Last weekend my housemates and I went to Mexico City, and I wrote a lovely post about it here. But, I left out an important aspect of the weekend because, up until recently, we didn’t want anyone to know…
Here’s what happened. On Saturday night we all went to sleep at an airbnb apartment. Marico and I slept in the big bedroom, Dacus took the small one, and poor David, the most exhausted of us all, resigned himself to the couch.
In the morning, David stumbled down the hallway, looked like a madman and telling us that he’d had the worst sleep of his entire life. All night long he had been plagued by an incessant band of aggressive and whiny mosquitoes.
“They were buzzing in my ears and all around my head,” he told us. “I kept slapping myself in the face just to kill them. It was horrible. I got zero sleep.”
“Yeah, there was a really annoying mosquito in our room, too,” I said. “I burrowed under the covers, but it still managed to get me.”
“Let me see your bite,” David demanded, and I displayed the puffy red circle on my elbow.
That’s when we started to notice that David’s bites didn’t really look like mosquito bites… And he had an awful lot of them…
Unlike mosquito bites, these were small and very red. He had a rash of them across his forehead and at least twenty-five on each arm.
“Maybe it was some other kind of bug?” I suggested. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, a terrible feeling skittered into my gut. I looked to my housemates and saw that they were thinking the same thing.
And that’s when we went to wake up Dacus, who used to live in Brooklyn, where he’d had an intimate experience with bedbugs.
Dacus, too, had been eaten alive by mosquitoes (or something) in the night, and there were tiny dots of blood on his sheets to prove it. He also had dozens of the small, red bumps on his arms and legs. “They’re not itchy,” he said, and David agreed that his weren’t either. As for me, my mosquito bite itched, and I was starting to get a creepy-crawly feeling all over the rest of my body.
“Maybe Mexican mosquito bites look different?” I said, trying to be optimistic. But that didn’t explain why I had a normal-looking mosquito bite. Also, why did David and Dacus have the strange bites while Marico and I didn’t? We looked suspiciously at the couch. We’d all sat on it the day before.
“Dacus, when your apartment was infested with bedbugs, what did you do?” Marico asked. Her brow was furrowed.
“Got rid of my clothes. Threw out all my furniture.” Dacus shrugged. “You know.”
I laughed, even though this was not remotely funny. This was horrifying. What if we brought bedbugs back to the house where we’re staying in San Miguel? As in the nice, fancy house that we’re staying in for free thanks to the San Miguel Literary Sala… We could be the reason why the artist-in-residence program doesn’t make it to Year Two.
“I’m not going to tell Paul until I know for sure one way or the other,” I announced. There was no need to alarm him if they weren’t bedbugs, and I was hoping to god that they weren’t.
“I feel like these are probably mosquito bites,” David said. “I mean, I know there were mosquitoes swarming around me all night. It seems impossible that they weren’t the thing that was biting me.”
“But did they bite you that many times?” Dacus asked. He was on his computer, looking up information about bedbugs. “It says they don’t always itch,” he reported. “And it sometimes takes up to forty-eight hours for bites to show up. So we might have gotten them at the last airbnb place.” David and Dacus had spent the previous two nights in Guanajuato.
“That would explain why Eva and I don’t have them,” Marcio said. She was already making plans to burn all of her clothing.
“I mean, they don’t look like mosquito bites. And we have a lot of them,” Dacus said. “I’m pretty sure they’re bedbugs…”
Oh god, I thought. This was actually happening. I told myself to look ahead to the day when we would all laugh and tell the hilarious story of how we got bedbugs in Mexico City. No one was laughing right now.
“So what do we do?” David asked.
And that’s when we made a plan.
The most important thing, of course, was to not bring the bedbugs back to our house in San Miguel. So, when we got home that night, we did what we called “the routine.” We went into the house one by one and stripped off all of our clothes. We dumped our electronics and toiletry items in the front hall and then ran naked upstairs to the laundry room, where we stuffed our clothes, shoes, and bags into the dryer and hightailed it to the shower. We put the dryer on the highest setting for a good two hours, hoping that the heat would kill the bugs and their eggs.
After the dryer, we washed the clothes on high heat and dried them again. For extra safety, David sealed all his things in garbage bags, and over the next three days I regularly heard his shoes tumbling around in the dryer in what was his paranoid continuation of “the routine.”
And, it seems to have worked. Except for a suspicious red circle on my cheek that I finally determined to be a pimple, Marico and I remained bite-free. And, four days after our return from Mexico City, David had no new bites. In fact, now he wasn’t even convinced that it had been bedbugs in the first place. Maybe it had been some kind of vicious flying, biting insect.
And so, four days after our trip, I finally told my husband. (I think Paul was still a little freaked out.) Now that the fear was (mostly) gone, I could tell the story of our naked-roommate-run and laugh. I could post the story on my blog and not worry about upsetting the Literary Sala or the owner of this lovely house in San Miguel.
People always says you shouldn’t be afraid to “tell your story.” But sometimes it’s a good idea to think about how your story is going to affect others — is it going to upset them now, but maybe, in time, they’ll be able to see the humor in it? Sometimes it’s best to wait a while, until the story isn’t quite so fresh, or until you know for sure that the bedbugs are dead.