The ugliness which lives inside of people physically manifests itself. As sickness and pain and fatigue, yes, but also outside of the body. When I moved into an apartment after being homeless for half a year, just before the corona virus hit the United States, I quickly discovered that there was a bed bug problem. I would find tiny brownish red dots in my closet, on the floor, in my bed. Once, I woke up, the sun barely risen in the sky, and saw a small red bed bug resting on my pillow, inflamed with my blood. By this time, about a week after I’d recognized the situation as a problem, I’d become used to it, and wasn’t startled. I only laid there, starting at it’s little body, no bigger than a droplet of blood squeezed out of a paper cut.
Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs have nothing to do with filth or cleanliness. It doesn’t matter how many times a week you change your bed sheets, or vacuum your carpet, or wash your clothes, because bed bugs care about one thing, and one thing only: blood. I lived in a large, pretty house in a fairly safe, pretty neighborhood, and I’m as clean as any other person, yet I was still plagues by these little things once. The only thing healthy hygiene practices will do for you concerning these pests, is to help you notice them faster.
The bed bugs, although a nuisance, became less of an atrocity and more of a (temporary) annoyance as the days went on. I’ve never been fond of insects, as most aren’t, but when you have no choice but to endure their company, they start to grow on you. Slowly, the way people do when they’re forced to share space with each other. I know, reader, that you’re currently asking yourself what’s wrong with me, but hear me out. Nothing is wrong with me. The more time you spend around a person, the more likely you are to start tolerating them, I guess it’s no different for anything else.
Any one who’s dealt with these pests knows how difficult it is to destroy them. For such small things, they are very resilient. They also have the strange ability to live amongst human beings, who hate them, as well as hate most everything else. Not only do bedbugs tolerate us, but it is in their very nature to do so. To fight through the poison and the shoes smacks, and the clapping of their unfathomably small existences between our substantially bigger palms.
Of course, that toleration can only last so long. Once the highest point of tolerance is reached, there is no where for a person’s affections to go but down. I never wanted bugs, but a combination of ignorance and confusion concerning what be best extermination options were, having that I’d never dealt with the issue before, and a lack of funds kept me from acting immediately. After the incident with the pillow bug, I quickly chose to rid myself of them through a combination of deep cleaning/vacuuming and chemical bombs and sprays that felt like they could do substantial damage to human beings aswell when breathed in for more than five seconds. Any one who’s dealt with these pests knows how difficult it is to destroy them. For such small things, they are very resilient. They also have the strange ability to live amongst human beings, who hate them, as well as hate most everything else. Not only do bedbugs tolerate us, but it is in their very nature to do so. To fight through the poison and the shoes smacks, and the clapping of their unfathomably small existences between our substantially bigger palms.
Naturally, human beings see things as bed bugs talking something from them. To people, they are the leeches, but consider this for a second, consider being a bed bug, and having to live off of things that hate you; and kill you, or try to, every chance that they get…
I think most of us understand what it is to be dependent on things we rather wouldn’t be. We all are at some point in life unable to survive without some person, or substance or item, like money, or food. A drug perhaps. Stuff that doesn’t love us, or need us or want us as much as we need it.
My mother, two siblings, and myself were dependent on my father for as long as I can remember before this year. I was homeschooled, and barely left the house, mostly becasue I wasn’t allowed to, but also becasue my anxiety was so crippling that I rarely would when I was given the chance to. I was that shy, that green. Honestly, I probably had the life experience of a nine year old, spread out sparsely up and through a sixteen year old’s body, barely filled up to my knee caps. When I think about myself back then, that’s the picture I see. The silhouette of a young girl, with the sparkly gold liquid of life flowing through her, but only just barely, and trickling out of her through the bottoms of her feet and and back into the Earth where it cam from by the second.
I think most of us understand what it is to be dependent on things we rather wouldn’t be. We all are at some point in life, unable to survive without some person, or substance or item, like money, or food. A drug perhaps. Stuff that doesn’t love us, or need us or want us as much as we need it. Or at least not in the same ways. As people, we know what it is like to be hated for the things we can not help or change. And that’s what its like to be a bed bug. Always ways hiding from from the things that gift you life, always being hunted and despised for being what you are. Of course most humans aren’t naturally dependent on drinking the blood of warm blooded animals, but no metaphor is perfect.
Unlike bed bugs, roaches depend very little on the bodies of human beings. Instead, they feed off of their surroundings. They’re tough and big and hated in the universal way few can understand except maybe Black people, women, and folx who refuse to squeeze themselves into stupidly tiny yet nearly universal binaries.
Roaches are recluses. Rebels. They go where they want, and take what they want, and stay where ever they want. Who knows, maybe they find all of the disgust they’re met with an honorable thing.
Perhaps when you’re a roach, it’s a badge of honor to be unwanted. To me, it’s only reasonably to assume that other creatures have their own perceptions about how the world actually operates, of good and bad and ugly. Why then would any creature perceive their own role on this earth to be any less honorable than anything elses?
Roaches are nomads who pop up everywhere someone is to find them. They have the audacity to exist in homes, and insist that they belong there. They care little about the wants of human beings or the level of cleanliness they prefer to have in their homes. Because of that, they die terrible, violent, public deaths. One day I was at a woman’s house who I’ve known for a very long time, she lived in a small apartment in a big apartment building, and kept the kind of house so quaint and quiet it felt like the flutter of an infants eyelashes. When I walked in, I looked around, feeling it out as I am one to do. As if the contents and truths of a place can be found out by rolling ones shoulders and ringing ones hands. I saw a bug stain on the wall, it was fairly large, and brown, and dried up, the only trace of a living thing now disappeared into oblivion. It’s strange to think about, becasue no one leaves human remains splattered against walls, and in fact, it’s very hard to platter a human against a wall although it does happen more often than is settling. When humans are splattered against walls, or under shoes, or between palms, it normally garners a much larger reaction. Unless, that is of course, if the human in question may as well be a roach or a bed bug as far as the world is concerned. Small and worthless, and disposable. Then, no one bothers to wipe their remains off of the wall, or give them the dignity or a private death.
Shortly after I noticed the bug stain on the wall, my mother, who was with me, told me she had seen a live roach in the kitchen, and another in the bathroom. I, who never cared for bugs as most dont, had figured there were more, breathing, hiding between the couch cushions, or crawling over my hands at night as I slept. I just preferred not to think about it, and not to look too hard, and then maybe, just maybe, the bugs would become less real and then cease to exist all together.
Soon after me and my mother began noticing the roaches, the woman whose apartment it was started acting strange. We never mentioned it out loud to her, or tried to shame her about about it, but suddenly, she was very concerned with her house keeping. She had never been an exceptionally clean person, and had even confided in my mother that she hardly ever vacuumed the carpet. When my mother expressed her frustration about not being able to keep up with the dishes, the woman admitted that she dealt with the same issue. During our short visit, she began washing the dishes everyday, no fork left behind, and if a dish was left in the sink by someone else for more then five minutes, she quickly mentioned it.
…here’s the thing about stuff that exists in the past, it carries smells, and leaves stains where anyone can find them.
It seemed like she were insinuating that we had brought the roaches with us. But That dried up roach, stuck to the that white wall the first day we walked into her house, is all the reassurance I need to the contrary.
Perhaps she was embarrassed, but here’s the thing about stuff that exists in the past, it carries smells, and leave stains where anyone can find them. That make’s it awfully hard to lie about what a person is and is not responsible for. Shame is an uncomfortable thing that anyone would be crazy not to try and escape, but when a person tries to twist how and when they acquired a wound, claiming they were untouched before it, but forgot that all wounds leave scars in different forms, that’s when the truth starts crawling back out of the walls and there is no way to exterminate that. A scar’s job is to be a memory.
My great grandfather lived with mice. They were his friends. He owned a multi family house before I was born and rented out the other floors. He lives in a city, and like in most cities, there are mice, and rats, and roaches, and all sorts of things people try very intently to banish but are just a part of life that sometimes slip through cracks in vigilance, or just walk right through the door. My great grand father didn’t seem to care very much at all whether or not he kept them out in the first place.
His mental health was questionable, he was never diagnosed, but my family, like many others and I would prefer to assume most, is splattered with strange people who the “normal” members of the clan pity and either ignore or feel they have to take care of. Metal illness runs in my family, deep and true, right on down to me, and probably my unborn children. But not all forms of neuro diversity are illnesses, because an illness is something that causes considerable pain to either one’s self or others, or both. If the way a person’s brain works is unusual, but doesn’t cause any particular harm as a result of itself then its not an illness, it’s just a difference. My great grand father had illnesses, but I’m not sure his dependence on mice was part of one. Surely, it was the because of one, but maybe he used those mice as some kind of coping mechanism. His way of filling the space his family left when they stopped seeing him as a full person and started treating him like a crazy old man. Maybe, in his mind, they replaced them. And who are we to say that mice can not replace people? Or, to word it better, can not mean as much as people, and who is anyone else to demand that another person perceive mice in the same way they do? He owned the house, couldn’t he let who ever he wanted live there with him?
Maybe that makes sense and maybe it doesn’t, but the fact remains that those mice told the world around him something about who he was deep down inside. So deep no other person could reach it. I wonder if those little rodents were better than people for my great grand father, if they provided him with something no one else could have given him. Acceptance, companionship without boundaries or conditions. While the mice were a part of his dissociation and alienated him even more from other people, they created a new way for him to find meaning and fulfilment, gave him something to take care of. For a man who had no access to proper professional help, I choose to see this eccentric behavior as more survival than disfunction. But sometimes, I think it can be both. No one ever said that surviving has to be pretty, and God knows that it’s not always happy, or healthy, or “normal.” Sometimes, the things it takes just to exist on this planet day after day without succumbing to the insanity of others or ourselves, takes measures that seem like insanity itself. And I think that that’s okay.
The thing about all pests, as with all problems, is that they’re hard to get rid of. All living things fight, and they all have the right to fight. Who are we, puny little humans, to demand or expect that they don’t? Peace of mind must be fought for. To live exactly as a person wants, with exactly whom a person wants, is a privilege no one is born with. And I figure that no one should. Not completely. To rid oneself of the bug stains on the walls of ones mind, takes a whole lot of bleach and paper towels, and a stomach for nasty, ugly things that live inside of you. In your house, in your bed. Sometimes you have to take off the covers, and confront the nest of brown dots living in your sheets because if you are too afraid of seeing it, or too afraid of admitting they’re there they will half eat you alive and leave you the rest of you as a declaration. That is what happens when we do not face our issues. They don’t go away, or get smaller, they expand, like little beasts, until they’re too big to handle on our own anymore. By that time, a person is too infested with ugliness to expect anyone elses assistance. Then, we either lie about it, like the women, or we succumb to it, like my grandfather did. The only way to get things to go away, is to face them. You have to have the courage to face them, to look at them in the face. The way we deal with the thing we dont like that live outside of us, is the same as we deal with things we dont like that live within us.