It has happened to me

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are like Syphilis for apartments. They appeared on the other side of my building a few years ago; it was only a matter of time before they came here. My downstairs neighbor detected and began treating an infestation while I was traveling last month. Possibly they were driven upstairs when her place was sprayed, or perhaps they were waiting all along. Whatever the reason, I didn’t leave an infested apartment, but I have returned to one.

Treating bedbugs is a lifestyle. Anything made of fabric must be washed and dried at high heat, then immediately transferred to ziploc bags. You then live out of ziploc bags for months (I’ve already spent the last month living out of suitcases, which I thankfully haven’t brought back to the apartment; those at least are not infested). You vacuum constantly. You change into ziploc-fresh clothes immediately before visiting friends, in order to not transfer hiding bugs to them. Everything you own must be inspected, cleaned, sterilized, heated. Furniture must be emptied and pulled from the walls. Exterminators visit every few weeks to spread poison. You are supposed to continue sleeping in the bed, as bait to attract the bugs from their hiding places over the poison. You keep doing this for weeks or months, until the bugs leave you alone. Of course they just move to a neighbor’s apartment, and play musical beds unless your whole building is treated. Good luck with that.

So I’m moving out. My lease ends September 30 anyway. I can’t move my stuff, of course, as it is possibly harboring renegade bugs and needs to be sprayed at least 3 times over 2 months, with no guarantees. I’d like to salvage my computer, but everything else I own could vaporize for all I care. I wish it would.

Bruno and I are going to stay at a friend’s house for a while (friend will supply a fresh outfit from my off-site suitcase I can change into to prevent infecting his car, and anything else I bring with will be sealed in bags and placed straight in a washing machine; cats aren’t known to carry bugs except in the most severe cases). Much as I hate travel and have longed for home these past weeks, I don’t really have a home right now. Since I can’t afford to rent or buy a new place now (I’m in deepening debt from Sita) I may just go from festival to festival for a while.

By some miracle I haven’t completely lost my mind yet, but I’m getting there.


Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

6 thoughts on “It has happened to me”

  1. Oh, dear! This is terrible!

    I wonder if there’s any deeper meaning to the fact that your Sita saga began and ends with a bout of homelessness?

  2. Oh my god! That happened to me some months ago, too. I couldn’t believe it, I thought I had an allergy or something until the doctor told me there could be bed bugs at home 🙁

    But I didn’t sleep in my bed – One day I woke up and swore I wouldn’t! Instead the exterminator sprayed some poisoned gas in our bedroom and we slept on the sofa for one week. Ecs!!

    Hopefully the bugs disappeared. I swear I would have burnt my bed if they hadn’t. Now everything is OK, so don’t worry, Nina, they will leave. Good luck!

  3. I have shed many tears over bed bugs. They truly are the most prolific things you will ever encounter!

    Your landlord is responsible for treating the infestation. It’s the law! Too bad they didn’t have this law back in 2003, when they started feeding on me.

    Beg bugs are such a life changing experience, It’s amazing there aren’t more films about them!

  4. i’m convinced theyre never going away and the only person who hasn’t encountered them, hasn’t encountered them…YET. let’s say you go through all this trouble to not to share them or let’s say you do eliminate them. all it takes is a seat on a bus and there you go, getting them again.

    i recently dealt with a noise pollution situation that rivaled (but didn’t beat) my bug insanity–i threw out a perfectly good air conditioner in my bug mania. the new one i replaced it with sucks and i wish i hadn’t lost my mind but sleep deprivation will do that to someone. good luck, nina.

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