I wandered into “Cambodia’s First Concept Store” today. There was a display of throw pillows in the window, cotton with a silkscreen print of a lotus. I picked up the sky blue on royal blue version and found a cockroach sitting on the back side.
And I said, “Hello, there! How are you today?” and lifted the pillow up for a closer look. I showed him to the minder in the shop, and she shouted. “It’s all right!” I said. The cockroach hadn’t moved, and didn’t seem nervous of me. Its antennae were barely wavering. “Time for you to go outside,” I said. Then I opened the door and tried to shake the cockroach off onto the pavement, but it didn’t want to go. After the third try, it started climbing up the cushion to get better purchase on the top, and finally it buzzed off into a potted tree on the sidewalk.
I wish I’d gotten a picture. It was a beautiful caramel color against the deep blue of the pillow. Roaches in Cambodia are robust, three or more inches long, with elegant legs and glossy heads. I’ve never met one so calm, but it looked almost noble.
My first year here, I woke up one night to hear a rustling by my head, the noise I would imagine a sparrow might make if it were trapped under a sheet. I jumped out of bed and flipped the light on. There was a cockroach running along the headboard. I decamped to the living room, where I slept for the next month.