Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Michal Reiben

 I am searching through Google as to which insects can possibly be biting me?  Much to my surprise after intense research, the answer which turns up is ‘Bed Bugs’. How can that be? I know there is an outburst of bedbugs in the local hospital, maybe I was infected from there? I carefully copy down the instructions as to how to irradiate them. Since the little blighters live in cloth, mainly in mattresses, the first thing I do is to throw away all the mattresses in my house and rush off to buy new ones. I leave the new mattresses in their plastic covers so they don’t become infested. For the next two weeks, I’m in a frenzy, throwing away clothes, washing, and spin-drying those I haven’t discarded. I tie up the whole lot in large plastic bags which I heap in an enormous pile in the middle of my living room. My big mistake is not to mark the plastic bags as to their contents. As a result, I am never able to find suitable clothes to wear and go around barefoot, in crumpled, thin shirts,( its winter) and I’m reduced to drying myself after a shower with paper towels.

My flat is finally ready and so I call an exterminator.

‘You’ll have to spend the night somewhere else,’ explains the exterminator.

My youngest brother readily agrees to put me up for the night.

The only good thing which comes from ‘my infestation’ is that in being so busy I don’t notice my stalker so much. He’s a neighbor, seems to be about sixty and his wife is sick with dementia. Since I’m seventy, a paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair, for a long time I’d thought my imagination was running away with me. However, he gradually became ever more persistent to the point where he is now stalking me all day long. In the mornings he waits by my garden gate and watches my every move. On the days when  I go to the supermarket, he follows me. In an attempt to shake him off I start to shop somewhere else, but he soon finds me there as well. Sometimes I lose my temper and shout, “Leave me alone you creep,” but I’m frightened people will think I’m crazy.  It’s come to the point where I go out of my house as seldom as possible and I water my garden at night. I do what Google has advised by keeping a diary of his activities and, telling everyone I know about ‘my stalker’. Through Google, I learn that stalkers are lonely and lack self-esteem. Often they have borderline personalities and are delusional. Stalking is usually about inducing fear. I constantly think, “why is he doing this to me? What did I ever do to him?”

 My friends and family say, “Go to the police.” I’m reluctant. I know the police don’t interfere in disputes between neighbors, I don’t have enough hard evidence, and his wife is sick.

 Whenever I leave my flat I arm myself with a camera but since I’m in a wheelchair by the time I bring out my camera my stalker has rushed off. He’s old but he’s agile.

Back in my flat after spending a pleasant evening and night at my brother’s house, I’m in happy anticipation of a bug-free house, albeit In the evening I am horrified upon discovering I’m now being bitten all over my body by some extremely itchy insect. It’s like a nightmare. Where do they come from? Did I bring them with me from my brother’s house, he has several cats?  Do they come from the pigeons who have made a nest on my window sill?  

Once again I call an exterminator, this time to spray against flees. It doesn’t help.  I go on the warpath. Luckily my brother, who for some reason is never bitten by insects helps me.  I have all my cupboards ripped out and install brand new ones, throw out my old furniture. Have my house newly painted, block up every hole in the house (it’s amazing how many holes there are in old houses!)  Clean every single thing in the house with bleach, even the ceiling. I must look very funny, sitting in my wheelchair barefoot in the freezing cold winter weather and mobbing the ceiling with a long mob. It’s lucky I don’t topple over. My brother sprays my house, and garden with a spray he himself uses against his cat’s fleas. I also endeavor to eradicate the insects by blowing hot hair from a hair drying all over my walls.  In the shower,  I pour vinegar over my body, or I wash myself down with Tea tree essence.  I try smearing myself over with coconut oil, also experiment by spraying myself over with deodorant, mostly I wipe my skin down with eucalyptus oil, which does actually relieve the itching for a while. Since my head also itches, I keep on cutting off large lumps of my once long hair and end up looking like a scarecrow. I constantly spray and fumigate my flat with all kinds of insect repellants,  pour whole bottles of bleach on the floor, especially in my bedroom. As a result, I suffer from headaches and the bleach effects my lungs causing me to become repeatedly ill with flu-like symptoms.

At night I feel especially sorry for myself, between having the flu, suffering from the insects crawling all over my body, even in my ears, breathing in the strong smell of the bleach and my bedclothes slipping onto the floor because of the mattresses plastic cover.

I  disinfect my flat, and do laundry all day, every day for three months.  I don’t have time to cook and survive on bananas and wheat-a-bix. On the bright side, my flat has never been so spotless and organized, it looks like a hospital ward. My funny brother says, “It all depends on what will kill you first, the bugs or the insecticides!”

One day he plonks himself down onto my sofa over which every day I pour half a bottle of bleach. As a result, his trouser buttocks are bleached white! We laugh hysterically, it’s a relief to have something to laugh about. It’s so unfair, I wish my stalker was the one being infested, then he’d be kept busy and away from doing mischief. Upon hearing my complaints about my stalker my brother stomps up to his flat and confronts him,”‘Leave my sister alone, stop following her, don’t go anywhere near her.”

‘She’s lying, I think she’s mentally sick,’ retorts my stalker.

‘No, she’s not, she’s in a wheelchair but her head is perfectly alright, I’m warning you, leave her alone!’

I love my brother so much for facing up to him. In the midst of all this, I begin to bleed and upon visiting the gynecologist he claims, “It’s almost certainly cancer, I want you to go the emergency room straight away.”

From the emergency room, I am admitted into the gynecological ward. As before I think it’s unfair and I wish it were my stalker who is being taken ill instead of me. Eventually, thankfully it turns out I don’t have cancer but a bleeding uterine fibroid.

In desperation, I contact yet another exterminator and explain my sorrowful plight to him. This exterminator cleverly mixes a spray that kills all the different kinds of insects.  Miraculously the next day my itching stops.

After my brother reprimanded my stalker, he doesn’t stop bothering me completely,  for he realizes that my brother isn’t always around to keep an eye on him, still, there’s a slight improvement.

Three months later:

There is a ‘funeral notice’ pined up on our building’s front door. My stalker is dead! I can hardly believe it!  I question a neighbor, “What did he die of?”

“A deadly sort of cancer, he died within a month.” She replies.

After three long years of suffering from him, I feel as if I’ve been released from prison. Now, whenever I go outside I feel like ‘singing and dancing’ for joy

My brother jokingly says, “You’re going to miss him!’

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