Bed bugs present a unique form of urban torture. They are a predator, not a parasite, and thus are classified as a Class B violation under New York City housing law. Bed bugs can be killed off by extreme cold or extreme heat, but it is often the case that a given SRO occupant does not have the luxuy of abandoning his/her apartment completely while remediation efforts are attempted.
It is possible to endure 48 months with these creatures, which is the theme of the video embedded above.
For most of my life, bed bugs remained an abstraction — or just a pleasant mental echo of the charming nursery rhyme my mother used to say to me at night (“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite). Even when New York was at its worst — in the late 1980s — when the city’s murder rate approached 2,000 victims a year — bed bugs were not part of the urban threat landscape. They came later — as New York became an international tourist destination and (presumably) through a rapid evolution of the bugs themselves to make themselves more immune to the pesticides that had once killed them.
Living with bed bugs for these past 48 months has completely changed my life. And not for the better. They have made me a pariah, an outcast, and an “untouchable” in the city in which I’ve spent most of my life. I am no longer the author of my own life: merely a host to an inhuman population of invaders whose thirst for human blood is insatiable. I would call this a nightmare but there is no place to wake up to.