[personal profile] xaara
Two weeks ago, I was bitten by something while asleep. The bite swelled into a hard red welt, itchy and painful, and I was sure we had bed bugs. I literally stood beside the bed, unable to get in, for hours that night.

As it turned out, the kittens had attracted a small flea population, probably from the squirrels that live on the trees surrounding and overhanging our back porch. We got the requisite flea treatment paraphernalia and eradicated them. I, however, had done too much reading online and was petrified that the insecticide would kill the kittens. Even though I bought the most benign formula I could find, I insisted that we lock the kittens into a well-ventilated room as far away from the living room (where the fleas were) as possible. The Boy looked at me a little funny, but complied, even when I stuffed towels under the doors so they couldn't possibly inhale any of the aerosol. I placed a fan blowing out the window behind the couch, and attacked said couch clothed from head to toe, wearing gloves that reached to the elbow and a scarf over my hair. The Boy came into the room in a t-shirt and socks, told me I looked absurd, and wandered off in search of soda.

I read the directions on the can of insecticide four or five times. I aimed it down. I judged two to three feet. To be sure, I crouched until I could see the distance from the side instead of the top. I made uniform sweeping motions until all surfaces were just slightly damp.

With the windows open, it was probably thirty degrees in that room. I was sweating by the time I finished.

The kittens are still locked in their room. After scrubbing myself in hot water and soap, I allowed myself to go play with them. I might let them back into the living room tomorrow, but the thought of it makes my heart pound.

Throughout this phobia--not of insects, evil bloodsucking insects that lurk in couch cushions, but of the insect killer--some part of my brain realizes the ridiculousness of it all. I took all the proper precautions. No prolonged skin contact, minimal inhalation, no eye contact or contact with food surfaces.

But some part of me is still scared, just a little. Some part of me is in that first babysitting job mindset, when you're sure you're going to kill the neighbor's kid. Some part of me is ten and has to run to take the trash out after dark or the flying wolves will catch her. Some part of me is already in the heart-stopping adrenaline rush of coming up from the basement with the laundry, up an unlit, creaking external stairwell with paint cans and all manner of night creatures lurking in the adjacent crawlspace. And some part of me thinks all those other parts of me are pretty stupid and contagious.

Tell me that when I can't pick up a dropped sock because the giant red-eyed rats might eat me alive if I stop.
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May 2010


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