the year i was in seventh grade my mom and i moved across town. we’d lived on the second floor of an old century house, all slant ceilings and mysterious cupboards, most of my childhood. the elderly couple who owned the place and lived below were like grandparents to me…but the street was an oasis of quiet in an otherwise seedy neighbourhood and nowhere near where i went to school, or where my friends lived. and the old couple were growing older and my mother decided it was time we got movin’ on up to a deee-luxe apartment within walking distance of, well, everywhere we went.

only problem? our new digs were not in the sky. they were in a basement.

aesthetically, i was a naive, optimistic little soul who embraced the varnished plywood and ill-fitting doors of the new place enthusiastically enough. i was thrilled by the built-in ledge that ran around my bedroom at ground level, and decorated it with artfully placed cassette cases – Luba here, Synchronicity and Rock Hits ’83 there. i liked being able to walk to school, rather than shunted across town by a harried mother trying to get to work on time. i liked being able to walk home after school and sneak in some General Hospital before said mother got home even more.

giant bumblebees had nested in the unused cable hole and apparently there was a young guy who lived upstairs and used to stumble in drunk on weekends. those things bothered my mother, but not me. what made me come to hate the place was the silverfish.

i still remember the first one. i found it in the tub a couple of months after we moved in. the teardrop shape of it, tiny, suddenly moving as if with jet speed, slithering down the drain. i leaned in that first time, curious…i’d never seen one before in my life.

within weeks we had an infestation that still makes me shudder. our apartment was next to the laundry room, and the combo of standing water and darkness seemed to have produced a bumper crop of the little creatures, hundreds of them wandering blindly into our bathroom. all the time. my mother tried javex, drano, all measures of elbow grease and prayer. not a thing worked. they thrived, and the bathroom crawled with them. i don’t remember when i crossed the line from curiosity and mild distaste to phobia…but by the time we bailed and moved in with my grandmother the following summer i was a full-blown bug hater, scarred for life. the rational, adult part of me knows no bugs in the Canadian climate can actually hurt me much, but it crawls? i creep out. and i have a special cotton-mouthed place in my heart for silverfish.
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why this little walk down the sunny cobbles of memory lane, you ask? well, i had a little reunion with one of my old friends the silverfish today. only the little fucker wasn’t on my bathroom floor. it was in my DRINK. floating. in my soy chai latte, doing backstroke.

in my half-finished soy chai latte.

when i quietly presented the barista with said insect on my plastic spoon she gagged – as i, incidentally, continue to do, um, nine HOURS later because i am a gentle soul with a suggestible mind and i am convinced the slight tickle in my throat is because i swallowed the little fucker’s kin and ewwwww – and then she said sorry, that’s disgusting, hey Terry come here see what ended up in this latte you poured and gave me my five bucks back.

then she stopped short and said, errrrr, wait…did you just want another one?

no. no thank you.

even the idea of drinking water makes me think of silverfish escaping taps and drains.

i think they could’ve at least thrown me a freebie card, for damage control. and for making me re-live grade seven, thank you very much. has anybody ever sued a coffee conglomerate for beverage therapy costs?