01 April 2014
“Can we add a second person to this room?"
Yes, you can. But you’ll want a different room, one with two beds.”
“No, the one we reserved is fine. We’ll only use one bed, anyway. Both nights.”
“Not a problem,” she said. “But the price is the same either way.”
“One bed is fine,” I said.
Both Dave and I took out our credit cards. As the clerk looked on, we haggled over whose to use. I pushed mine her way.
She processed the card. “He’s bigger than either of us,” she told Dave.
We all laughed.
Even though she drew us a map, we got lost in the warren of multi-room units. In the dark we had turned right too soon. The room was chilly when at last we found it. I cranked up the heat, unpacked the knapsack, hung our coats and dress shirts. Dave had signed up for a two-day workshop; at the last minute I’d opted to come along for the ride. We readied for bed.
While brushing my teeth I heard his low insistent tone, “Bryn, come here. Bryn, come here.”
I spun about.
“What do you think this is?” He pointed to an insect crawling across newly turned down sheets. It looked like a large reddish-brown tick, only bigger, and with horizontal segments comprising its abdomen.
“Is it a bed bug?”
“Could be. I don’t know they look like,” I said.
“I don’t think you can see them; all you find is bite marks in the morning.”
“Let’s squish it and take it down to the front desk. Maybe she has access to the internet and can look up what a bed bug looks like.”
Dave tore the clear wrap from a plastic cup. I scooped the creature into it, then replaced the covering to keep it from flying out.
We dressed, donned jackets.
“We’re back.” I said this as if it were good news.
“I see that.” She said this as if she weren’t so sure. “Do you know what a bed bug looks like? We found this critter crawling under the sheets.” I set the glass on the counter.
“They look like a tick, that’s all I know,” she said.
“Then this might be one.”
She approached, hands up, palms forward, as if we were pointing a gun her way. She took a quick look. “Now, I can handle pretty near anything,” she said, “but when it comes to bugs I go all ‘girlie.’”
She offered us another room. “This one has two beds. That’s all we have left.”
When we moved, Dave and I straightway checked the sheets—again and again. Lifted mattress, bed covers, mattress pad. No sign of bugs. No bite marks come morning.
A few days later I did an internet image search and learned our beastie was indeed a bed bug. I also learned (from the Utah Department of Health website) about these common misunderstandings regarding bed bugs:
• You can’t see them. (You can.)
• You can feel it when they bite. (You can’t.)
• No bite marks means no bed bugs. (Not necessarily.)
• They only infest filthy hovels. (Flesh and blood attract them, not dirt.)
• They only affect other people. (Wishful thinking.)
• They’re not all that big a problem, really. (Oh, really?)
These misunderstandings echo ways we often dismiss pestilences we’d rather not notice/admit/own: A planet in crisis. Blood for oil. Power to the One Percent. Institutionalized injustice. Prejudice. Arrogance. Self-absorption. Shame-based living.
We sleepwalk, learn not to see. O who will awaken us to the bite marks on our own flesh? We have made this one world bed for ourselves and now we must li(v)e in it. What do we want between these sheets?