It feels good to put on workout clothes again, even if it’s just to do a 30-minute walking DVD or stream a yoga for cancer patients practice.

I’m especially excited to just move again and work up a bit of a sweat. The thing with feeling pretty good post-transplant is that it’s easy to overdo it, so I still have to remember to take it easy. I overdid it a bit on Tuesday and I was asleep by 10:30.

It’s humbling how much strength and flexibility I’ve lost, but I just have to start slowly to rebuild. I have to admit, the trainers in the beginner workout videos are more gentle than the intermediate or advanced levels. Leslie Sansone just wants me to walk and do some bounces, unlike Jillian Michaels, who wants me to “feel like you’re going to die.”

This post isn’t really about my triumphant return to working out or the long journey I have ahead of me. It’s about the momentary terror I felt this afternoon, after I unrolled my yoga mat.

As I looked forward to stretching and finding some inner peace, I was confronted by my mortal enemy, which fell out of my yoga mat. (No, it wasn’t Prince, though he is tiny.)

When I spread out my mat after months of not using it, out fell a cockroach.

We rarely get cockroaches in this apartment, but if you live in New York City, you’re probably going to come across a stray roach or two. I find that most of them seem to by the doors, but they’re pretty big, so I guess trying to sneak in through a smaller space isn’t an option. It’s like Gregor from The Metamorphosis is coming for a visit and has to knock. A former co-worker was once shocked that a roach made it into her doorman building—she kept emphasizing the doorman part, as if vermin have to be vetted at the front door. But it seems as if the larger ones do just waltz in like an uninvited guest.

I’ve presented people with the following question: Which is better, big roaches or small roaches? Most people will say big cockroaches, because they’re easier to find, plus an infestation of small cockroaches seems to mean they’re more bountiful. Also, many people—especially New Yorkers—seem to have a very specific vermin hierarchy of worst to “best” for having in one’s apartment.

I live in fear of coming across cockroaches, but it’s a terrible way to live, so I eventually let my guard down. That’s usually when one makes a dramatic appearance.

Cockroaches seem to choose to present themselves specifically to me. People I live with rarely find cockroaches, while I’m convinced they specifically sacrifice themselves every now and then to torment me.

In my early 20s, when lived close to The Ohio State University campus, I was plagued by sightings, while my two roommates never saw them and dismissed my complaints. I was telling a friend about this recently. “So I started to leave the roach bodies around for him to find,” I explained. “He didn’t believe me.”

“Oh, I see,” she replied. “He was the one being unreasonable.”

I never said I was a good roommate.

My theory is that I was responsible for the death of the Cockroach King, and since then, cockroaches have been trying to avenge the murder with intermittent psychological warfare. I was in Portugal when I remember seeing my first cockroach. We were on a family vacation, and I was 4 years old, walking down the street and holding my mom’s hand when I was stopped in my tracks by the biggest, ugliest bug I’d ever seen. I screamed so loudly that my mom said everyone stopped what they were doing. I was wordlessly pointing to the offending, terrifying creature. “Oh, it’s a cockroach,” my mom said. My grandpa heroically stepped on it.

This cockroach was undoubtedly the Leader of All Roaches. Since then, I’ve been able to sense when a roach is considering me with its horrible antennae. I’ve showered with cockroaches in Mexico. I’ve pulled a dead cockroach from my mouth at a restaurant. (It was buried in some rice, and we knew the sanitary aspect of this particular place was questionable.)

This afternoon, it was my terrified cockroach-specific scream (lower than my mouse scream) that my boyfriend heard when I saw a roach on the floor. He always seems alarmed at my cry, then annoyed that it’s just a cockroach. After eight years, he still doesn’t understand the subtle nuances of my vermin screams.

I stood frozen in place until my boyfriend got the Raid and sprayed. When he hit the bug with the insecticide, the roach moved. But it was from the blast. The cockroach was already dead. It had crawled into my yoga mat and died just to spite me, in one last act of defiance.

Thankfully, the yoga helped to calm me down and get rid of the post-roach heebie-jeebies. When I was supposed to close my eyes and look inward, however, I kept one eye open—just in case.

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