Bedbugged! is a weekly column by journalist and bed bug survivor Theresa Braine. For more, click here.
As 2009 drew to a close, I still could not believe that bed bugs had sucked up my first year of reentry into the country. But the episode had not been without its silver linings.
While going through my things, I had found reams of letters from two friends whom I’d lost touch with in the ’80s and ’90s. A quick Internet search yielded contact information, and we reconnected.
I had gone through several boxes of memorabilia, finding locks of hair I’d preserved as a teenager (something to show my colorist, though a tad creepy at the same time), along with programs from school plays I’d been in, my old Burger King hat from my days as a Whopper Slopper, and even my communion veil. My year of decluttering--going through boxes that I had wanted to dip into for years—helped me discover and come to terms with my past, discard what was unnecessary, and streamline my existence as I started my brand-new NYC life for real. I had made it through my “Big Apple Hazing,” as I had come to almost fondly call it, and was ready for anything this town had to throw at me.
And career-wise, even as the print media scene shriveled up, I was astonished to find myself jogged out of burnout, inspired by a freaking pile of bugs. I had managed to eke out one personal essay on the bedbug experience, detailing my walk down memory lane, and I had a wealth of ideas for more coverage.
I spent a wonderful Christmas weekend with my entire family, including siblings, their progeny and my parents. I returned to my apartment and continued unpacking, putting my books back onto their shelves, moving things around so that my kitchen became usable, though I didn’t go so far as to have anyone over just yet.
I was far from cocky, since I continued to find dead bed bugs here and there--in a tissue box, in my Tupperware drawer in the kitchen (where they had obviously fled from the couch spraying in the adjoining living room before succumbing to the insecticide), in the dirty laundry.
And although a few troublesome, occasional welts were starting to crop up--mainly on the inside of my wrists, though maybe one or two on my leg--I was not covered in them the way I’d been all through the spring, and I had full faith in what exterminator extraordinaire John Furman had accomplished. I was a little worried, but I pushed it to the back of my mind and celebrated the holidays regardless.
As the memories of the Rambo-like exterminator, the itching and the incessant tears faded, I wrote a final entry in my journal.
“So here we are, the last entry of 2009. I’ve never been happier to see a year go,” I wrote. “I am ready to let go of 2009 and all that went with it and chalk it up to my year of reentry--bed bugs and all. Running out now to hit the town! Happy 2010.”
Looking back, I see I should have finished with a question mark.
Next time: A new year, a few revelations.
Theresa Braine is a NYC-based journalist and bed bug survivor whose work has appeared in the NY Daily News, People, Newsday and other outlets. Bedbugged! is her weekly column about life in the bed bug trenches and how to climb out with your sanity intact.