I’m scared of bad guys breaking into my house at night. I’m terrified of rodents. There is no word in the English language to describe how very afraid I am of lice and bedbugs. No word.
Every time I get one of those lice alert letters home from school I want to encase my children’s heads in a hard-shell shellac and send them to school wrapped in cellophane so they won’t transport bugs home on their clothes. I see little girls with big curly fros and I shudder. No child of mine, I think. We do not support hundreds of hours of nit picking in our household.
And don’t get me started on bedbugs. Okay. I am started. The thought of a bedbug infestation is enough to make me shut down completely. I would burn everything I own, swear off clothing and bedding and any textiles, and build a rocket ship to take my family to the moon where we would live in a tent with a space heater so we wouldn’t need to transport any blankets into our new home. Bedbugs are the great abominable Satan and they fill my heart with abject terror.
So, imagine my feelings a couple of weeks ago when I pulled back the covers of my bed to find a little black bug, a black bug I did not recognize. I put it in a jar for further observation, spent an hour on the computer comparing it with pictures of bedbugs and lice, checked the bed for any more critters and went to sleep.
When I woke up, I had bites on my arms. A tiny piece of my soul shriveled up and died and I got back on the internet, triple and hundred-uple checking. My bug looked nothing like a bedbug but it didn’t look like much of anything else either. And we found two more in our room and the next morning I had more bites.
So, after sterilizing my sheets and mattress pad, I broke down and called an exterminator. He showed up on Friday morning and of course found more bugs in our room.
“It’s weird,” he said, “Because they’re acting just like bed bugs. But they don’t look like bedbugs. But then they don’t look like any bugs. Maybe they’re a new variety of—” He caught the look of horror on my face. “Well, I don’t know what they are so I probably shouldn’t say that.”
I wondered if they discovered a new kind of vermin in my house if they’d name it after me.
So he took a sample back to the lab and I was left to wait and itch and obsess. Dan and I decided to move out of our bedroom temporarily. Luckily the house has been uber clean since the new school year started so we just moved into the spare room, where the bed was made up and ready. I bought us new pillows to start out with. I got a week’s worth of clothes for both of us and sterilized them and moved them into our safe room.
As we were heading to bed in the safe room that night, what should Dan find in the closet but three more of the ratchin-fratchin bugs. I lost It. “It” was nowhere to be found. I stayed up all night being sick and checking myself for bugs. When Dan woke up at 7:30 on Saturday, I was laying there staring at him, not having slept a wink.
We called the pest guy that morning and he came out to spray for something, anything, even though he had yet to identify the bug. He treated the house with a broad spectrum spray, paying particular attention to my bed. He had a bad cold and I worried a little about him taking the pillow cases off my pillows and touching all over my mattress but I’d rather contract his cold than live with bedbugs any day.
My biggest concern that day was down-playing my angst and paranoia with the kids, while trying to hide the fact that I was going on zero sleep, throwing away many of their toys and clothes “just in case” and heat treating everything cloth in the house. It wasn’t easy to keep things feeling normal, but those kids do not need to feel the full force of my psychotic neuroses. They already have enough to tell their therapists about me when they’re adults.
Since the spraying, we have found no new invaders. Jed, our pest guy, called today to tell me that the bug was identified as a carpet beetle larva and was most likely completely wiped out with the spraying he did. We are bug-free and proud and have a whole new level of bedbug knowledge to be used if I am ever brave enough to travel to a hotel again. We’re talking hazmat suits and everything is being stored in sealed garbage bags at all times. It looks like the bites I got were from a few mosquitos we found hanging around our room. Nice timing, jerks!
If a fake bedbug scare that lasted one week can do this to me, I shudder to think what I would do if I were ever to come across a real bedbug. Did you know they can live without food or air for up to a year and then come out of their sealed container and keep right on biting, infesting and reproducing? Did you know they can cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to eradicate, only to resurface after you think they’re gone? Did you know they’re found in some of the nicest hotels?
Did you know that I did end up getting a wicked cold from Jed? I am completely stuffed up and sniffly. This bothers me not at all because, unlike Gwenyth Paltrow in Contagion, I will not die in the first ten minutes of the movie, and unlike me a week ago, I feel perfectly comfortable holing up in my bed for the next couple of days. It is clean.