I spend a lovely day out of the city. I start to notice what I think are incredibly itchy mosquito bites. Oh well. That’s what I get for romping in the woods.
I go to the doctor. I have a hacking cough, which turns out to be a respiratory infection, and what I came to call The Mystery Rash. The doctor doesn’t know what it is, but prescribes some $50 not-available-in-generic steroids to get rid of it. It helps the current welts to go down, but new ones keep appearing.
A letter has been slipped under our door. The building has become infested with bed bugs. The next morning, I leave on a plane to visit my family in the Midwest for five days. While away, The Mystery Rash disappears. When I return, so does the “rash.”
I see the superintendent on my way to work. He’s spraying the sidewalk in front of the building. I tell him I’m pretty sure my apartment has the bed bugs and will he sign us up to get an exterminator. He sort of nods, and I head on to work. I never follow up with him and I never hear from an exterminator.
Follow-up with the doctor. The respiratory infection is gone, but I still have the welts. The doctor is beside herself. She refers me to a dermatologist, but I never went. I knew what they were now.
I go down to the 2nd floor to the lady we give our rent to. I want to tell her about the bugs. She’s not in. The woman who answers the door tells me she’s on a trip to China for a few weeks.
I’ve become disheartened by my mild attempts to get an exterminator. I figure out that if I sleep wearing clothes head-to-toe (shirt tucked into my pants and socks pulled over my pant legs) and the A/C cranked to 73º, I don’t get bitten as much. My hands are covered in bites. I start to pretend this isn’t happening and it will all go away on its own. Somehow.
There’s a meeting in the building about the bedbugs. I decide to go to a fundraiser at the Museum of Sex with some girlfriends instead.
I make a Big Life Decision. I want to turn my life around. I’m sick of being unhappy and having a miserable, disgusting home life—a fraction of which included a certain insect problem. I get help for myself. I focus on the immediacy of my most pressing problem, which actually was not bedbugs. I’d get to that later.
I see my first bed bug, which coincides with a period of sleeplessness. Since then, I have not been able to sleep earlier than 3:30am (sometimes as late as 5am, and once 7am). The two or three times I fell asleep earlier was thanks to Tylenol PM, and it wasn't great sleep.
I chat with my roommate when I get home late one night. She said the upstairs neighbor, who is on the co-op board, came down to talk to us. The bed bug infestation began in the apartment below ours. She’s concerned about us because her apartment is infested. She works on our behalf to get the exterminator in here.
My roommate, who has been working at home while her office moves to a new location, is home to receive calls about the exterminator. He’s finally coming.
I start to do a lot of crying, overwhelmed with stress.
As part of the whole Get My Shit Together scheme, I finally complete a despised task that I’d been putting off for a month: laundry. I do seven loads. I fold and hang it all. I even pair my socks.
I read a letter that’s been delivered to us that includes instructions on how to prepare for bed bug extermination.
2) All sheets, blankets, fabric window treatments, tenant clothing etc. are to be removed and cleaned in hot water, or professionally dry-cleaned. …Fuck me.
I ask my boss if I can take a personal day. I tell her that I have a lot of cleaning to do and that it will put my mind at ease if I actually witness the extermination. She’s sympathetic. She once lived in an apartment infested with fleas.
With the help of kind words and hugs from friends, I calm down. I start thinking pragmatically about how I’m going to get all this done.
In 24 hours, all this bed bug business will be over. I hope. Just hang in there for 24 more hours.
Pictures of Bed Bug Bites | Next: Bed Bug Diary Part II»