Late last night I found out.
I’d just come home and, as I was undressing, I suddenly felt I was not alone. I was being watched. I slowly turned around, scouring the room and focused on a slight movement in the corner. There he was. Peeping out from his hiding spot under the piano. Coldly staring me straight in the eye. I froze in terror.
It immediately occurred to me how different my life here in New York is from my life in Bombay. There, in a situation like this, all I’d have to do is intercom my staff and they’d march in armed with a selection of brooms, rolled up newspaper and other weaponry. I would point out the intruder and then leave the room while they took care of the assassination. Only once they’d finished the dirty work and cleaned up, would I return.
Here, it was different. I was alone. I had no troops. No army of assassins. If I called up the doorman or super, I’d be the laughing stock of the building. No, I would have to face this trespasser myself. It was a rite of passage I had to go through. I felt like a lion cub about to hunt his first gazelle. The battle lines were drawn. It was man against cockroach.
I told myself I could do it. I was a grown man hundreds of times his size. I lift weights. I’ve shot guns and even done my own stunts in movies, for god’s sake. So then why was I suddenly breathless and why was my heart threatening to pound right out of my chest?
We both stood deathly still, surveying each other. Waiting to see who’d make the first move. I could sense the beast was hoping to cross the room and make it to the safe refuge under the bed. And I knew if he succeeded, chances of finding him in the labyrinth of exercise equipment there were slim. I had to get him before.
Suddenly, he made a dash for it. There was no time to think. I lunged for the closest weapon, a sneaker. He expertly dodged and swerved. I missed the first time but on my second strike I connected. There was a carpet underneath so I realised the impact hadn’t crushed him, but rather trapped him within the grooves of the sole and I knew the minute I so much as moved the shoe, he would dart out and be forever lost. There was only one option. It was time for chemical warfare.
Not caring that I was in just my boxers, I ran out into the hallway and grabbed a can of ant spray that I’d seen discarded in the compactor room. It would have to do. I came back in and began to plan my next move. I stared at the shoe for a couple of minutes. Then circled it a few times, evaluating the best angle to approach the next phase from. Strategy was key and I didn’t want to rush into it. Once decided, I took aim, a deep breath and quickly lifted the shoe as I simultaneously started spraying wildly. The wily bugger was quicker than I anticipated. He zipped out and managed to make it to the bed. But just as he disappeared under it, I nailed him with one well aimed squirt between the wings. Wounded and disoriented he would now be easy to hunt out.
With adrenalin induced Herculean strength, I hurled the bed aside and there he was, cowering besides a dumbbell. Panting and dripping with sweat, we stared at each other knowing these were the climactic seconds of the battle. And then he made one last brave but feeble run for it but he knew it was hopeless. The duel was over. I unleashed so much ant spray that I think he might have died from drowning rather than the poison.
As I looked at him lying belly up in a pool of pesticide, I was overcome with a mixture of accomplishment and guilt (or was I just high from the fumes?). I must have used half a roll of paper towel to lift his remains and carry them at arms length to the trash and the other half to scrub the floor, in true Lady Macbeth fashion, till the stain and smell were gone.
It was finished. I needed a drink.