I've come to the blistering fact that I could never be alone. No matter how hard I tried, people - or the evidence of them - followed me everywhere.
In an empty room, I could smell body odor and perfume; spot the depression in the cushion where the most recent visitor had sat. In an empty street, I navigated around the fresh exportation of passersby. On and around doorknobs, I could see oily fingerprints, smudged by movement. I imagined all of the microscopic flakes of skin—casually sloughed off by everyday friction or scraped off by nervous fingernails—covering every inch of the landscape, every upholstered surface.
I knew that I was surrounded by pieces of other humans, so it seemed that there was very little space between me and them. The potential for contamination repulsed me.
I thought I’d succeeded in Saran-wrapping my life. In the three years since I’d moved into this one-bedroom flat, no one had entered it but me. And for good reason: it had taken long enough, and a great deal of rented equipment, to make it worthy of my things.
The ringing phone that morning was an ear-piercing alarm. A phone call was never good news, and as soon as I heard it, I knew I was about to get the air knocked out of me.
The landlord had gotten right to the point: “We got bedbugs in the building. That hippie college boy that just moved in musta brought ’em home from Thailand or the frickin’ ashah-ram or some shit,” he said. “I don’t know what the hell he’s on about half the time. Or why he thinks I give a goddamn rat's ass!” Hank always spoke to me this way, even though the garrulous chatter was in no way reciprocated.
Now, to prevent an invasion from the tiniest of Trojan horses - these insidious vermin with their bellies engorged of the blood of others - my sanctuary would be violated. I imagined all the pairs of work boots that would track in the fragments of others. Soon my empty apartment would be overcrowded, and I already felt the suffocation setting in.