I'm just going to go ahead and come clean about something here.
All these posts last month on all these blogs keep going on and on about the best and worsts of 2011 and I feel like I should get on that wagon. There were some good things that happened in '11. And some crappy things that happened last year, but the worst for me?
I said it.
I had bedbugs.
Not me. I shouldn't say that. My house.
My house had bedbugs.
And now I'm ready to talk about it.
I only ever saw one live one. It was a baby, clear and about the size of a pinhead. I saw it when I was changing the bedsheets. I always check for things like bedbugs when I change the bedsheets. It's a side effect of living in a Major East Coast City. I saw some dead ones after the exterminators came. They were in the folds of the slipcover near the legs of my couch. I'm convinced that the couch was the mothership. It's where we got bit up the worst.
I didn't have many noticeable bites. A row (it's the row thing that gave it away. Bedbugs usually bite in rows of three or four) on my neck and a row on my belly. Curved rows, like the handle on the Big Dipper.
I think one on my wrist too, and a couple on my fingers. There is nothing worse than a bug bite on fingers or toes. The burning is unbelievable. I'm an avid non-scratcher, so I didn't get scabs on my bites. They looked like pimples. They itched. Nothing helped. Dabs of toothpaste worked the best. Toothpaste is a good mosquito bite remedy too.
The house isn't huge. I think it's something like 1300 square feet. A normal rowhome. It costs $1200 to treat a house that size for bedbugs. Bedbugs can't be killed by the normal extermination stuff. They need the big guns to bring them down. And they know you are desperate so I'm sure the price is jacked up for that too.
I never see bugs in my house. Sometimes fruitflies, but nothing else really. When you bring in the major chemicals? All the bugs that you never see crawl out of their hidey holes and die on your floor. Bugs I have never seen anywhere anytime have secret homes in my walls. Prehistoric looking nasties that can't handle the light of day walk the beams under my floorboards, behind the plaster, over top the ceilings.
Bugs are one of the reasons I can't live in the burbs. I didn't know they lived in the city too. I thought mice and roaches were the worst of it.
They just hide better.
When you have bedbugs, you have to launder everything that can be laundered and hermetically seal it for months and months before you can ever see it again. Your basement gets loaded up with duct-taped contractor bags and you live out of ziploc freezer bags that hold three or four of your favorite outfits that get washed so often that they wear out by the end of the extermination process. You hope no one notices you guys don't change your clothes often, especially the teachers at the pre-school. You hope they just assume your child is going through a stage where they will only wear one or two things or else they throw a fit.
You have to pull all your furniture three feet away from the walls and keep it like that for a month or so between exterminations. Even if your house is so small that you don't really have the space to pull things three feet away from the wall. You have to deep clean everything. Bedbugs like to hide in electrical outlets and switchplates and bedframes and behind drawers and other creepster places. You aren't supposed to throw anything away because they say that adds to the problem because of trash pickers and the bugs jumping on to passersby, but the house lost about 1000 pounds last summer. Old blankets and clothes and crap that accumulates in underused corners and shelves. Some Ikea furniture that has put in its five years and has earned its retirement. Buying something at Ikea is akin to participating in indentured servitude. It works hard until the release date. Then it just crumbles if you try to make it work anymore. Books. I got rid of a lot of books. Bedbugs are bookworms.
That hurt the worst.
My books are my friends.
My friends live inside my books.
I don't know if that shows a healthy devotion to literature or an unhealthy social support system.
You have to cancel Wednesday Spaghetties and tell your friends that you'd rather go to the bar and watch the Phillies game even though you'll have to pay for beers there and you'll spot them the cash because you "just feel like getting out of the house for awhile" and you understand that they are about to lose their mind but they can't hide from their husband at your house and no you can't watch their kids even though there is a family emergency and you can't go anywhere in fear of having a bug in the hems of your pants that might escape and wreak havoc on someone else's house and you can't have anyone over for your 35th birthday even though 35 is divisible by 5 and you should always have your friends over for birthdays ending in ohs and fives. You have to buy $300 slipcovers for your mattress and box springs that are somehow rubberized or something and makes your bed 500 degrees hotter than it ever should be. You have to call/text/email all of your friends in New York City and beg them to tell you that it's okay, that you aren't going to die, that you aren't dirty, that you aren't nasty, and that you'll get through this somehow. You have to tell your kid not to talk about the bugs with anyone, even though we don't keep secrets normally and if anyone else tells him to keep a secret it is very very not okay but this is something that we only talk about in the house and even though it's not technically a secret, it is and we'll call it "family business" so we can give it a name but please don't have "family business" with anyone who isn't mom or dad.
You have to call your friends who have been over in the past month or so.
Awkward like in telling a sexy time buddy that you had a bad day at the clinic awkward.
So, um, you know, like, that last time you were, sort of, over at the house? Um, yeah. Have you noticed anything weird, like, I mean, like while you are in bed? Or something? Er, do you, um have any unusual spots or itchies or rashes or anything? Because it turns out. I just. Are you sitting down? I need to tell you something but please don't tell anyone else because I'll just die if anyone else knows...
And as you tell people, slowly and quietly and discreetly, you find out that you aren't alone in this. That it sucks to spend hundreds of hours cleaning your house and losing sleep and googling solutions and tricks and coping methods but you aren't the only one spending hours. And it sucks that you have to spend the cool grand you have saved up on fucking exterminator services instead of redoing the bathroom or going on vacation or getting a roof deck or a finished basement or something sparkley but you aren't the only one spending cash. And it sucks that no matter where you go or how many times the exterminator tells you he's pretty sure the problem is cleared up or how long it has been since you've seen a bug or have gotten bitten, you will itch and your skin will crawl and every tiny dark speck you see anywhere makes you jump but you aren't alone in that either. And it sucks that you can never sleep well in a hotel ever again or go to the movies and rest comfortably on the seats or sit at one of those plush and pillowed bank-bench-seat things at a swanky restaurant without feeling things crawl up your back anymore but you aren't the only one.
It gets a little better every day. Because you find that it's actually almost normal to have this happen, and you aren't the dirty kid, and people do understand that bad things happen to good people.
That bad bugs happen to good people.
That bed bugs happen to good people.