The Roof Came Down First;
Then the Bed Bugs Attacked
We’ve been outed. Neighbors are looking at us as if we’re lepers, whose very breath can infect them with the curse of filth and decay. We hear whispers behind our backs, and almost feel the fingers pointed at us on our wake. Suddenly, we’re ground zero to everyone else’s horror.
No, there are no chunks of human flesh in our refrigerator. Or a special task force looking at our faces pasted on charts at some police precinct. Any despicable acts of malice or evil? No, not yet anyway. We’re just hosts of the latest scourge of living in Manhattan: bed bugs.
The first reaction most people have once they become aware that the person they’re speaking with has been exposed to flesh-eating bugs at their own bed, besides instinctively taking a few steps away from them, is disgust. And the false realization that somehow, it’s all the person’s fault.
Never mind that they seem to be everywhere these days. Questions about personal hygiene, or unsavory habits, come to mind, along with visions of dirty food containers laying around the house, candy wrappers and scraps of pizza on the living room’s sofa, and, of course, a clogged toilet bowl, stuffed with industrial-grade human waste.
It’s also the last thing they’ll be willing to talk about, before coming up with an excuse for a quick retreat away from any possible contamination. Possibly, even the thought that perhaps everything that person has done or spoke about in the past is now somewhat tainted by the revelation.
We’re all quick at seeing ourselves above others, taking a sanctimonious stand that grants us the grace of appreciating without restriction our wise life choices. Specially compared to someone who could be so vile and crass as to invite beg bugs to feast on their own bodies. Repugnant.
DWELLERS OF TENEMENT WALLS
Be I digress. Fact is, when the ceiling finally collapsed on the bedroom, after years of water seeping through and leaking ROOF, a century of semi-rotten wood literally rained over us, bugs and dirt included. Whether there’s a connection, it’s not clear yet, but that’s when it all started.
Our tenement building, as thousands of others in New York, has outlived its initial life expectancy, and stood the passage of time with incredible dignity and vigor. While many others came down, dead by old age or real estate greed, ours remains a beacon from another time in the city.
We, ourselves, are all but a relic, what with our negative banking account, our defiance to stay put while everyone around us could as well purchase us on the cheap, and still wishing to shape and inspire the future with our humanity and hopes for better days. Just don’t tell that to the son.
In any event, and mostly for being sheltered within such a fortitude of a construction feat, we’ve managed to withstand the challenges of being underfunded and over enlightened by the great journey of our species on this planet. Which, and you haven’t heard it from us, may be coming to a screeching halt.
ON THE INCOMING PATH OF OBSOLESCENCE
So much pride on scarcity, and joy in fulfilling volunteer tasks, have the inebriating effect of fooling us about the inevitable: our days are counted. We aren’t likely to survive another rude collision with reality, specially if it’s the kind with deep pockets and the imperviousness of youth.
Then again our petulance of enduring and lasting, while so many packed and left, may have caused our current predicament, of either fumigate the living hell of these tight corners, and if possible burn most of our oh so painfully unfashionable clothing, or being slowly eaten alive.
Which is already happening to the wife. Apparently, the hell bugs choose a lucky dweller to focus their feeding frenzy. We can just picture the heated discussions through some unholy night, with the early morning vote that wound up drawing the winner. Enough to turn her murderous, with a cause.
In the end, from a casual front door talk with the Exterminator, overheard by the young twenty-something across the hall, to the current vow to ostracize and cast us out, the culprits, it’s becoming clear that arguing in our defense that we bath twice a day is a complete non starter.
IT’S HIGH NOON AT THE PARASITE CORRAL
Neither is showing the blood-sucked wounds on her arms and legs; we just can’t seem to be moving fast enough for the busybody, who took upon herself to place hand-written signs reporting us to the tenants, and knocking on every door to warn them we’re sponsoring an infestation at the top floor.
Even the nice lady whose dog seems to love me became suddenly hostile: the other day, instead of allowing him to be petted, she yanked him out of my way, and couldn’t walk any faster, away from me. It was as if she’s just converted to a zealot cult, and I’m the devil they’ve preying to ward off from this world.
As for Management, they can’t be happier. With all the temporary residents who’ve been moving in and out of the renovated, and still mysteriously empty, apartments, all the commotion can’t be good to our already shaky standard as the lowest-rent paying unit in the building.
We’re not going anywhere just yet, though, they may as well be warned about. We’ll still carry on with as much physical gusto as our achy back allows us, pretending that we’re still relevant. But as for when the leaky roof will be fixed, about which I still text the agency almost weekly, there’s no word yet.
* We’re Not Alone
* It Bugs Them
I know the problem only too well from personal experience. In the 1970s a friend passed the tenancy of small flat in London onto me. The rent was very reasonable, so I was extremely grateful.
But one thing he neglected to tell me about was all the other tiny tenants. They had lived there so long they also wanted paying rent, and they wanted it paid in blood.
Bedbugs are very difficult to get rid of, as they can go into a state of virtual suspended animation duriing which they don’t need to feed for months. In the end the bedbugs left my flat, which I think had a lot to do with the lack of heating in the winter. They can get very fussy if all their needs aren’t catered for.
If your tenement butts against other buildings – which it must do in New York – it is very likely that the bugs used shared attics to make their way into your ceiling.
The bugs love beds most of all – I mean, they’re not called bed bugs for nothing – and that’s where the bites come. It pays to creep out of bed some nights with a bar of moist soap in hand. Pull the sheets back carefully, and switch on the light. Any visitors out for a midnight snack should stick to the soap when you pat them with it. If nothing else, it’s a very satisfying exercise, as it panders to the hunter/killer instinct in all men.
Believe me, I sympahise, they make you feel really filthy however much you scrub. I wish you the best of luck.
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Thank you so much, Bryan.
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