I returned to Austin halfway through the summer, having spent the first month in Germany with my family so I could attend my brother's high school graduation ceremony.
My roommate went home for the break, and I was on my own. There weren't too many affordable housing options close to campus for a six-week stay, so I subletted an apartment that I had only briefly seen before my trip abroad.
A friend accompanied me from El Paso, where my grandparents were housesitting our family home and where I had stashed my stuff in May. After the fourteen hour drive, we arrived at the apartment in the hot, sticky dark. It was in an old complex, just two stories built around a central courtyard that had a pool badly in need of upkeep. We climbed the stairs and walked over to the corner unit. I put the key into the lock, opened the door, and reached for the light switch.
Nothing happened. The landlord had not turned on the electricity yet. We took a few steps into the murk, and felt crunching underfoot. An odd smell permeated the gloom.
There was no telephone to call someone; I had opted not to connect the line for such a short stay, and these were the days before cellphones. My friend and I decided to find a hotel for the night and come back in the daylight.
In the morning, my friend left for El Paso, and I returned to the apartment alone. The crunching underfoot? Dead beetles, littering the floor from what I could only guess was an unfinished extermination job. The smell was from a head of lettuce in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator, left to rot in the heat when the power was turned off.
I did get the electricity turned on that day. Unfortunately, I spent the next six weeks sleeping with a can of Raid next to my bed, as the beetles returned to reclaim their space. I would find them crawling across my bedcover in the middle of the night. Several would be dead in the bathtub in the morning, entering through the drainpipe and exhausted by the attempt to climb the smooth porcelain walls, no doubt. I was fascinated by the different kinds and sizes that visited the apartment, but disgust outweighed curiosity. My extermination efforts were twofold--the aforementioned can of Raid, and the addition of allowing a neighborly cat into my unit each day to happily pounce on and eat the offending roaches.
When the six weeks were over, I couldn't move out of that apartment fast enough.