Of course, I could never get back to sleep after waking to the horror that I did and fleeing to a bedbug infested motel room. I lay on the bed and invited the little buggers to come and feast on my body. I had enough to spare. Unfortunately, they turned up their little noses at me. I must have been old and tough, and bitter; they may have preferred the tender flesh of my daughter and had been satiated on her.
When the hospital administrators finally woke up to the fact that there was a bedbug epidemic and that it was spreading to our hospital, they couldn’t send us to enough trainings. We learned what they look like, where they hid, what meat they preferred, and how they reproduced. That last bit of information, how they reproduced, gave most of us nightmares.
“They reproduce by traumatic insemination,” said the presenter, a lantern-jawed exterminator with a creepy smile, giving us all, males and females alike, the willies.
“The females have a perfectly good reproductive tract, but the males can’t be bothered to engage in elaborate courtship rituals, so they don’t even use it.”
He winked at the men, as if he was about to them ideas of how they might save the cost of dinner on the first date.
“The males don’t need to get cooperation from the females. They have penises like daggers; so they stab the first female that comes along and mate with her. They ejaculate their semen into her bloodstream and it gets to the eggs.
“This works out great for the males, but the females have to recover from a gaping stab wound that sometimes gets infected.”
I wasn’t sure about why he was telling us this and whether we really needed to know. It seemed like he just enjoyed making us squirm. Perhaps he was trying to exterminate any sympathy we might have for the insects. It’s not right to be judgmental about the mating practices of other species, but we all were. We had no problem, after hearing about traumatic insemination, with going forth to eradicate bedbugs off the face of the earth.
A lisping male nurse raised his hand and asked,”Do the males ever have sex this way with other males?”
The presenter, who was all man, uncomfortably crossed his legs and answered, “OK, let’s not get funny, here. Other species don’t have homosexual sex. It’s not natural.”
(He was wrong; by the way, homosexual traumatic insemination is well documented in bedbugs, as well as other insect species.)
I feared the exterminator/presenter would reach for his spray can and use it on the male nurse, as well as all others who showed signs of swishiness. I don’t think any of us felt safe in the room with him. He clearly enjoyed his job too much and had the blood of millions on his hands.
There were many other questions about traumatic insemination, many of which were not questions at all, but rather, expressions of outrage at the evil in the world. Our exterminator had built up a resistance to moral sentiment and he set his lantern jaw against any soft-hearted kindness we might have towards the females. Each one, he kept reminding us, can reproduce into the thousands and make our lives miserable. It was either us or them.
In all, I left that hospital mandated training with a darker view of the world than I had when I entered it. I didn’t see any bedbugs in the hallway, but I eyed every human I passed for signs of the evil that bedbugs possessed. No one was really as he or she seemed. They all hid daggers or traps in their pants and couldn’t be trusted.
Moreover, if Someone was responsible for intelligently designing this world, as many, including my daughter insist, then that Designer is either incompetent or immune to compassion. I could see that His design was for each of us to thrive off the destruction of others and for whole species to propagate by violent rape.
I returned to my emergency room and had to pass by the entrance to get to my office. I might have kept on going out the door, saying what was the use, but I saw a group come in and address the triage nurse at her desk. Two men had come in with a woman hanging from their shoulders. They said she had been assaulted in the hospital parking lot. This attack seemed to confirm my dark view until a third man, who had been in the waiting room with a sprained wrist, pulled up a chair for her. Then a woman who had abdominal pains spread a blanket. Another brought her water. Then it became clear that the two men, who had carried her in, did not know her. She was just someone needing help in the parking lot. Then someone else called the cops and a group of young men went out to find the malefactor and bring him to justice.
The nurse busied herself with paperwork to insure that the hospital got paid and couldn’t get sued, but an entire waiting room full of strangers, each with their own private concerns, mobilized itself to care for the anonymous woman.
I hoped that some bedbugs were watching and could see how we humans do it; how we survive.