic stress retelling your little tale in my head.

It was because of this story that I always had a fear of junebugs and have gone out of my way to avoid them my entire life. I stay inside as much as I can for the entire month of June. I’ve watched as they have been (usually at my insistence) stomped, sprayed, impaled, crushed, and drowned, and I bear not a single ounce of remorse or desire to reform. I loathe them, big and small. They’re vile and repulsive regardless of shape or size.

One in my ear, however, is beyond my worst nightmare. The poor woman in the news story woke up in the middle of the night feeling something in her left ear. In the bathroom, she inserted a cotton swab and “felt something move.” She also found two brown legs stuck to the swab when she pulled it out. Seconds later, her husband confirmed there indeed was a cockroach wriggling around in her ear canal.

Right about then I would’ve needed a sedative, the big pellet kind they use for humongous African wildlife. That would have been the only thing to save me from pulling a Vincent Van Gogh and lopping off my own ear. I admit to this readily because anyone who has known me in any month of June since about 1988 has seen me go ballistic when I spot a junebug anywhere near me. You will never see this body move as fast as when I’m trying to get out of the vicinity of one in mid-flight. I will hip-check people out of the way and burst through the wall like the Kool-Aid man, if it means getting out of its way.

Not the girl on the news. She went to the emergency room, even as she felt the insect burrowing deeper, an experience she described as “psychologically tortuous.” The emergency doctor killed the roach and removed three pieces of the bug – but that wasn’t the end of it. It took her two more doctor visits, four ear flushings, and an ear, nose, and throat specialist to dislodge the entire head, upper torso, remaining legs and an antenna.

I need you to read that back a second time to make sure you absorb the full horror of what I just wrote.

And here’s another scary part: the doctor told her she was the second patient he had treated THAT DAY with a bug in the ear. The second bug removed in one day by a single doctor – extrapolate a bit and you know where my thoughts are headed. This, of course, can mean only one thing: no one is safe, none of us, even in our own homes. Even in our own beds.

June is in less than two weeks. May the odds be ever in your favour.