Thursday, October 11, 2012

Binghamtownie: Diatomaceous Earth and False Hopes (VI)


There’s this human tendency where we care about things that we shouldn’t, but ignore the problems which affect and impact our lives. We care about unimportant things because they’re a distraction from our own problems. They tell us that others are fucked up, and it’s easy to point the finger. The things we should really be working on are difficult, take commitment, and lots of time. There’s no instant gratification when it comes to important, life altering efforts.

Diatomaceous Earth under a microscope
Regardless of the differing personalities of our bedrooms, each one was subject to nature. Once the weather cooled, Jimi fell victim first. Only David believed he had been bitten by bed bugs; Dr. Handsome and I ignored Jimi because it didn’t affect us. Then nature made Dr. Handsome eat his words. It was only a matter of time before they got to me.

When I finally woke up with bites, I accepted our reality. We had bed bugs. The three of us began discussing ways to get rid of them. We discussed how to approach the subject with Natalie.
We researched how to keep from being bitten in the mean time.

Jimi bought a bucket of diatomaceous earth and sprinkled an outline around the mattress in his room. After he finished, he gave it to Dr. Handsome and me. I sprinkled it along the metal runners of my bed frame, around the legs of the bed, and inside my newly purchased plastic mattress cover.

This was our first line of defense, like the barbed wire fence placed before a bunker. According to the smartest encyclopedia in the world, Wikipedia, diatomaceous earth kills pests through a simple process we learned about in middle school. The fine powder first incises the waxy layer which coats the exoskeleton through its abrasive properties. After this, the moisture from within the bug diffuses into the powder by way of osmosis and within a couple of days the pest is dead. This would also help with the roach problem we weren’t worried about.

Sleepwear became our second line of defense. By now, the cold which resulted from having no heat came as a gift and a curse. On one hand, the bedbugs had an easier time tracking us down. Our body heat contrasted with the wintry drafts of our apartment and made its way to the bedbugs in the same fashion grandma’s fresh apple pie reaches your nose on Thanksgiving.

On the other hand, the apartment’s cold allowed us to sleep comfortably with more layers of clothes. These clothes we deemed our bedbug suit.

I’d already been sleeping in a thermal shirt and sweatpants so adding more layers wasn’t a huge problem. I exchanged the thermal with a turtleneck, collar rolled up to protect my neck. Rza  would’ve been proud. Underneath the turtleneck I had a tucked-in t-shirt so I couldn’t be bitten in the lower back. Over the turtleneck I wore a hoodie, hood up over a gray, knitted beanie. I wore cotton gloves tucked into my sleeves. Each of these additions to my sleep attire came with no difficulties, but I struggled with one last piece to the suit: socks.

Sleeping with socks made me feel claustrophobic, like trying to crawl through a drain-off tube or having a snow fort collapse on top of you. After a few weeks, though, I grew to like the socks. They felt like a warm embrace from form-fitting slippers, with the added benefit of extra protection.

Our third line of defense was the most difficult of all: approaching Natalie and trying to persuade her to hire an exterminator. The research told us an exterminator would have to heat our whole building to a certain temperature which bedbugs couldn’t live in. And he’d have to come back every couple of weeks to be sure no bugs survived by hiding out in a basement crevice or the wall gaps. This would cost Natalie a lot of money, and her only motivation was to make money, not spend it, or be a good person and take care of her responsibilities—her legal obligations. She had all the money which gave her all the power.
We’d already dealt with the puzzle of getting Natalie to hire an exterminator when we discovered the cockroach infestation. She said she would make an appointment and a few days later Dr. Handsome asked whether she followed through.