I Can’t Stop Scratching

I have the heebie jeebies. My house is infested. Growing up, we had roaches. It was do or die in there sometimes, because there was a point in the middle of the night where you simply couldn’t go into the kitchen if you wanted to walk a straight line without stepping on a bug, I don’t care how strategically you walked. A friend and I tried an experiment once. Because the roaches pretty much came out when it got dark, we tried to stay up all night and leave the kitchen light on. We were in eighth grade, maybe. It was a Friday. We lasted until about 3:00 a.m. before we both fell asleep at the table. When we woke up there weren’t that many, just a few, far away. The light must have made a difference, so yes I’ve been a scientist since I was 12.

(It amazes me sometimes that we coexisted with those bugs. We’d fumigate every few months and have a couple of weeks bug-free, but they’d come back. I remember the exterminator once saying it was harder with apartment buildings or attached houses like ours was. If the house affixed to ours wasn’t exterminating at the same time it’d be a ridiculous cycle. It was a ridiculous cycle. And let me just say this: it had zero to do with cleanliness. Zero. No matter how much we scrubbed, disposed of trash, and exterminated regularly, they always came back. I marvel sometimes that I live without them because I can remember being a child imagining that would never happen.)

We had a mouse once, a few years ago. I wrote about it to process it, but I still feel ill at ease. I am serious when I say I still can’t go into my own kitchen in the middle of the night. Until now, I’d never put together how this feels like that time in eighth grade.

So when I tell you we have an infestation, I need you to take me seriously. They’re everywhere. The ladybugs.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ladybugs are pretty and good luck. And I’m thinking sure, they are, but they belong outside. Every winter, they come into the house and crawl on my walls and ceilings and fly half centimeters as though that’s a distance. Sometimes I put them outside but how am I to know if the one I put outside at 2:00 isn’t the same one in a group of four I see later that night at 8:00? How do I know I didn’t put him out and he didn’t fly back to wherever they’re coming in from, knocked, and got let back in by Johnny?

I know they come in because it’s getting cold out and I don’t necessarily mind. But when they’re on my lampshade beside the bed, I can’t help but imagine they’ve been ON the bed. When they hover above the bed trying to make it back to the ceiling or light bulb (they want to be on the bulbs) it’s hard to believe they haven’t been landing and crawling all over my pillow.

I won’t kill them. But it’s clear that relocating is a temporary fix. I have to go now, there’s one crawling on my shoe. I have to get it and put it outside before I try to take a nap and dream it crawled into my ear.

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