Two Weeks Before Graduation

So there I was in the lounge below my dorm, laptopped and blanket-wrapped and just settling in to write, when the giant cockroach that'd been hanging around my shower barged in with my towel around its waist and my roommate's floral-print shower cap stretched across its antennae.

"You're out of soap," it said.

"Who said you could use my soap?" I shot back.

"It's either that or your roommate's shower gel, and I'd rather not smell like artificial strawberries all day."

"Can't you get your own?"

"Yeah, sure. I'll walk right into the supermarket, grab a bar off the shelves, and swipe it through the self-checkout." It rolled its compound eyes. "You think I'd make it two feet through the door before they came after me with enough Raid to kill an elephant?"

"You could try a drugstore."

"Same problem."


"I don't need a 36-pack."

"Well, can't you just. . ." The roach had me stumped. "Um. . . what about those little souvenir shops out in the country? The kind with all the antiques and candles and junk?"

"Yeah, and I'd be picking soap-encrusted flower petals out of my exoskeleton all day. Can't you just swing by the store on your way home from work?"

"I certainly will," I replied, "but the problem here isn't that we're out of soap. It's that I'm out of soap and you're a freeloading bug."

"Hey now, that was completely uncalled for."

"It's true, isn't it? Unless you've got a fourth pair of legs you're hiding under that towel?"

"It's true in the same sense that your friend's autistic brother is a retard."

So that's how they felt about the term. I stared up at the roach, watching its feelers twitch beneath the shower cap. Was this the hammer-tap that would shatter our tentative friendship? I never could tell what it was thinking behind those beady eyes.

A pack of frat boys came thumping down the hall to the dining room. Guess there was something going on in there today—'tis the season for closing ceremonies and whatnot.

"We prefer the term 'insect' these days," the cockroach said at last once they were gone.

"Duly noted," I replied. And then, as the thought came to me, "I'll be moving out of here in a couple of weeks, you know."

"I know." The roach shrugged its uppermost arms, free of both the towel and the task of holding it in place. "Happens every year."

"But this time I won't be coming back. I'm graduating."


"Thanks, but what's going to happen to you? I must have saved your ass five times last semester before the suitemates got used to you. Who knows what kind of insectophobes will end up in my room next year?"

"I'll manage," it said with a shrug. "I did just fine on my own before you showed up."

"Yeah, but back then you were small enough to hide inside the walls."

"Pfft, I can still do that. I just need to lose a few pounds over the summer."

"Uh-huh." And shrink a few feet.

"And hey—worst comes to worst, I'll move down to the basement. Hide out in the offices or something. They won't even know I'm there."

"You know best, I guess. . ." I turned back to my laptop, staring at the words on the screen as if I could will them into multiplying, into suggesting a way to continue. The trick has yet to work, but one of these days. . .

"Ahem," coughed the roach.

I peered over my screen once more.

"Can you swipe me in upstairs?"

I rolled my eyes. "Sure, whatever."

"Blatant speciesism, that's what it is," the roach complained as we climbed the stairs. "I've lived here longer than any of you college kids—even the ones in architecture who're taking six years to graduate—but the Res Life office still won't give me an ID."

"Sucks, man."