PJ met an outside chick at the extermination company where he worked. Her name was Naomi and she worked in accounts receivable. She had pale skin and dark hair. Even darker eyes. She possessed a beauty that only PJ could behold. She was frail and sickly. She wheezed and whined and had the personality of a frightened alley cat.

PJ was attracted to the morbidity Naomi exuded. She excited him like something forbidden. He became obsessed with her. She became infatuated with him. No man had ever given her any attention before. Love reared its ugly head.

Their courtship consisted of many evenings spent at Naomi's dismal apartment. Gray walls and soot covered windows. They would cuddle in silence looking at reflections of flashing neon through her translucent windows. They made love in the unlit room every night and every night it rained.

After Naomi missed four periods, PJ proposed. She accepted. They got married at the City Hall and went out for a sandwich to celebrate. Pregnancy was difficult. Naomi was constantly sick. She quit her job and spent most of her time in bed. PJ was worried because the doctors were unable to determine what her ailment was. He also worried about the unborn child.

Ebola was born without any hitches. Delivery was smoother than the doctors had anticipated. Ebola was a beautiful baby with long dark curly hair. Her eyes sparkled and everyone loved her at first sight.

Eight days after Ebola was born, Naomi died. The doctors couldn't determine the cause of death. An autopsy revealed none of the suspected causes.

"Mrs. Durante apparently died of a rare virus unknown outside of Africa," was all the coroner would tell PJ.

PJ wept for days and became depressed. He would hold little Ebola and talk to her like she was his shrink. Depression oozed like puss from every pore. Fortunately for PJ, Ebola was a cool baby. She slept well and rarely cried. The crone who lived in the next room looked after Ebola while PJ worked. Things became a little easier. Life was hard but bearable.

By the time little Ebola was four months old, she looked very much like her mother. PJ missed Naomi and seeing Ebola as a tiny version of Naomi made it hard on him. To keep on his path, he reminded himself that all is impermanent. All is impermanent.

Ebola got sick and PJ took her to see Dr. Ben. She had a high fever and was listless, but the Doctor hit PJ like a Mack truck.

"Mr. Durante, your little girl seems to have the same illness that killed your wife."

PJ checked little Ebola into the hospital and stayed with her around the clock. He sat next to her bed and held her little hand in his. She didn't get any better, but she didn't get any worse. PJ fell down on his knees and really prayed. He begged for God's mercy. He prayed. He pleaded and wept.

Three days passed and PJ never slept. He lived on coffee, cigarettes and prayer. A living nightmare of guilt and horror. Fear and panic got all up into his shit, twisting every thought into a tight knot in his stomach. Many tears later, PJ felt the storm coming. While he held her tiny hand, Ebola stopped breathing.

The doctors and nurses rushed to Ebola's bedside. It was a scene of confusion - injections, oxygen mask, electroshock machine and the sterile stainless steel persona of nameless doctors.

"I'm sorry Mr. Durante."

PJ wandered out of the hospital. Gripped with horror, he did not know what to do or where to go. He didn't know where he was. Familiar sights seemed strange and unfamiliar. PJ had the feeling that he wasn't in New York anymore.

Several days passed unaccounted for. PJ had no memory left. He hadn't gone to work in several days. His boss had heard about Ebola and figured PJ needed a little time.

Fingers, another exterminator from work, saw PJ walking down the street and stopped him. PJ snapped out of his his trance.

"Yo, PJ! Where you been, man?"

"Fingers, my kid died."

"I'm sorry, man. Can I do anything for you? You ain't lookin too good."

Take me home, will you?"

"Sure, PJ. C'mon, man."

When they got back to PJ's apartment, Fingers brought out a small leather pouch from his sock.

"You want to feel better?"

"Sure, man. You got some sticks?"

"Something better."

Fingers pulled out a syringe and some familiar looking brown powder. PJ got a little nervous, but figured what the hell. He needed to get away. Out there, away. Fingers cooked up the powder and skin popped PJ. Then, with what was left in the syringe, he hit himself up in his neck. PJ talked Fingers into leaving the little leather pouch and what was left of the magic powder.

The next few days passed quickly. PJ used up all the powder and was thinking that he needed to get some more, but he couldn't get himself together to split his pad. He sat on his bed, looking deep into the crevices of the radiator across the room.

A huge cockroach crawled up PJ's leg and sat on his knee. This roach was bigger than any roach PJ had ever seen during his career as an exterminator. Roaches ruled New York and this roach surely must have been the king of roaches. The two glared at one another.

"I've got to stop thinking," PJ told the cockroach.

"I know," the roach replied, "I've been watching you."

"I've got to stop feeling."

"Sure you do, murderer."

"I'm no murderer."

"Yes you are, you stupid bastard. You killed my family and then killed your own."

"I could kill you right now."

"See, you are a murderer."

"Go to hell."

"You'll go to hell and rot there."

PJ brushed King Roach off his leg and the pest landed on the floor with a thud. PJ picked up an empty baby bottle off the floor and smashed it on the roach. King Roach laughed, an obnoxious whining laugh. PJ jumped off the bed and stomped the pest. King Roach, his shiny shell crushed, slowly drug himself across the floor towards PJ.

"Work out your salvation with diligence," the roach hissed before PJ stomped him again.

PJ picked up the crushed roach carcass. The whole room reeked like a dead rat. He threw the damn thing out the window.

"Why does this shit happen to me?" PJ asked himself as he put on his work threads.

He split the apartment that day and never came back again. He packed one suitcase of memories, leaving the rest behind for the next transient tenant. He got a room in Finger's building and went to work everyday. Work. Work. Work as an escape. Work as a refuge.