Waking up at four AM
to erratic fear of bugs
is sure to guarantee
never sleeping again.
Everything is itchy when I snap
on the lights, rip off the sheets,
and strip naked for bloodshed.
Using a flashlight I search
I try to catch the little bastards
but really hope to find nothing.
Paranoia builds until still shadows move and soon
the dog is sniffing around and helping me search,
ears forward and tail erect, following some trail.
I am on hands and knees using a pencil to inspect
each crumb and piece of lint individually, certain
there must be egg sacks or molted shells, or bugs
on the loose, plotting secret attacks. I just thought
the cursor moving on my screen was a bug. I search my
body for bites and locate a few red bumps on my elbow,
maybe a couple down my arm. My dog’s tail touches my
knee and I shit myself. I think about how he destroyed
my mattress last week, burrowing a hole to the box-spring.
I convince myself he was chasing a bug and begin to trust
every move he makes, every twitch of an ear, every darting
glance, as evidence of infestation. We both keep searching,
both keep scratching. Soon I find and kill a moth, despite
believing its innocence. I scratch until I make new bumps.
At six-thirty AM I drink a beer to relax; at seven AM I smoke
weed before wrapping myself in a carefully inspected blanket,
trying to get thirty minutes of sleep before my work alarm rings.
At seven-thirty I wake up again, groggy and angry, and select
snooze three times for another twenty-seven minutes of rest. Upon
waking I realize I am still naked and start scratching as I approach
the shower. On my way out to work I remind the dog that he
is the man of the house and ask him to be tough in my absence.
When I get to the office I search the internet for bug bite photos,
warning signs and treatments. I am still itchy all over and begin
speculating species based on bite patterns, gathered evidence,
etc. I decide if I find a single bedbug I will burn my building to
the ground and leave town that evening. I schedule a meeting
with my boss and tell him that I will be quitting after two years
of successful employment. I cite an existential crisis, apologize,
and return to my desk to begin searching online for apartments
in small towns. Every time the bumps on my arm fade I scratch
until they reappear. I picture the dog being stuck inside a bug
box all day and I start to feel sick. My boss sends me funny
videos which are distracting for a minute, but then I resume
and bite patterns
and transmittable diseases.
I leave work exactly at five PM and fall asleep as soon as I sit
down on the train, arms wrapped around my chest like a blanket,
ignoring smelly people with their bitter attitudes and rude elbows
until I exit the subway and enter a corner store on the way home
to buy a twelve pack of beer as fuel for the upcoming bug war,
and also some Doritos. I think about the hijackers in Las Vegas
a week before 9/11, spending a ton of money that was not their own
on liquor and prostitutes and room service. I decide they probably
had a very good time. As I approach the door to my studio I take a
breath and tuck my jeans into my socks. I walk inside and play with
the dog for a minute, really looking for signs of bugs, the same
way my mom used to give me a big hug just to smell my hair after
I came home late at night in high school, after a party or drinking,
because sometimes love needs to be sneaky. Next I crack a beer,
rip sheets off the bed in hopes of a surprise attack, find nothing,
and punch the mattress and then box spring and then bed-frame
until my knuckles are bloody and I forget feeling itchy everywhere.
I open another beer and put the rest in the miniature refrigerator.
The dog chews his bone, bored.
The time is now six-thirty PM.
I resolve to give up the day.
I unroll a sleeping bag
rather than put sheets
back on the bed tonight.
After inspecting with a flashlight, I climb inside, and sleep until morning.