On Men and Pests
This piece was was originally written and read for an event hosted by Zan and Andy Romanoff in Los Angeles. The themes of the evening were daughterhood, fatherhood, and the patriarchy.
The day Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court I left my apartment and there were two dead crickets on my doorstep. My mother says a cricket in the house is good luck, but what do two dead crickets on a doorstep mean?
I created this, of course, with the poison and the one-gallon sprayer I bought from Amazon. Because a cricket in the house had kept me awake for two weeks.
When I was little, my father cleaned a church and dug the holes for bodies in its cemetery. He put those bodies in those holes and came home after midnight most nights. The cleaning and the body burying were enough to keep a roof over our heads. Me, my two older brothers, my father, and my mother.
A house came with the church sexton’s position. It was white stone with black shutters and a red door. It was three floors and costly to heat, but the church paid for all that.
The minister’s house was behind ours and he set up a line of string across the yard we shared — him, childless, and us desperate for green space to run around in. We were not allowed to cross the line.
That house was home until I was five and my father was fired for speaking to a wealthy church donor. He had hinted at the lavish ways the minister lived off of church donations. The minister had told him, “You are here to clean, not talk to people.”
As retribution, my brothers and I plucked every flower from his garden and hid them in our father’s tool shed. The church owned that, too.
The minister came to our door and called us horrible children.
I felt it for the first time then. Pest-like.
I moved to Riverside, California two months ago after working as a librarian in Washington, DC for seven years. I’d been drawn to the job because I’d grown up recognizing the library as a place of equality — where my poverty didn’t stick out as much. Once I became a librarian I quickly realized libraries — now more than ever — still serve…