Mandy Nolans Soapbox: The Naked Lunch

Mandy Nolans Soapbox: Naked Lunch

The Naked Lunch

‘My arse is on fire.’ That’s the line that keeps going through my head. I think it’s a Bruce Springsteen song. I don’t care. It’s three in the morning and my arse ACTUALLY IS on fire. Well my butt cheeks to be more specific.

I have 23 individual bites. Bed bugs have bit my butt. What a joyous fleshy target. I imagine them on their late-night Grecian feeding frenzy, drunk on the blood of a stupid Aussie traveller. I am in Athens at the airport when I first start to scratch and it occurs to me that perhaps the bites all over our bodies are something more sinister. This is how it ends. With my hideously itchy end. It’s unbecoming for a lady to scratch her arse but I don’t care.

But don’t think it’s their only feeding site. The bed bug, or Cimex lectularius as the blood-sucking parasite is also known, also popped round the front and bit me on the vagina a few times for good measure. Kind of evened out the itch. And when they were done they tiptoed up my spine, savaging me here and there until they feasted on the double vesuvius of my breasts. Bed Bug Bingo.

They did the same thing to my husband with pretty much the same bite pattern – sans vagina of course. And my poor wee child… I counted well over 100 swollen bites on her back and stomach. We’ve been bugged! I’ve just returned from a month overseas – London, Edinburgh, Paris, Munich (shit, was my booking schedule inspired by the 1979 new-wave synth hit Pop Muzic?) Shooby Dooby Doo Wap! And of course our favourite destination, the beautiful island of Rhodes in Greece.

It was here where my family and I were so brutally and unknowingly molested. In our sleep. I can’t stop thinking about them blanketing our bodies. They move like lightning when seen so you generally don’t see them. But if you had a camera with night vision, then you’d capture them – in a blood frenzy. All over your body. It’s disgusting. When I think about it I feel violated.

I was as Burroughs would have described it their ‘naked lunch’.

Bed bugs pretty well live exclusively on human blood. And these little fellas are hungry. We were staying at a friend’s house in Greece and there hasn’t been a blood-filled human there for over a year. That kind of fast would kill most species. But not these resilient flea-like freaks. They go dormant. They lie and wait. I imagine the thrill in the colony when we turned up. ‘Tonight we feast’ they would have screamed! Bed bug leaders yelling, ‘head for the torso. Let’s bite the fat bitch on the arse.’ But they would have said it in Greek: ‘dankósei to lípos skýla sto kólo!’ Kritters on my kolo.

The sneaky little fuckers. Who needs holiday snaps when you have a bed bug infestation? It’s the ultimate memory maker! It’s no-one’s fault. Bed bugs are part of the great circle of life. Almost eradicated in the ’40s, the flea-like insects have made a comeback. On my butt. Apparently thanks to the overuse of pesticides and world travellers like me bringing them home to re-establish domain in bedrooms all over the world, they’re at plague proportions.

In retrospect now I’ve consulted my good friend Mr Google I realise there was a strange sweet odour in the room where we stayed. I assumed it the musty smell houses get when they are locked up, but bed bug infestations give off a smell not dissimilar to coriander. It smells a lot like mouldy clothes or shoes. That’s a tip for anyone planning to travel.

Our poor hosts were mortified that we had become ‘hosts’ for their unseen residents. We were itchy while we stayed, but the bites can take up to 14 days to manifest. Ivy went first. We assumed it was a local critter. Then John showed signs. My arse attack didn’t turn up until the night when I was battling jet lag. I awoke from my first easy slumber with a ferociously itchy bum.

You don’t usually see bed bugs on you, but one had relocated in Ivy’s bag and I spied what looked like a large flea on her neck and the horror descended. It wasn’t just three little Aussies leaving Athens that day. We were bringing friends.

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Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

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