Melting Down and Through

A centenarian went to Las Vegas to celebrate. Sounds like the beginning of a joke. It isn’t. The adventurer’s a woman who lives in my condo complex and she brought back souvenirs from her trip. By the time she realized what was feasting on her 103-year-old body, there was such an infestation of bedbugs that she had to get rid of almost everything in her bedroom.

Just after hearing the story, I saw the condo board president outside. “They’re here, they’re here,” I whined. For months, she was diligent in an effort to rid the place of mice and roaches, posting typed instructions above the mailboxes about proper trash disposal. I’d told her repeatedly that we should be concerned about bedbugs, too.

Seems I have a reputation among my neighbors?as a freak. Okay, not just within my little community, but web-wide, thanks to Jeffrey and Alexander. I’m the unofficial bedbug expert, one who’s mounted a preemptive strike against the bloodsuckers (bedposts in containers of diatomaceous earth), who knows their favorite feeding time, how they reproduce (traumatic insemination), one who accesses the bedbug registry before booking a hotel room, and who, upon entering a hotel room, goes directly to the bed to pull up the mattress cover, checking for telltale signs and, then, inspects the folds of drapes and anything hanging on walls, while explaining to some stunned bellhop that I’m looking for bedbugs and why he should leave my bag in the bathroom where the little hitchhikers are less likely to lurk, after which I express some apology for, yes, being a frigging freak.

Anyway, I, recently, opened the front door and saw that someone had left a newspaper article on the welcome mat. Its title: “Bedbugs may be spreading superbug MRSA, study finds”. Immediately, I had this thought: So, now, they won’t be considered a mere nuisance; they could be a health hazard. (Of course, they’ve been my personal mental health hazard intermittently since I read of their resurgence.) But the study finding is both bad and good. Bad because methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can be life threatening and is spread by casual contact and good because once bedbugs are considered a public health threat, eradication efforts will intensify.

My friend David Ker Thomson once asked about this bedbug fixation, wanting to know if it’s a metaphor. I think, maybe, he’s on to something. I’ll confess that at the pinnacle of the disorder (I’ve descended sanely), I lay in bed, staring at my closet, and pictured bedbugs, the size of VW Beetles, marching robotically towards me until I said aloud, “Get a grip.”

I got a grip.

But, then, I began to obsess on real and urgent dangers? a foreign policy of U.S. imperialism/Zionism that serves Wall Street and a domestic strategy that also enriches the banksters. Greed is the distillate, the buttress of war, dehumanization, and denial of dignity. The issues are vast and overwhelming: expanded war, troop deaths, drones, civilian casualties, our use of WMD, the economy, income disparity, healthcare, immigration, the ravaging of the environment, and a political system controlled by big business.

On Wednesday, we learned that three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant suffered melt-through.

While Congress and the mainstream media are riveted by Anthony’s wiener, our treasury continues to be pillaged, the middle class is disappearing, our planet is being contaminated, and people are dying.

Voting for a Democrat or a Republican changes nothing. Once considered a sacred right, the vote now is a charade, providing only an illusion of participation. Until we remove power from the multi-national corporations that control our sociopathic politicians and place it with the people, we have no voice, no chance, and no hope. Jeez, after deliberating on this, I might prefer staring at my closet, waiting, waiting for the attack of the super-sized bedbugs.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, MD, where it’s as good a place as any to obsess. Reach her at missybeat@gmail.com.

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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