The Cockroach Hickey

by tkos on October 2, 2012

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“We’ve spent more time looking for a hotel than we have cycling to get here! Would you just pick one already!”

It was dark, and had been for the past ten kilometres. Kimmi can sometimes get a bit stressed in the dark and, as we were slowly cycling through the dimly lit streets of Trincolomee on our 139th kilometre of the day, I was just too tired to argue.

As we strolled passed the confused and gormless faces of onlookers, we knew that tourists were few and far between in the dilapidated, yet charismatic town. Neither of us knew where we were going, yet the roads kept getting smaller, darker and a little more broken in every blind turn we took.

On the surface, Kimmi’s request appeared to be selfless, almost to the point of chivalrous. But I had fallen into this trap before and was well aware that I was now in more danger than cycling blindfolded at night, going the wrong way down a Sri Lankan freeway.

What Kimmi had achieved, in a single breath, was to completely empower me with all the responsibility of choosing the right hotel, being the safest and the cleanest, while completely exempting herself from any potential failures in the matter. The right decision would earn me no reward, not a smile, a kiss or a cuddle, but to choose incorrectly could end in disaster. It wasn’t just a clever statement, it was cunning as well. If I was to attempt to ‘share’ the decision making process of choosing the hotel, I would simply be greeted with a look that would strip me of all my (remaining) masculinity.

“STEP UP!” her eyes would say. “I’m hungry, dirty, sweaty and tired! You need to provide me somewhere clean and safe, in which I can feel like a woman again! It’s your fault we’re on this trip which means it’s your fault it’s dark and it’s your fault we are not in a hotel yet! Man up and provide!” The detail in which I can read into Kimmi’s cut throat stare is endless.

The four hotels in front of us, all within a 100m proximity of each other, seem to be the only hotels in town and certainly the only hotels we could find in the dark. All appearing to be on the lower end of low budget, but coming with an unshaven, stained white singlet wearing, over weight Sri Lankan man, sitting in a buckling plastic chair, waiting to greet us.

As all hotels appeared to be of similar (sub) standard and were so close together, I had the option to look around to make sure I could find the best place for my baby to re-womanise. But time is a serious factor because to research means delay and to delay is like juggling hand grenades.

I stick my head into the front room of the first hotel. The vacant restaurant lingers with stale cigarette smoke and a ‘good idea at the time’ dingy blue light hides the stains on the furniture and promotes an unintentional brothel feel. The deserted room echoes my call for assistance as I spend a few precious moments waiting, then turn around and depart.

I cross the street, step over the open drain and between the sleeping dogs to the second hotel. Kimmi’s glare is looking for answers which I ignore by gutlessly avoiding eye contact as I shuffle up to the front door. The middle aged man grunts as he heaves himself off his plastic chair to show me the room. The walls encroach as I begin the second set of stairs, twisting my small frame and ducking my lanky torso too avoid the hap-hazard, newly dangled construction. A third set of stairs and a quick hop over as 4m deep crevice and I’m introduced to a room, slightly wider than the dusty bed within it, containing no more than a flickering light and the smell of old moths. With a sigh, I ponder my fate if I take the room and quickly return downstairs to the street.

I’m beckoned into the third hotel as quickly as I leave the second, only to find a mattress the thickness of the sheet covering it and a squat toilet with permanent stains and what smells like a flushing issue. I glance back at Kimmi with the two bikes in the middle of the street with a look on her face I can only perceive to be impatience, like I am completely wasting her time.

With mounting pressure to dignify my masculinity, I scuttle across the road to my last hope of salvation. The young man at the entrance gives me a smile like he has been entertained by the escapade being rolled out before him over the last ten minutes.

‘How much is the room?’ I ask with despair.

‘2500 rupees’ he replies with a grin, knowing full well it is 500 rupees more that the three hotels he watched me turn down. I check out the room to find a door that locks, a light that works, a toilet that isn’t blocked and bed sheets with only minor stains.

‘I’ll take it!’ I exclaim, relieved that I have fulfilled my duties as a man and as a provider.

I proudly show off the features of the room to Kimmi once we have settled the registration, highlighting the rusty tinged tap water from the sink and the ever popular bath by bucket mode of showering. But she is just relieved to be comfortable and I am relieved to be safe.

Before long we had found a clean and comfortable place to eat and tucked into a feast of Sri Lankan delicacies to reward ourselves for the 140km cycled, the longest day of the trip so far. With food in our bellies and our bags & bikes safe and secure, we are back to being our usual ‘romantic’ selves as we thrash out a couple of quick games of backgammon on iPhone. And as usual I let her win for no other reason than that she is better than me.

On the short walk back from the restaurant to the room, Kimmi squeezes my hand and grips proudly in public. It is a rare sign of outside of affection, especially in a strange land, but it comes with a proud smile, a smile of comfort, a smile of security, a smile in the strength of her man.

Several hours later, as the clock ticked past the early hours of the morning and nothing but stillness filled the thick dark air, we lay in deep sleep on our bed, with skin exposed to soak up the manufactured breeze of the fan.

Suddenly, with one single movement, Kimmi leaps from her back to her feet, jumping up and down on the bed, screaming, as if being viciously attacked by a ghost! Shaking her head wildly and stamping her feet uncontrollably on the bed, Kimmi unleashes a wild and desperate shriek! Smacking down on her face, neck and body with the palms of her hands, Kimmi stretches out to flick the light switch.

‘Oh, poor baby had a bad dream!’ I think to myself as a small chuckle escapes, watching Kimmi do a proper mental freak-out dance on the bed.

And as the light unveils the scattered contents of the room, a giant cockroach, the size of a mouse, darts from under Kimmi’s pillow straight across the bed!

“Eeeewww! It was all slimy and it was on my throat!” Kimmi screams hysterically.

Puffing and panting with heart racing, Kimmi turns to me for strength in this frightening time. I am her security, I am her provider, I am her man. She turns to me to protect her. She turns to me to make her feel safe again, as I had done just hours earlier.

She turns to me to see me on my tippy toes hopping on the spot in frantic search of the scurrying cockroach, unveiling a screech of my own.


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