Just so you know, this is a quite long post about something pretty big that is going on in my life, so it’s going to be split up into a couple of smaller posts that I’ll put up over the next couple of days. So keep checking back to get the whole story!
About four years ago something really awful happened. I didn’t blog about it. Even though I hadn’t done anything to deserve the awful thing or cause the awful thing, there was some stigma attached to it which made me embarrassed to share. There were some other awful things going on at the time (i.e. my former roommate was dying of liver cancer, etc.), and I was having a hard time dealing with life in general. Plus, when I told my family and friends about it, they didn’t responded well. One of my sisters asked me whether or not I was infested before she would give me a hug. My women’s group decided to start meeting in a public place rather than have me in their homes. So I just didn’t talk about it.
And it really was awful, right up there in the Top Five Most Horrible Things That Have Ever Happened To Me, if not the top three. It wasn’t just happening to me, but to my roommate Johnsy too, which made it both easier to bear, and even more awful. But after a lot of really hard work, disruption, horrendous expense, and even more hard work, we were able to put it behind us. It was a long, drawn out ordeal, but we got through, and I told myself that at least I would never have to go through that again.
It had all started soon after I moved in with Johnsy, when I began getting these horrible bites all over my arms and legs. They swelled up, bright pink, to the size of puffy nickles, and were so itchily painful that I was in constant agony. At one point I rubbed blood blisters on one ankle by itching the bites with the other foot while I was wearing a textured shoe. My arms and legs looked horrible, and even though it was the height of summer, I started wearing long sleeved shirts. I thought they were spider bites from working in the garden, so I stopped gardening. Then one night I saw a small black bug on my pillow. I still thought they were spiders, but that I had spiders in my bedroom. Then one night I saw another one, and thought, “That’s no spider…” I googled “bug in a bed.” The first website that came up had a picture of a bed bug, and I recognized the insect I’d just killed.
Johnsy and I did what was necessary to take care of the problem. Every piece of clothing was washed and sealed in ziplock bags. We threw out my mattress and my comfy chair. We put every piece of textile that we couldn’t wash, every book, every magazine, and every piece of paper, through a deep freeze to kill any bugs that might have hidden there. We had the exterminators in to treat the house, and then had them brought back three more times to retreat trouble spots. The roommate who had brought the bugs into the house moved out rather than pay her share of the exterminator’s bill. We worked like dogs, and six months later, we began to think that maybe we had won, that the bugs were gone. Two years later, we were sure.
This past spring, I started getting bites that seemed stomach-turningly familiar. After a while I realized that they mostly came after I’d spent some time sitting on the love seat in our living room. We couldn’t figure out what was causing them. I saw one of the bugs, but it didn’t look like what I remembered. We thought perhaps it was some odd kind of fleas. We got rid of the loveseat, and Rosie bought a lovely new futon from Ikea. But the bites continued. I started avoiding the futon. Then the afternoon that we got back from family vacation, I decided to put things to the test. I spent most of the afternoon and part of the evening lounging on the futon, doing things on my computer and reading. The next day I had forty bites on one leg alone, plus another thirty on that foot. I didn’t count the bites on the other foot and leg. When I showed my bites to Rosie, she took a deep breath, and told me the bad news.
It seems that Rosie had discovered that The Dayton Metro Public Library, where both she and Johnnycakes work, is infested with bed bugs. They are especially bad in the Audio/Visual department, where Johnnycakes works. From there they have spread to the Children’s department (next door), and to Magazines. We realized that the bites on the loveseat only started after Johnnycakes started spending a great deal of time hanging out there. When we talked to Johnnycakes about the situation, he asked what these bites looked like. I showed him the ones on my leg, and he showed me his leg. It was covered in bites. He said that he’s been getting bites like this for some time, but that he had thought they were just part of the skin condition he suffers from. We now theorize that Johnnycakes brought the bugs home from work with him some time ago, and have been a major factor in the truly awful flareups of his skin condition.
At the time I was thinking that there was no hope for us. The bugs were at Rosie and Johnnycakes work. The Library has no plans to treat for the bugs, and even if they did, the source of the problem (the library patrons who brought the bugs to the library in the first place) would still be there. As long as they worked at the Library, they would be bringing the bugs home with them. Even if we were able to successfully treat for them, we would only get re-infested. Plus, there was no way that any of us could afford to pay an exterminator in the first place. Things looked utterly hopeless.
But they weren’t. And I’ll tell you why in my next post.