Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tough Time: Bedbugs, Illness, and Stress

Sept. 27th:

Jesus, what a last couple of months.

(Pardon my insertion of another personal post).

It's currently 2:16 AM (my father's lucky number; his Air Force ID had 216 in it, and he raised his family - me - on 216th and Dewdney in Maple Ridge. He often bets 216 at the races, and sometimes wins. Whenever someone arrives at the score 216 at Scrabble, we take it as a good omen). It's actually the early morning of September 27th as I write this (it won't get posted til a bit later). I missed the Subhumans and Chris Walter's book launch last night; I just woke up from a decent eight hours sleep, making up for the near-total lack of solid sleep the night before, where I spent the night in a gut-clenching panic, a shitting-and-shaking panic, after discovering a bedbug in my apartment.

It was climbing on a box I had already packed. (Tho' I think it had fallen out of the closet and was looking for a place to go, not coming out. Still, how can you tell?).

So much for telling myself that the last couple of sprayings killed them all - or that I only had to abandon my bed and futon and "everything would be fine." Moving when you know you might be bringing bedbugs with you is no easy thing on the conscience.

Here's the plan, arrived at with the help of my friend Kevin (thanks, man!): everything I own that I'm taking - my record collection, books, CDs, DVDs, computer and TV, some clothing and kitchenware; very little furniture - is being boxed up, then the boxes are placed in sealed plastic garbage bags. There may be bedbugs inside - it's too much for me to check every single thing I pack before the move. When I get to Maple Ridge, I'm going to pile the stuff in the apartment and have it fumigated the requisite two times, while sleeping at my parents' place. (Maybe pest control can put poison INTO the plastic bags and we can re-seal them? It's a thought, anyhow.) Then I unbox everything and check it very, very carefully, throwing away the box and the bag.

This will be a time-consuming and expensive process, needless to say. Last night, it all seemed kind of overwhelming, but now that I've got half of what I own stacked in garbage bags in the bathroom - one of the few places that I think is reliably bedbug-free - I'm feeling a bit better. Stressed, still - but better.

The thing that's horrifying is knowing that the apartment where I live has almost 100% occupancy, if not 100%. My suite rented to the first people who saw it - two Japanese kids. Based on the few new tenants I've asked, the landlord tells no one that there are bedbugs in the building when they move in. (One woman's response was basically - "Oh great, we moved here because the other building we were in had bedbugs!" She hadn't mentioned them to him, either - it's a dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about, so they spread unabated). Given that many of the people currently staying here are Europeans or Japanese in town for the Olympics - and given that many of them are going to bring their belongings back home with them when they go - it's like the building is an International Bedbug Dispersal centre. Since I imagine many, many other buildings in Vancouver have much the same story, it's no wonder we're overrun with the little fuckers.

People respond to it in the strangest ways, though - it's like friends think there are bedbugs waiting to leap onto them when they set foot in my door; they treat it with all the paranoia and religious dread of an STD (and needless to say, bedbugs have definitely had an impact on my love life). A rational response would probably involve legislation, making it mandatory to inform tenants that there are bedbugs in the building, and what this means.

As for old buildings like this - a lovely old wooden character building from, I think, 1909 - or any of the wooden buildings being gentrified in East Van, to say nothing of the SRO's - I'm really not sure that there's a solution to the problem, short of condemning them and demolishing them. Even if you evacuated the whole building for a month - imagine THAT happening - and systematically sprayed it, the next time some tenant moved in from another Vancouver building, they could potentially be bringing bedbugs with them, and the whole thing could start again. Anything short of systematic spraying will prove useless, since the bugs can just crawl into the woodwork or flee to another, less toxic environment - like your neighbour's apartment. They can always move back to your place if they decide you taste better.

Funny, too, to think of it - I'll be throwing a lot of my belongings away, since they're possibly infested. But anything with resale value that I throw out is a sure bet to be "harvested" by binners digging through dumpsters, and distributed to shops. Driving stuff to a dump is no easy prospect, either, because I have no truck with which to do it. And any friend who I ask to help me get rid of this stuff will surely balk at the prospect of my putting stuff in their car, when the very reason I'm ditching it is that it's potentially infested.

Welcome to Vancouver, folks.

In other news, my father has been on holiday from chemotherapy almost since Mom had her stroke. He is full of energy and clear-headed and gaining weight - I'm encouraging him to eat as much as he can while he can eat, because he's going to lose a lot of it once he's back on chemo, since his appetite drops and he has bouts of diarrhea. He's very supportive and is helping me financially to deal with this move, which will be very, very costly indeed. (The truck and the guys who are carrying stuff not so much - what's going to cost money is the fumigation and the need to buy almost all-new furniture!).

Mom, meanwhile, can say a few words, but only at great effort. It comes out mostly as garble, as she struggles to get her mouth to make the sounds she wants (there's a bit of apraxia, in addition to aphasia: not only can't she find the word she wants, but she has a hell of a time trying to say it, and certain sound combinations - initial consonant clusters involving S, say, as in "star" or "spray" or such - are particularly difficult). Sometimes she does manage to find the words she wants, though. If I show her a picture and ask her, "what's that," nine times out of ten she can find the word, even if she mispronounces it ("star" comes out as "car" or "far" as she tries to locate the right sounds). She's even written a perfectly grammatical sentence, "What did you think of the meeting," to ask me about a conference we attended; her speech therapist tells me that it was completely uncoached. Writing is marginally easier for her, though often she will just write a string of function words - pronouns and be verbs and other things strung together that don't carry a lot of content (she wrote "would like" or "would liked" several times after her stroke when trying to begin a sentence; after those two words, she would shake her head and give up). The rehab program at Eagle Ridge Hospital is definitely helping her, though; she has two more weeks to go, roughly - after which time, I should safely be relocated a few minutes away from where my parents live.

I was able to cry a bit today about it all. I think crying is very, very good for you. It's difficult to get there, and hard not to think of it as self-pity, but my life right now is so full of painful, confusing stuff - the encroaching mortality of my parents, mostly - that it comes as quite a relief to let a bit of it out. Hearing Mom struggle to say she loves me when she can barely speak... that's tough, man. I think if I hadn't cried for a bit, I wouldn't have been able to sleep last night.

I really want to thank my parents and my friends who have stood by me. Kevin, in particular, is coming through for me in ways I had not expected; he's actually going to enter the danger zone tomorrow, despite his own deep dread of bedbugs, and help me out.

I see it's about 3:20. I might just go back to bed for a few hours. It's going to be a long day.


Sept. 28th:

I did sleep for awhile, and during that time I dreamed that I was very very drunk, and crossing the border between Canada and the United States. I fell down and was lying unconscious beside the car; I woke up feeling liquid splashing on my face and in my mouth (actually, I could "see" the liquid - I saw my own face, taking a third person, movielike perspective; though the next "shot" was seen through my own eyes). I looked up, and could see that one of the border guards was standing over me, grinning, and pissing into my face.

Somehow this ended up on video, and was then put on Youtube. The next part of the dream found me back at work, where I decided that, rather than waiting for my coworkers to find the video and laugh at it behind my back, I would "empower" myself by telling them about it myself. "Hey, guys, want to see something funny? I was really drunk, and this customs guy pissed in my face - check it out!" I was running around from desk to desk - the layout was actually more like the teacher's room in the Japanese highschool I taught at.

Sometime after that, I woke up.


Later that day:

God, I'm exhausted. What's worse, the emotions of all of it are hitting me now. My Mom's stroke. My Dad's cancer. My fear that I'll bring bedbugs with me. Somehow I respond with overwhelming guilt feelings and tears. An hour or so ago you'd have found me crying crosslegged on my living room floor, holding an orange and white "tile bag" for Scrabble that my Mom knitted when I was maybe 12. It's been around for awhile - for almost as long as Mom, Dad and I have been playing Scrabble. I think, actually, she was trying to make a touk for me, but it was too small, so she added a drawstring... My parents have moved on to a new bag (also knitted by Mom, I think) and so I inherited this one, and I was in the process of packing it (and the set of tiles - the rest I can throw away, since my parents have a fancy Scrabble set that I got them for Christmas). Then what it was, and the fact that Mom, Dad and I may never play Scrabble again hit me and I started sobbing. (By the time Mom recovers enough from her stroke for it even to come close to being an option, Dad will probably be dead of cancer).

The guilt, of course, has everything to do with every harsh word I've said to them - every unkind or selfish moment, and all this shit I've bought, taking advantage of their love. The self-indulgent life I've led is crashing in on me and now I have no idea what's going to happen on Wednesday. I've told the apartment manager in Maple Ridge the situation, and he understands - I've lined up a fumigation for the day after I get my stuff into the building - but I'm not even sure the moving guys will be okay on the situation. (Initially I wasn't even going to mention it, but now that all my stuff is encased in black plastic and I'm conspicuously missing a bed, futon, chairs, etc... I think they'll get the idea).

Fuck, I feel so cornered.

I think that's where I'll leave this. This is my life at the end of September, 2009. I hope this all proves to be character-building at some point.

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