Now, I don’t want to allude to a possible forthcoming insanity plea, but during moments of hyper-intensity my “flailing” sensibility is doing a double dip and roll—just a short fall from the hallucinatory stage leading to insanity—I see inaccurately the red mounds on my back; sometimes they disappear in the midst of exultation, only to return as I brush the crust from my eyes and step into the waking world. Yes, fear is in the air. People are throwing beds out on the street left and right—the great bedbug plague is upon us, exterminators are having a field day, and I am itchy with paranoia. Really? I need to deal with mites—literally deal with mites—while my business hangs by a thread, the world is coming apart at the seams, and asshole(s) are destroying the American way of life! Yes, the bugs have infiltrated my apartment and are partying heartily. Did the evil critters hitch a ride with my brother when he visited, or did my houseguest bring a pet and forget to take the damned thing with her? Perhaps the nearby construction disturbed them from their nesting place and sent them scurrying into my safe haven thinking I would let them stay and mooch off the hot blood oozing through my veins.
My paranoia has me collecting dust and lint balls, placing them in a glass jar, then watching and waiting for them to get up and start walking. Bastards! I know they are playing dead. I regularly comb the fucking sheets of the bed with a magnifying glass searching for those tiny monsters. Scouring the internet, through all the badly written bullshit with their product placement, I realize not only do I have bedbugs, but I am also plagued with lice, scabies, flees, dust mites, psoriasis! Oh, and possibly cancer.
The slightest itch caused by the slightest touch of a shirt collar, blanket, or the crunching of underwear has my hair bristled in fear and me seeing pesky little bugs on a mission: to nip at my ankles and dance across my back giddy with laughter as they sink their shark-like teeth deep into my body, ripping away flesh and crawling under my skin. (I think I just created a creepy crawling hybrid that is part bedbug, flea, and scabby). [IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A SCABBY?]
I am sitting in front of the receiving clerk/nurse/checker-inner of the New York Department of Disease Control on 23rd Street and 9th Avenue. “I have a rash,” I say. She must think I am delusional, having begun my story with bedbugs and ended with plagues. “Have you had an HIV or STD test recently?” she asks. It’s been a while, a year or two. “You should get one regularly.” Why should I get one regularly? I haven’t fucked anyone for over a year, possibly two. I avoided blurting out that info, thinking she’ll dismiss me, or I might have missed something in my blurred past: like that time when I fell asleep in the woods and this beauteous nymphette ravaged me for days. And you know beauteous nymphettes in the woods—they’ll jump on anything and are probably carrying around a whole trunk load of shit. I also decide not to divulge that I am a poor fuck without healthcare coverage who can’t scrape together two cents for a dermatologist. I’d rather her think me an idiot. Hell, I’m halfway there!
After doing all I can to figure out what’s causing my temporary insanity, I wonder if it’s time to get the help of a professional. Yeah right, as if they’re the ones to clear up any misconceptions. The woman from the extermination company who dubbed herself an expert on bedbug infestations—although her espousal of the subject was laden with contradictions—gifted me with a pre-extermination laundry list of things to do that has me spiraling deep into a black hole of depression. Wow, are you sure taking all my files and my boxed up tax papers resting in the far reaches of the closet and putting them into plastic bags is necessary? You want me to remove all the covers of the electrical outlets, strip my drawers and closets, trash all cardboard, remove all pictures from the walls and put them in plastic bags, wash all my clothes and dry clean all my suites, coats, and whatever; you want me to wipe down all windows, cracks, crevices, appliances, vacuum several times, remove my books from their shelves, wipe the covers, flip through the pages, shake them and place them in plastic bags, and then live out of plastic bags for over a month, maybe two?…and what will you be doing? Exasperated, agitated, and reluctantly I’ll follow your direction, but you better give it to me straight and take my problem very seriously. Doing a quick in-and-out with your exterminating is not going to cut it with me after I spent two days putting the whole contents of my apartment in plastic bags and sending everything to the cleaners which will cost a small fortune. Why not clean and empty the kitchen cabinets if those pesky creatures are so damned hard to kill? Why am I taking off the electrical outlet covers, doesn’t your company own a screwdriver? You want me to clean the window frames? I haven’t cleaned my window frames in all of my 26 years of living in this apartment. This checklist clearly puts the burden on me if this extermination fails. But what the hell, after all is done, I will have a very clean apartment and a bed dressed up in a fashionable 100% polyester stretch knit fabric with a urethane membrane. Now, there’s something about the protective covering I don’t understand: Does it lock up the community of mites keeping them warm and cozy and somehow act as a barrier preventing their tongues from lapping at my blood, or does it offer a new texture, an unfamiliar terrain that will confuse them as they move zombie-like toward the carbon monoxide pheromonal fog I spew while sleeping? Are the spray and membrane permanent eviction tools? Then why not cover the futon?
Dealing with it
Laying fully clothed on my stripped-bare bed, nestled in my winter coat to ward off the chill, isn’t my idea of fun. My aggregated aggravation grows by the second. The peculiar toxic smell of bedbug-killing chemical spray is slowly creeping its way into my nostrils. Even though I have been told that the chemicals, nonchalantly sprayed around my baseboards to kill the little bastards, are harmless, I cringe wondering what havoc the poisons are playing in my body. I am waiting to morph into a green monster, or at the very least have an asthma attack. The thick fabric of my sweater—used as an air filter—makes it difficult to breathe, and difficult to sleep. I’ll take my chances and endure the toxic air.
Hours tiptoe by, I am desperate for sleep, time is running out: In the morning, say around 6:30, I will be jarred into this inferno world by the jack hammering, crane lifting, pole driving, basement digging from the construction project that is happening right underneath my bedroom window. The thought of enduring eighteen months of this brutal assault on my already fragile senses so that another tall building can accommodate young upstarts who are joining the rat race, makes me crazy. Goddamn, is this punishment for my non-God-fearing ways? Am I really supposed to take on one more tribulation? The thought of being entombed in my apartment by another example of progressive living rubbing its concrete body close to the brick tenement building where I dwell, shutting out the light and what little view I enjoy, certainly does not quell the nerves. What the hell, it was always a place to rest my head while I was in the big city pursuing my dreams, yeah dreams. Transient city dwelling will never represent a community, nor will my Kentuckian, keep-up-with-the-Jones’, my-religion-is-better-than-yours, stay-off-my-property-or-I’ll-shoot upbringing ever represent such. Somewhere in-between lies the answer, the communal warmth of a selfless town, self sufficient from corporate governed ideology. I suppose that’s more like somewhere in the imagination.
Surrounded by piles of garbage bags filled with the contents of my apartment, I’m having dreams of throwing what little I have into the garbage, and starting a fresh new life. Like a morning glory, I emerge with invigorating energy, born anew—dunk me into the water and redeem me, I want to be saved, baptize me in the name of someone, because the fabric of my skin is coming apart.
Morning…ugh! The earplugs pushed deep into my ear canals barely muffles the construction noise, and does nothing to stop the building from shaking. It’s the damned alarm clock I never wanted, jolting me from a heavenly “morning glory” moment. Damned those varmints—I can still feel their sharp teeth gnawing away at every organ, turning them to mulch, dropping their turds and reproducing by the millions, filling me up, leaving only my skin as a reminder that I once was—not a good way to start the morning.
The Return of the Insect Killer—sounds like a movie doesn’t it?—same company, different exterminator. After some nasty coercive tactics, and expressing my dissatisfaction over the initial extermination, they better send someone else to weed out the little fuckers for good. The newbie—my kind of guy, and the complete opposite of the first exterminator in his approach—is looking rather serious suited up in hazardous waste, protective overalls and a mask with air filters…he is seriously ready for the assault on the little blood-sucking beasts. Seemingly an expert, and with specialized training in the art of bedbug extermination by his own account, I wanted affirmations, “Are the little buggers detectable? Can you tell what a bed bug bite looks like? Can you confirm that I have been bitten by bed bugs? If you looked at them, the bites…would you look at mine?” I didn’t detect gayness, only nerdyness, I am assuming his hesitancy came from being faced with a naked man. I halfway expected him to produce a magnifying lens, microscope, special light detector, and a book of pictures detailing the varieties of bugs and bites. Couldn’t he at least had the little machine that makes a static noise as you wave its wand over a nest or a group of them buggers having a giggle and fart party? Disappointed, I am willing to put my faith in him even though I am distrusting of the process and insecure of his answers: I crave normalcy.
Some days I feel as if I’m on the verge of madness: The bedbug infestation reeking havoc on my body and home; incessant pounding from the construction site depriving me of sleep and fraying my nerves; woes of operating an undercapitalized small business and a personal life, both stressing me, pushing me to my limit; incessant ringing in my ears (tinnitus); annoying chronic sinus swelling, headaches, and stuffiness (rhinitis); displaced shoulder that needed surgery two years ago; incessant, nagging existential questions; did I mention my personal struggles to beat down the forces of negativity that have come back to haunt me and brutalize my self-esteem and my will to live? Should I go on? I am in the death roll, you know, the crocodile teeth gripping rattle and roll that won’t let go, all happening in my all-encompassing personal bubble against the backdrop of the latest and may it be the greatest, news, a fight between good (an imperialist nation) and evil (mix of civilized humans that wish to break out of the box and strive for real democracy). Thinking I have it reversed? It is evil to have a purist love of thy neighbor before our capitalist nature. Where would we be if we had a healthcare system where people could actually receive care, or a pest control company that was interested in your well-being rather than in milking your fears and your wallet for all it’s worth, or a small business that was at the forefront of our great legislatures’ thinking, instead of conglomerates like Walmart and the rest that feed their gluttonous bellies while handing out crumbs to the masses of robotic clerks they hire. To rave against tyrants is just wrong. Damn those Egyptians for fighting for freedom, they will certainly infect America with their dark, Muslim nature, they will take control and turn our greatness into who knows what! It’s like seeing a battle unfold. Who will have the power to stave off affliction? Will it be those non-Americans that do not want their country taken over by McDonald’s? Or will it be us that unite and help them to choose who will be responsible to us and our great nation—the land of the free and home of the brave, our Corporate run America! Damn it, get over it, it could be worse!
Whew wee, from the bedbug issue to Egypt, traveled a bit far did we? I am getting off track here. Not really, these are the things that shroud my thinking. However, that may be, let’s get back to the present, it is only a hunch that the fearful bedbug epidemic is being used as a marketing ploy.
Now more than two months have passed, and I am paranoid as ever. The tingling sensation, the tiny itch here and there, has finally brought me in front of a dermatologist, even though the bumps and bite marks are seemingly on the mend. In short, he says, “It looks like you’re on top of things. The rash, the new bumps, and the tingling are all due to the injection of protein into your skin [by the little bastards]. It’s normal.” So I paid $190 for that! I thought as much. I did. I knew before going here I was on the mend. I just couldn’t live with the thought of the little bugger babies, having been protected in their shells, hatching after the poisonous spray dissipated and then lusting for its food supply. At least something would be lusting after me. And I guess you can’t put a price on mental relief. Let’s hope I can take it to heart and have some peace.