Bedbugged! is a weekly column by journalist and
bed bug survivor Theresa Braine. For more, click here.
fled an overzealous application of pesticide dust, and been advised by
who knew better (my landlord, Rocco, had not hired those people) to not
home until I vacuumed it up wearing a dust mask, I lived at my sister’s
then my parents’ places for a week or so with little more than the
my back, my laptop and my cell phone.
to my beleaguered apartment, I contemplated what to do next as I waited
eggs to hatch in the triple-sealed, taped Ziplocs bag I had collected
fleeing bed bugs in a week earlier.
been living among plastic bags since June, nearly nine months. I had no
furniture other than a coffee table and a cruddy vinyl, faux-papasan
in my living room, and the poison-soaked bed in my bedroom. Everything
else—living room shelves plus bedroom desk, closet and dresser—were
built in by
my brother, from whom I inherited the apartment. The rest of the space
crammed with the aforementioned plastic bags and my Packtite, which, big
to hold a small suitcase and then some, took up a considerable amount of
had started an internship that was part of the class I’d been taking in
week leading up to Bobby’s bed bug extermination. The chances of my bringing
critters to the
office were almost nil—I had sequestered all “outside” items in the
sealed plastic bags, used shoes and clothes that I wore only in the
kept everything away from my bedroom, which is where the bugs were
this time. But I was still neurotic about it, so for good measure I
things in the Packtite at the slightest tinge of uncertainty.
all this went down, the thought I had avoided during the second
became insistent, aided by a chorus of friends and relatives asking,
you simply move?”
were several reasons for not picking up and leaving, the primary one
there is no such thing when your home has bed bugs. Everything needs to
disinfected before it goes anywhere, even the things you're throwing away (though many
go that far and inadvertently spread bed bugs by throwing them in the
The moving, if it takes place, is to avoid the bugs’ coming back. But of
course, with New York City infested, there was no guarantee that I
move to another bed bugged location. Besides, I’m a huge fan of standing
ground and fighting, and thanks to a collapsing economy, combined with
bugs, I was broke.
I could get a job or enough freelance work, my thinking
originally went, I could
stash my stuff in storage while I earn money to move. Then I can simply
out of here.
was increasingly clear, however, that I wasn’t going to have the
infrastructure or mental space and energy to earn the money to move
until I had
moved. Friends and family, meanwhile, were on the verge of an
DO know you have to move, right?” asked my cousin point-blank. She
I do, I just ... I need money to move,” I said.
stopped paying rent, right?” my sister-in-law queried.
no, because the landlord is doing something,” I said, wanting to work
Rocco if at all possible. But even I was beginning to wonder whether I
love with my cool apartment, or suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
this time I strategized madly about what to do with my stuff, peppering
sister with e-mails about which things to put into which boxes.
felt badly because of my brother’s longstanding relationship with Rocco
father, who had passed the building on to his son. Then my brother gave
blessing. “You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do,” he said.
week: When in doubt, sort and purge.
NYC-based journalist and bed bug survivor whose work has appeared in
the NY Daily News
other outlets. Bedbugged!
her weekly column about life in the bed bug trenches and how to climb
out with your sanity intact.