Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bed Bugs in Apt. # 28B

I woke up on Sunday with a few spots on my arms. They looked like bug bites. By Monday, I had a few more. It wasn’t until Tuesday that I started to fear that they were more than bug bites. My housemate in DC came down with chickenpox before I left 10 days ago. So, I feared that I had contracted the disease. By Tuesday afternoon, spots had appeared on my arms and legs, neck, shoulders and around my bellybutton. A visit to the pharmacist helped a little. His over-the-counter diagnosis: I don't have the pox.

“They're just eczema or an allergic reaction to something you ate,” Robert declared confidently. A portly man in his 40s, Robert is a Coptic Christian and was still open at the Magreb or sunset prayer. He sold me a topical anti-itch cream and some Claritin pills to treat the spots.

I didn’t completely trust his cursory diagnosis.

My roommate says it's probably an allergic reaction to bed bugs. I did see one mite (red one) near my bed, which I promptly crushed between the pages of 8 and 9 of Holy War, Inc. by Peter Bergen.

This morning, Nadia, the landlady’s sister wanted to clean the balcony. Walking with a slight stoop, she has thin, grey hair that rests above round eyes. A large, triangular-shaped tooth protrudes from her upper jaw. A gentle septuagenarian, she has an assertive demeanor and pushes her way past you if your grip on the front door is weak.

I showed her my bug bites and the dirty bed. After we removed the bed cover, there was a big stain. It looked like someone had used the bed as a bathroom long ago. She said we can spray it. So, she brought down a roach spray and an insect repellant.

We moved the bed to the balcony, sprayed it and then she kept insisting on washing the sheets without spraying them.

I gently inquired if I can get a new mattress from the landlady. She responded that indeed, there is a new mattress in the apartment above. Although the two American girls were not at home, she would just let herself inside and have the doorman pick up the mattress. Within a few minutes Mustafa, our doorman showed up with the mattress. Cassie spent a few minutes asking him to return the mattress, especially since no one had sought the girls’ permission to enter their apartment. No matter. This is Egypt, where the landlady can enter your premises whenever she feels like it.
Mustafa deposits the futon mattress onto my living room floor. It looks like a large anaconda that just fed on a large lunch.

Nadia tells me three times that I must wash the sheets. “Do you want me to wash them?”
No thank you. I’ll take care of them.

“Do you want me to return tonight to wash them for you?”

No thank you. I’ll take care of that.

Do not forget! They need to be washed. She repeats herself a few times to Dave, my roommate. And then to Cassie a few more times before she takes off.

Cassie leaves for lunch and an errand. In that brief time, Nadia returns twice more to ask if we want the sheets washed.

A few hours later as I prepare for my evening class, Nadia is at the door again. She asks Dave if I want to go up and talk with Mounira, the landlady. Earlier, I had requested a meeting with her, but Nadia said I should wait until after 6pm when Mounira breaks the fast. Now, since the problem seemed to be taken care of, for the most part, it seemed moot now. I tell her that perhaps, “bokra, insha’ Allah,” which is Arabic for “tomorrow, God Willing,” which can really mean “later,” -- which is really what I meant. She probably heard “tomorrow, God Willing.” So, tomorrow I expect Nadia to visit us a few more times. God bless her soul!

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