There are worse things than bed bugs

Monday, March 9th, 2020

9 a.m. I awake to the ding of a text. It’s from my roommate.

Are you awake? We need to talk.

She knows I’m not a morning person; I don’t ‘talk’ until noon. I sleepily stumble down the hallway to the kitchen to find her sitting in the adjacent dining room. She looks perky. I stand there looking at her, eyes half-closed.

“We have bed bugs,” she says.

Oh, Fuck.

Nothing is worse than bed bugs.

I stand there for a moment, then wordlessly walk over to the kettle. I’m going to need some coffee.

I go into her room to inspect her bed. Her fabric headboard is crawling with them. Juicy black bugs bursting with blood from their nightly feast.

After I’ve had a pot of coffee and can face the possibility that my bed is also crawling with blood-sucking insects, I go back into my room. I strip my bed, flip the mattress and box spring and inspect every inch of both. It’s a very unwelcome workout. I find nothing. I’m so relieved I could go back to sleep. My roommate tells me the pest control company is coming on Wednesday to fumigate any infested rooms. My two other roommates will inspect their beds when they get home from work. All will be fine, I tell myself.

This is my first day off after a gruelling tech week of a touring show. We have just opened our production and have officially begun our two-month tour around Vancouver’s Lower Mainland. I’m happy and exhausted. I want to rest, catch up on my emails, do laundry…Instead, I start googling bed bugs. How insipid they are. How they travel. How they breed.

I read online that our things need to be bagged up for three months, no—a year!?—to properly kill bugs. We call our landlord. They talk to the pest control company and confirm it is two months. We anxiously wait for our other roommates to get home. They find nothing. We all decide to get our rooms sprayed anyway.

I phone my boyfriend, Paul, to update him. He freaks out. He freaks me out in the process.

We get some garbage bags and I spend the night bouncing between finishing up my short story for my creative writing class on Wednesday and bagging up all the stuff I won’t need for two months. I put all the bags on the deck. We take turns doing laundry. We’ve got this!

Then I see them: my tax receipts. Oh, Fuck.

As a self-employed artist, I collect all my receipts throughout the year and stuff them down the throat of a large manila envelope. Then I categorize and record them all in a spreadsheet. It usually takes a few days. I can’t pack the envelope away for two months when taxes are due at the end of April! This means I have to do my taxes before Wednesday.

Double fuck.

3 a.m. Bedtime.

Covid-19 status: On my mind. But I got some hand sanitizer last week so I’m good. Audience numbers were down at the show over the weekend. My director thinks it’s because of Coronavirus. I’m not sure. I just saw my friend’s Instastory of The Strokes concert. It was packed.

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

My second day off in a row. I never have two days off, but —foreseeing my exhaustion after tech week—I had planned accordingly. Go me! (For once). How fortuitous to have all this time off to deal with bugs. Silver linings, right?

My mom drops off four gigantic storage containers. I bring in my six garbage bags from the deck—wasted work, why did I do that?—and take everything out of the bags and redistribute them in the tubs. I need more tubs.

I then try to finish my taxes and my short story for tomorrow. I secure a venue for my best friend’s surprise party next week. I organize my Artistic Director invite list for my show this weekend. Life is good, invasive vermin aside.

Paul picks me up and takes me to Canadian Tire to buy more plastic tubs and garbage bags. I rock up to his car in a flowery dress and flip flops because that’s all I have. It’s raining.

Covid-19 status: Still barely on my mind. Although I read we’ve had our first Canadian death from coronavirus, and it was in B.C. But the bugs are keeping me busy.

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

Spray Day! The apartment is prepped and we roommates have a list of questions at the ready. We buzz the Pest Control Man inside and I smile at him as I open our door.

He breezes right past me and calls over his shoulder in a thick Eastern European accent, “Where is bug room?”

We show him the room, then the rest of the apartment. As he marches through, he points at nearly every piece of furniture we own and barks, “Get rid.”

When I question him about my mirror he rounds on me and shouts, “No argue! I help you! Now you leave. I am busy.”

He says it will take half an hour to spray and to be back at 12:45 p.m. Stunned, we wait out the half-hour in Starbucks around the corner. They are offering free samples of caramel macchiatos. We nearly knock the tray down. We sit in silence, slurping our small drinks, and buy nothing. A man coughs beside me.

When we go back, Pest Control Man is waiting for us outside our apartment door. He points at me, looks at his watch and says, “You! I say 12:45 p.m, It is 12:50 p.m. I go now. I come back in two weeks for second spray. I expect much less furniture.”

He goes on to tell us our belongings need to be bagged up for a year, not two months. He says we need to get rid of my roommates bed right away. He says we can go back inside in four hours. Then he leaves.

My roommate looks at us sadly and says, “I’m moving out. I’m sorry.”

I cry in our cramped stairway.

We all hug goodbye on the street and plan to reconvene tomorrow night at the apartment. I miserably wait for my bus. This is officially the end of the Vancouver version of my Sex and the City/Girls apartment life. The band is breaking up.

I have some time before class so I head to my favourite vegetarian restaurant. I order some soul-satisfying nachos. That’s when I read the news.

Covid-19 status: WHO declares Covid-19 a global pandemic.

Alright. I’m officially concerned now. Everyone is suddenly suspicious. That guy in Starbucks was coughing next to me! I’m doomed.

I take the SkyTrain to college. I’m hyper-worried about germs.

At school, half of my classmates are absent. It’s a spec fiction class and one of them reads aloud a chilling story about a pandemic. It’s eerily topical. I can feel anxiety curdling like sour milk in my stomach.

On the way back to Paul’s for the night, I stop at the liquor store to pick up some much-needed wine. When I go to pay for my purchase, I realize I’ve lost my credit card. It must have gotten packed up with all my belongings.

This day needs to die.

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

Covid-19 status: Today I learn the term ‘social distancing.’ Justin Trudeau is self-isolating because his wife Sophie is sick. Events of more than 250 people have been cancelled. Broadway is shutting down.

I barely slept. As Paul is leaving for work I see the full impact of his bed bug paranoia. He has sprinkled diatomaceous earth like a magic chalk circle around his room. He’s placed each leg of his bed in a plastic tub of water.

I take an overly-crowded SkyTrain to my afternoon dress rehearsal for the second venue on our tour. I spend it scouring alarming news articles. My head is spinning, my heart is pounding. I am barely present on stage. I move through the motions like a turtle in water. I wish I could disappear into my shell. Just keep swimming, I tell myself.

Our director tells us we have been moved into a smaller studio space at one of our venues. She tells us numbers are down for the weekend and some people are asking for refunds. On the way home I begin to think it will be lucky if we make it to the end of our tour.

I meet my roommates outside our apartment building at 7 p.m. We are armed with shrink wrap. One of my roommates hands me my visa—she found it in her purse. Too bad I already cancelled it.

As we enter the apartment, we encase our purses and jackets in a garbage bag by the door. Everything is in disarray; The couches have been upturned, our mattresses are leaning against windows, the furniture is on its side. Once we re-set everything, I’m looking forward to relaxing with my rommates in the living room. Maybe someone has wine.

It’s an itch-inducing depressing dump. After ten minutes of being inside, my throat is sore and my nose is running. These fumes are fucking strong. There’s no way we can stay here.

We gather in front of the infested room. Like the CIA before a raid, we silently nod at each other. Then, we strip down to our underwear and go inside. Giggling, we huddle around the bed and shrink wrap the shit out of it.

We decide not to go back until after the second spray has been done. I gather enough things to last me for two weeks at Paul’s place. When I arrive at his door, I strip again and pass him my clothes, which he immediately tosses in the laundry. 

I feel dirty.

Friday, March 13th, 2020

Covid-19 status: Italian hospitals are overwhelmed with sick patients and doctors have to choose who to save. Trump declares a National Emergency in the United States. Meanwhile, Canadians are stockpiling toilet paper.

On Fridays, I look after my family friend’s two year old. We don’t go to the play gym as usual. I take him to the park and am very careful about wiping his hands. He plays in the grass instead. God, he’s cute.

While he naps in the afternoon I continue to scour news articles. I don’t know if I’ll ever emerge from this black web hole.

Tonight we open the show in the second venue of our tour. Numbers are way down. There were 115 people booked in for the show. About 40 turned up.

The SkyTrain is packed on the way home. I call my mom. I tell her to stock up and to stay inside.

Shit is getting real.

Saturday, March 14th, 2020

Covid-19 status: Canadians are being told not to travel. Countries across the world are closing their borders. France shut down all their restaurants. Performing arts events across Vancouver are being cancelled.

It’s a two-show day. This time, I shut off my phone in preparation. The news is too distracting.

There are just over 50 people booked in for the matinee. Around 30 people show up. They are sombre and quiet. Just what you want for a comedy crowd, right? It takes so much energy to be funny for a silent audience.

Just over 80 people have bought tickets for the evening show. Around 60 people surprisingly show up. And they are AMAZING. They laugh loudly and cheer us enthusiastically off the stage.

YES! I’m on a high! It’s amazing what endorphins can do. If only everyone in the world could experience what an actor feels like after performing.

Sunday, March 15th, 2020

Covid-19 status: Our casinos are shutting down. The local mountains are closing. Universities are transitioning to online classes. Everyone is working from home.

I cancel my best friend’s surprise party. Paul and I pick up my younger brother and take him grocery shopping. We all buy enough food for two weeks. There’s no toilet paper. Oh well, there’s always the shower…?

We avoid the big commercial stores and instead head to the neighbourhood shop by Paul’s place. It’s busy but not chaotic. I smile at people in the aisles and leave a lot of space between us. Only some smile back.

We go to the liquor store and stock up there too. I’m not sure what I’m more afraid of running out of: snacks or wine.

Turns out: wine. SOS.

Monday, March 16th, 2020

Covid-19 status: The B.C. government announces all gatherings of more than 50 people are banned.

I get the email from my director: we’re finished.

The curtain is coming down.

Social isolation has officially begun.

Wish this extravert luck.

Turns out, there are worse things than bed bugs.