Tuesday, September 11, 2012
The unpleasant thing about bed bugs is not the itching. That is much worse if you have say, a mosquito problem, which I've experienced indoors and outdoors in Brooklyn. It's the way you have to live carefully, so that you won't spread bugs anywhere or to anyone else. It's the work involved in keeping your things meticulously clean and sealed up in bags. And doing it all over again when you realize you left a bag open after a late night of drinking or the cat tore it open. It's the paranoia that made me wonder if every itchy spot was a bite, at some point losing perspective on what was normal everyday itching and what were true bites. So looking back, I probably had fewer bites than I feared I did. It was also the indignity of negotiating solutions with a landlord who just. didn't. get. it.*
So from October 2011 to April 2012, I lived out of bags like this. I paid $1,000 a month to live in a ~70 square foot, windowless room in a railroad apartment that meant my roommate and her cat traversed through my room like a hallway.** We couldn't have guests over. Only my boyfriend, who somehow had the patience to deal with the system of coming over, immediately changing into the pajamas he kept there and putting all his stuff in a plastic bag. I did the same thing in reverse when going to his place, to prevent possibly carrying bugs there, which luckily worked.
Obviously during this time, the apartment wasn't a particularly enjoyable place to be, and it didn't feel like a home - more like a crash pad where I would return after work, rifle through plastic bags, to pack up my things to leave again in the morning and spend a night or weekend at my boyfriend's. You don't realize how important home is - as a solid ground where you can retreat and restore - until it's gone.
I'm also angry that it stole from me this time that was supposed to be a year of enjoying single living with my best friend, because I wasn't around as much as I otherwise might have been, and we didn't have parties or friends over the way we had hoped. The apartment that my roommate had decorated so cutely turned out to just be a headache.
The experience was particularly trying because after previous negative living experiences, I had told myself I would never let myself get stuck again. Yet, there I was, unable to move on.
The thing that got me through it was the belief that I would be living in a normal home again by summertime. A place where I could come home and just lounge on a couch or hang my clothes up in a closet. And, it came true, since I now live in a real home with my boyfriend.
* why don't landlords ever get it? why are they all clueless?
** but that's its own story about how the NYC rental market sucks.