Bed Bugs & Beyond

An outbreak of paranoia (and lint) sweeps the city

The prospect of a bedbug infestation enveloped Mitrovich in shock. She'd assumed she just had spider bites. Eisenberg offered her some initial recommendations: He suggested that she go nude around the house so as not to spread the infestation and advised a bedtime cocktail to help avoid a sleepless night. Eisenberg's advice appeared sound; as Mitrovich and I finished our coffee and walked to Staples to buy preparations to prevent more widespread attacks, she seemed perfectly well rested.

We entered Staples but found no end display labeled "Bedbug Prep." Mitrovich, who otherwise seemed quite benign and even-tempered, took on an air of malicious glee as she selected a roll of duct tape and a box of plastic bags. "Clear," she said, of her bag choice. "I want to be able to see them when they die." Her mom bought an emergency red-eye ticket from California to help with the effort. She would arrive the next morning. They needed to bag and wash all her clothes in hot water. Mitrovich worried that her wardrobe might shrink; her jeans barely reach her ankles as it is.

Luckily Mitrovich's landlord has lived up to Article 4, "Extermination and Rodent Eradication," Section 27-2018 in Chapter 2 of the Housing Maintenance Code. In other words, he has agreed to pay for the extermination fee, which by New York housing law, he's responsible for—even though many try to squirm out of the duty. So that's one load off, but I kept asking her questions: Will you change how you live from now on? Will you ever have people over again? Do you feel itchy even when nothing is there? Are you going to tell your friends?—and the questions helped the realization finally sink in: She has New York City's nightmarish bloodsucking creatures living with her.

 Cimex lectularius, not to be confused with bunnyex dustus.
illustration: Bill Mayer
Cimex lectularius, not to be confused with bunnyex dustus.

Mitrovich began to freak out, and so did I, because her sweater just brushed up against my purse, which is made of natural fibers. Bedbugs love natural fibers. I wished Mitrovich luck, and we parted ways, quickly.

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