by Abbie Copeland
When the bed bugs crawled into the cracks of our floor, baseboard and bed frame, we retreated downstairs to the living room, sleeping separate from one another for the first time in 6 years. He took the love seat that was too short to stretch out on. I took the inflatable bed that squeaked when it shifted on the wood floor. I spent days washing clothes, towels, curtains and bedding on hot, and drying each load for two hours. Before bed, instead of our normal silent relaxation, he played on his laptop shooting rogue militia while I sprawled out on the inflatable bed reading Descartes and filling my Moleskine with incoherent ramblings.
We waited for the bugs to disappear, setting traps and spreading homeopathic dusts. Each night the distance between our beds grew bigger, as well as our resentment in comfort levels. I piled my bed with extra pillows and microfiber throws, burying myself in a tunnel of blankets with only enough space to poke my head out. He slept under a single blanket, reminiscing about camping trips in Ocean City, Maryland, and how he watched horses gallop the beach at dawn.
“This is like camping,” he said. “It’s not so bad, is it?”
I nodded and turned my back, hoping that the bed would grow bigger and accommodate room for two.
A month passed, and I filled up a notebook with scribbles from my inner muse and he was onto conquering made-up countries and defeating a super-galactic army. He saw that the circles under my eyes had become coal-colored crescents begging for comfort. We had hunted with a vacuum cleaner, a spray bottle filled with soap and alcohol, masking tape, mattress covers and thin layers of diatomaceous earth squirted from a plastic ketchup bottle. He agreed to be bait, and let the bugs, if they were still there, take his body like a canapé. He slept on the bed, but I woke him just in time to save him from the tiny army of blood-sucking nuisances scurrying away from the light. That night, I dreamt of body invasions and floods of bugs in the sink, bathtub and toilet. My skin felt used, and sizzled at the thought of being served a la carte.
Instead of caresses and bedtime embraces, we scoured information in the glow of technology, hoping to rid ourselves of the vast distances—living room to bedroom, floor to couch, skin to skin. I wanted to hear his breath and smell the sweat on his pillowcase.
I tiptoed around our bedroom, glaring at the undressed bed. It was taped off like a crime scene. I paced the foot of the bed, slapping imaginary red spots on my arms. I pounded the bed frame with vacuum cleaner attachments. I threw my body on the bed in sacrifice for the little monsters that lived below.
Abbie Copeland‘s work has appeared in Off the Coast, Bacopa Literary Review and River Poets Journal. She is currently working on her first novel.