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Day 157: Bedbugs Thrive, We Die

The Feds have leaked an enterprising plan to fire doctors, nurses, and technicians who don’t toe the line. That’ll reduce America’s health while breaking independent spirit. RAISE be praised.

I rendezvoused with Ric in Tompkins Square Park. He wouldn’t let me visit his apartment because he’s captured two specimens in a bottle and wanted to spare me any exposure. I had inspected an excellent bedbug site so I’d know what they look like.

SPREADING LIKE INFLUENZA: CIMEX LECTULARIUSHe’s got ‘em—rust-colored insects the size of watermelon seeds. Bedbugs aren’t known to spread human disease, but they can live in cracks and folds all over your home for as long as a year without blood. It’s very difficult to outlast them.

Pigeons, sparrows, and starlings can carry bedbugs, which can also travel on bags, shoes, clothes, buses, taxis, and subways. I haven’t sat on a wooden subway bench for years because the parasites love cracks in wood. I’m guessing Ric dragged some charming piece of infected furniture home after someone left it on the street. (We do that a lot here.) Or hooked up with someone who had one in his clothes or bag. Some people don’t react to bedbug bites and can carry the insects the way asymptomatic carriers spread flu.

He can’t get anyone to kill the pests. In the best of times, extermination takes patience and money, if you can find someone to pay enough visits. Often they bring dogs trained to detect the insects. Ric has no cash. Now he’s afraid to visit his restaurant lest he infest it. As someone who nearly lost his mind a few days ago—and whose loving roommate apparently went mad several months ago—I worry for his sanity.

Even so, I sat away from him on the rainy bench. Of course he noticed. That’s why we were out there.

Ric had the look of a bank robber on the run. He was gaunt, alert, poised to dash. His dark eyes were restless, taking in a world that no longer felt like home. When I squeezed his shoulder from afar, he kept his gaze on the squirrels. “Better not touch me.” His voice was strangled. He sobbed quietly as I kept my hand there.

I wouldn’t know about the LES DIY if it weren’t for Ric. They wouldn’t be nearly as effective without him. A lot of New Yorkers owe this man. I don’t know how to help him.

Everything’s going wrong. Sneeky is licking himself compulsively. His belly is a red splotch and I can’t help but wonder if he’s got bugs.

We hear rumors that H5N1 has turned more virulent, is killing more New Yorkers. All they tell us is to stay home and wash our hands. It makes me nauseous—but that’s just another flu symptom.

I put together a business card and visited the 9th Precinct to get a Health Security Certificate so I can go out at night in my capacity as a provider of public health equipment on an emergency basis. Evidently my papers must be sent to Washington for approval by the Department of Homeland Security, something no news reports had indicated. But the desk sergeant appreciated my needs—and samples—and gave me a temporary permit that should keep me out of trouble for a while.

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