In 1978, we were newlyweds in Haiti. Joel took me to a primitive province to show me where he lived before he met me.
Madame Francine’s small blue block house in San Rafael contained a gritty room with a dust crusted sheet on a single cot. Before we lay down, I tried to shake out the sheet, and requested a bathroom. From under the cot, Joel pulled a white enamel bucket with two inches of water in the bottom. “At night the Haitians use this.”
I said, “I need a bathroom.”
“There isn’t one, and the Haitians do not use the outhouse at night.”
I asked, “Why not?”
“I don’t know.” He answered. I was angry now; it had been a strenuous, emotional day.
“You mean to tell me, you have done something for two years, and you do not know why?” Joel nodded. I continued, “Hell will freeze over before I use that bucket.”
Dutifully, Joel roused the yardman to unlock the outhouse and handed me a kerosene lamp. I followed the man to yet a lopsided wooden structure; he clinked some keys and opened the padlock.
“Why,” I thought, “would you lock such a wretched leaning tower of outhouses? Is an outhouse such a precious convenience it must be protected from trespassers? If someone wanted to use it surely they’d just crawl through the gaping hole in the side!”
The yardman disappeared into the dark as I stepped inside where Illuminated walls, ceiling, floor and seat pulsated with a solid mass of shiny brown cockroaches rushing down the wooden hole.
Frozen with fear, I screamed and screamed and screamed.
Never in my short life had I seen a cockroach; we did not have them on the farm. Now more than a lifetime’s worth shimmered around me. The weak flame blew out – by the flap of wings or my frantic breath, I do not know.
Throughout the village, lights flickered on as Haitians awakened to my cries; Joel came running, again cupped my elbow and guided me into the dirty house where I used the bucket and knew why no Haitian used an outhouse at night.