Note to self: be careful who you let in your home. Some guests overstay their welcome.
When my mom used to tuck me in to bed and say, “don’t let the bed bugs bite,” I never paid that close attention to it. In fact, I never thought her words were any more than a saying – something like a farewell, sending me into a land of sweet dreams.
Even when I no longer needed to be put to bed and my mom abandoned the saying as a goodnight tactic, the idea of bed bugs still lingered. My mom would scold me about eating in my bed or leaving food around because bed bugs would find the leftover dirt and infest my bed and furniture. I understood that bed bugs were real, but I didn’t understand their strength as little creatures of the night. It wasn’t until I moved into my new apartment that I fully comprehended the severity.
It had just passed the two-month mark of me living in my new, New York City apartment when a friend of mine from school asked if he could stay with me and my roommate for the weekend. He was going to the Afropunk music festival and needed a place to crash. He wasn’t a best friend of ours, but we knew him well enough to agree to his visiting.
During his three-day stay he set up shop on the couch and was actually one of the most low maintenance guests I had ever had in my experience as a host. He woke up, left for the festival, came back, showered, and slept. It was pretty simple, and after Lenny Kravitz concluded the festival with a roaring crowd, he left the next morning. But like people always say – or at least I think they do – it’s the day after that you have to worry about.
At first, things seemed to return to normal, but I soon realized that they were far from normal. after my guest’s departure, I woke up in the middle of the night, surprised to find a series of bites sprawled along my arm, legs, and hip. They itched so I thought they were mosquito bites. My window was closed, but I assumed that they had just started to irritate me. The following morning, I woke up to a couple more bites resting on my other arm. Judging by the new arrival of these bites, I knew it was something in my bed, but what, I wasn’t sure.
Backtracking to my friend’s stay, I remembered that he had borrowed my pillow. And after he had borrowed my pillow, he put it on my bed the day he left. At that same moment, my mind jumped to ‘bed bugs’. And with these words, came back memories of my mom warning me about the horrors of bed bugs. Turns out they did bite after all and they bit pretty damn hard.
Was my friend a carrier of bed bugs? I didn’t want to point fingers without having proof, but it was awfully mysterious that I got a number of bites following him using my pillow. I retraced my footsteps and there was nothing in my routine that I did differently. I always took a shower before getting into bed and I washed my sheets every week. The only thing that hadn’t been used by me was the pillow I had let him borrow.
It’s a funny thing when you suspect some one of doing something gross; you can’t ask them if they brought bed bugs to your house or were perhaps dirty when they slept over because its both rude and awkward. I needed answers, but I knew there was no way I could get it from him. My doctor, whom I visited about the bites on my body, gave me an answer, but I wasn’t too thrilled with her response. At first she told me she wasn’t sure what it was; she had never seen it before. But that quickly went to her thinking it was bed bugs, and if that was the case, I most likely got it from my weekend guest.
Any other day, I would be thrilled with the fact that I was right, but now I wished I wasn’t. So many people had told me horror stories about how their home was infested with bed bugs and they had to throw out furniture. I just moved into that apartment, all my furniture was new and I couldn’t afford to lose it.
These stories drove me into immediate precautionary actions. Since no one could be completely sure about the origins of my bites, I called in a bed bug- specialist to check out my apartment. The inspector lifted and checked every inch of my room for any signs of bed bugs, and in thirty minutes was able to clear me for any infestations. He explained that maybe my biting friend was a spider or an insect who needed a nibble along its journey, but it definitely wasn’t a bed bug. To say the least, I was relieved.
Of course I regretted jumping to such strong conclusions about my guest and his cleanliness. I never thought he was a dirty person, but he seemed like the only variable I was not in control of and so he must be the source. What if he had been the carrier of bed bugs though? When you allow some one to stay at your house, you run the risk of a number of things like hair left on the bathroom floor, dirty clothes laid out on your living room floor, and bed bugs. There are so many people I had heard this happening to, and while it thankfully didn’t happen to me, I knew I could’ve been next. While the little creatures missed me this time, I keep in mind the old saying my mom used to say to me as a little girl, along with a new one: be careful who you invite in your home.