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Bed Bugs: Part II

Monday, November 23, 2009
My day started around 1:30am with men pounding on my door. I hadn't really been asleep, as I was constantly awakened by the sensation of being bitten. I was sure that couldn't be the case, however. I was just being paranoid. I had switched beds and loaded on the bug repellent. And, not just any bug repellent - the good stuff. The stuff with "how to store pesticides" information on the back label. The stuff that burns through plastic. Yet, I kept feeling something on my leg.

Then, loud knocking.

I ignore it.

More loud knocking.

Go away!
I silently scream.

"Kristy!?" KRISTY!?"

Are you fucking kidding me?

More knocking, more name yelling.

“YES!?” I yell back.

“Kristy, hello! Do you know where Tom is?”, it’s Jerry yelling through the door.

“NO! I have no idea!”

“OK, thank you. Sorry.”

For fuck’s sake, I think. Why would I know where Tom was? Did they think he was in here with me? How insulting.

Tom and Jerry’s real names are not Tom and Jerry. I’ve changed their name for anonymity. And, because I can’t remember what their names really are. I met them earlier in the day at the pool. The tiny pool was way over capacity at 8 people sitting around the edge. As much as I tried to ignore them and read my book in peace, it was a bit hard when we were elbow to elbow.

tiny pool photo, as requested

“Kristy, do you learn through reading or through life?” Jerry asks.

“Uhm, both?” I say.

He gives me a smug look.

“You don’t think you can do both?” I say.

“I like to learn out there” he says as he waves his hand around.

“So, you’re not much of a reader?” I say condescendingly.

Another smug look.

What? What was that about?

Then Tom offers me a beer, almost as if to apologize for his friend. “What are you reading, Kristy?” he asks.

This is the begining of a series of questions that last until about 10:30pm. (I met them at around 3pm, mind you.) Tom and Jerry are Indians serving as UN Peacekeepers in Goma, DRC. They and their friends are on holiday in Uganda. Jerry is a civil engineer who I eventually found to be quite…civil. Tom has no idea what he wants to be, but is reading self-help books to find his way.

One thing I’ve found with many Indians is they ask a lot of questions. A lot of questions that Americans would typically not ask. Or, not immediately and in rapid succession anyway.

What’s your name? Are you married? Why not? How old are you? And, not married? Why? What does your father do? What does your mother do? How many brothers and sisters do you have? How old are they? Are they married? What do they do? Why are you not married? Do you want to get married? Do you have a boyfriend? Why not? Do you want a boyfriend? But, you don’t have one? Why not? Where are you from? Do you live with your parents? Why not? How often do you talk to them? How much money do you make? And on and on and on...

All the questions are asked in such a way that you can actually see them putting together a mental picture of who you are and what they think of you based on your marital status and the profession of your parents. You are being interviewed. It’s as though they are sizing you up for themselves, their brother, their son, whoever…

It can be very exhausting. However, I did have much else going on so I talked to them throughout the afternoon. And, I eventually went for an early evening walk with Tom and Jerry. They were pleasant enough company. We walked through a poorer shanty neighborhood up to richer larger walled houses higher on the hill.

Tom slapped backs and shook hands with everyone he saw in uniform. Maybe it’s some secret camaraderie among security-types, because the guys in uniform didn’t seem as annoyed with the whole thing as I did.

Jerry continued to ask questions that seemed to be designed to annoy me.

“It’s common knowledge that women cannot read maps. Do you find this to be true?”

This was shortly before Tom asked for direction back to Chili’s (complete with back slapping through the taxi window) as Jerry and I stood and waited for him under the big sign that said “Red Chili’s Hideaway” with an arrow.

When we got back Tom and Jerry invited me to go out with them later. They were going “discothèque hopping”. I was hesitant, but decided that it could be fun. So, I agreed.

I showered and got ready, planning to meet up with them and their other friends a bit later. When I opened my door to leave I found Tom standing right in front of me. Even then I was wishing he didn’t know what room was mine.

“Kristy. Hello.”

“Hi, where are your friends?” I ask, looking around.

“They are waiting for us at the bar.”

Oh, good, I thought.

“So, Kristy. If you were to take me somewhere, just you and me, where would you take me?”

Oh, not good, not good at all.

“Uhm, Bubbles, the Irish bar” I said, trying to think of somewhere he would hate.

“Oh, Bubbles, yes, we have been there. We shall go to Bubbles.”

Crap.

So, we walk in to the Red Chili’s lounge and his friends are sitting around the bar. Tom hands his room key to a friend and then starts speaking in Hindi as everyone stares at me. Fantastic.

“OK, Kristy. Let us go.” Tom says as he quickly starts walking out of the bar.

I’m speed walking along behind him firing questions.

“What about your friends?” “Are they coming?” “Do they know where we’re going?” “Shouldn’t we tell them?” “Yes, let’s go back and tell them.”

Finally, Tom reluctantly follows me back into the bar.

“Let’s go – Bubbles!” I say to Jerry, waving him out of his seat.

He stands as if he’s coming, but quickly his smile turns and he sits back down. I turn around to see what Tom is doing. He’s standing innocently behind me.

Fuck. I really don’t want to go out with this guy alone. It’s not that I think he’s going to try something…OK, I think he’s going to try something. However, I don’t find him threatening, just annoying.

On the taxi ride there he’s bear hugging the driver from behind asking him if he knows where Bubbles is. (Everyone knows Bubbles, by the way. And, no idea where the name Bubbles O’Leary came from.) The driver gives me a look. I’m up front with him. I had sidestepped Tom holding the back door open for me. The driver seems to have sized up the situation in about two minutes. And, I think he’s wondering what I’m doing. So, I am, buddy.

The driver pulls up to Bubbles and Tom gets out. “How much, my friend?”

“15,000.”

Tom hands him a dollar through the window and asks “do you have change, my friend?”

“That’s one dollar!” I say. (Note: although you can pay for things in dollars, 1,900 shillings is approximately $1.)

Tom’s still waving the dollar in front of the driver, who looks at me like “seriously?” but says “$10 or 15,000 shillings.”

Tom’s still waving the dollar. I’m still saying “that’s one dollar.”

Finally I pay in shillings and give the driver a look that I’m hoping says “Gun it! Quick!” But, his foot remains on the break until I get out.

Bubbles is dead. We have a pleasant talk over beer (me) and juice (him). I feel a little bad for not wanting to come initially. However, it annoys me that his friends conveniently never showed.

Then he says, “I like you. You’re simple. And, homely."

That’s really nice. Thanks. I make it clear that I have a strict bedtime of 10pm. And, luckily the bar closes at 10 on Sundays anyway.

At 10:01, after everyone else has left and the chairs are being stacked, Tom finally goes in to close the tab. All I can see from the patio is an annoyed bartender and a waving one-dollar bill in front of him.

“Language barrier,” Tom says as he comes out much later.

“I think it’s a math barrier,” I say under my breath.

We taxi back to Chili’s where people are still up and drinking. Sadly, I have that 10:00 bedtime and it’s already 10:30. Sorry, Tom, I really must get my beauty sleep.

As he’s veering off of the path to walk me to my door I quicken my pace. I know he doesn’t have his room key. It’s with his friends, and they’re long gone. “Goodnight! See you in the morning” I say as I practically start sprinting for my door.

He and his friends are leaving at 8:00am tomorrow morning. I’ve said that I will probably see him before he goes. But, frankly, if I don’t make it up, I don’t make it up.

That was why I was so annoyed that later his friends are banging on my door thinking he would be in my room with me! Seriously? It reminded me of someone in India who warned me once that “men here, they see American women in movies and they think they are very loose.” Lovely.

So, back to my late night wake up knock. After Jerry and friends leave, I can’t even pretend to sleep. I get up, switch on the light and look down. BUG BITES! NEW bug bites – all over my legs! How could that be? Well, there’s no way I’m getting back in bed now. I pick up my BlackBerry; the red light is blinking. One new email at 12:43. It’s Tom; he wants to be my Facebook friend.

I ignore the request and Google “bed bugs”. Wikipedia tells me everything I need to know about bed bugs, including photos. After an hour of research, I’m convinced that the whole room, including my suitcase is swimming in bedbugs. They’re everywhere. And, I’m trapped in my room. I can’t leave. Tom is out there somewhere, wanting to be my friend.

So, I stand in the middle of the room. For approximately four hours. Doing nothing. Just standing. It is the most minimum contact with the surroundings I can think of.

It’s now 5am. I move to sitting on the small side table. It’s wicker, and sags dramatically as I’m sitting.

5:30am. I awaken suddenly. A bed bug! I jump up. OK, it’s just a chip in the wall paint. I risk it and sit on the floor. I research new hotels – the more luxurious the better – on my Blackberry.

6:00am. I go through my luggage, picking up each piece of clothing. I scrutinize each piece, looking for any sign of bugs.

7:30am. I’m so freaking tired. I lay down on the cold hard concrete floor using a recently inspected pair of dirty jeans for a pillow. I’m cold, but wearing clothes seems dangerous. I finally fall asleep.

8:15am. KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK.

Are you fucking kidding me!!?

I stay silent.

KNOCK, KNOCK. “KRISTY!?” “KRIIIIIIISTY!?”

Go away!

More knocking, more yelling my name. It’s Tom this time.

So, first of all, my room is 10’x10’. Second, the window is open and the door is about 1” thick. And, third, you can tell if someone is in the room or not by how it’s locked. So, clearly I’m there. Clearly, I’m ignoring him.

After MORE name calling and knocking, finally I think he’s given up.

“Excuse me, miss? Yes, miss, will you please come here for a moment?” I hear him say.

“Yes?”, it is one of the housekeepers.

“Yes, thank you. Hello. Will you please knock on her door and ask for Kristy?” he says.

What the FUCK!?

“She must be there. She’s sleeping, I think. Don’t you think she’s sleeping?” the very reasonable woman says.

“But, it’s 8:15, she needs to get up,” Tom says.

WHAT!?” I scream.

“Hello! Kristy! Yes, are you sleeping?”, Tom says.

“YES!”

“Are you getting up now?”

“NO!”

“Are you still sleeping?”

“YES!”

“OK, will you come out for a moment?”

“WHY!? WHAT?”

“Come out for a moment.”

“I’m sleeping! What?”

“Ah, I see you through the window. What are you doing on the floor?”

What!? Get the fuck out of my window.

“What do you want?” I ask.

“I am leaving.”

“OK.”

“Will you get up?”

Silence.

“I am leaving.”

“OK.”

He stands outside for another minute at least and then leaves.

I hear the housekeepers snickering.

Am I a complete bitch? Yes. Is he fucking insane? Yes.

9:00am, I’m up and ready to check out.

I walk straight into the ‘private’ managers’ office.

“I need my credit card run. I would appreciate my last two night removed from my bill as I was eaten alive in my sleep,” I say as I shove my hideously disfigured arm in the manager’s face.

He recoils. I imagine a scene where I scream “You did this to me! Look at it! Look at it!” while pulling up my shirt and forcing him to see my bite riddled back. Unfortunately, it was unnecessary as he silently removed the nights from my bill.

My mood improves a bit as my taxi winds its way up through the hills. I call out roads I know like a crazy person. “This is the road Mercy Corps is on.” “Oh, that’s the corner my boda boda driver left me at.” “Hey, Tank Hill Road! I’ve been here!” In my defense, my driver seemed equally excited that I knew where we were.

Finally, at twelve noon, we pull up to a beautiful hotel overlooking Lake Victoria and Kampala. At $95 a night it’s totally out of my budget. I don’t care. That is why there are credit cards. For stupid people like me.

“You got here quickly,” the receptionist says with a smile.

“Yes, I was just at Red Chili’s when I called,” I say without thinking.

“Oh, I see.”

What does that mean? She knows! She saw the bites on my arms. She knows I’m riff raff. If I were a cartoon I’d have swarms around me like Pig Pen.

I am disgusting.

She smiles again and pulls my contaminated luggage down the hall to my room. It’s a beautiful room with…my own bathroom! As the door closes behind her, I sigh with relief.

I take everything out of the suitcase and put it away in the closet. Then, I take the hottest shower I can stand. I shave for the first time in weeks. I throw my on swimsuit and stand in front of the bathroom mirror. My entire back is covered it red welts. SO gross.

I put a ridiculous outfit on: Long sleeves. Pants. A scarf. It says, “hey, this 95 degree weather is pretty chilly, yes?”

It’s 1:30pm. I’m walking to the full size swimming pool. I lie down on a cushioned chaise lounge in the shade. I make eye contact with no one. Slowly, I start to feel human again.


1 comments to Bed Bugs: Part II:

garrito, burrito, garritoto, garritutu, garritofu said...

True or not, oh the stories Tom will tell of that loose, blonde American woman.