ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
You know you're really an adult when you sign a lease for your first place or buy the first piece of furniture to fill it. That rite of passage did not go so well for writer Scott Brody, at least at first. His story begins on move-in day.
SCOTT BRODY: My first furniture purchase as an adult was a poofy, beige, two-seated cloud you would probably call a love seat. I was determined to keep it forever, but my new art-deco-era studio objected. Its narrow doorway stymied my girlfriend Julie (ph) and me for over an hour, and the ultimate damage to the upholstery was significant. But eventually my cloud was in. Collapsing on the love seat, it seemed like the start of something special.
Julie and I had been friends for a long time and had finally decided to give dating a shot. So far, things seemed to be going well. Now living on my own without roommates, it felt like I was taking my adult life seriously for the first time. I was filled with hope until Julie held up her jacket and asked, what is this? A small, round, flattish insect was making its way up the sleeve. Is this a bed bug - definitely not. That's a very small beetle. The internet said otherwise.
Seeking advice, I called my brother, who promptly uninvited me to Hanukkah dinner for fear I was a carrier. Julie suggested I move out immediately. But this wasn't just an apartment. This was my independence.
Here are some fun facts about bed bugs. Fact one - while they prefer beds, they are perfectly content to hide out anywhere dark and cozy. Excessive cleaning, vacuuming and laundering are both required and useless. Fact two - you can't feel the touch of a bed bug, yet when you lie down to sleep, you'll be sure they're crawling all over your skin, mocking you. Fact three - bed bugs will never stop until they ruin your life. One woman was forced to flee with nothing but the clothes on her back. This will begin to seem like a smart choice.
After the exterminator came and unleashed his bug bombs, the apartment reeked of a sickly chemical smell - the smell of victory. We celebrated by staying in, and Julie passed out on the love seat, as she did whenever I tried to make her watch "Harry Potter." For the first time, it felt like home, and then my heart sank. There on the arm rest were two little bed bugs. My love seat had betrayed me. Julie woke up disgusted, furious. This isn't working, she said, and gathered her belongings and left.
What wasn't working? The apartment, maybe - the insecticide, that was for sure - the relationship? Not wanting to think too hard about whether I'd just been dumped, I turned to Google where I discovered fact four. Bug bombs, rather than kill bed bugs, more typically cause them to scatter and spread deep into the walls of an older building like mine. Of course - they were in the walls. Hours later, Julie opened the front door to find me covering the electrical outlets with duct tape, along with the walls, floor, ceiling and windows - my newly-constructed apartment-wide duct tape cocoon. What the hell have you done?
I explained to Julie about the insecticide and how the bed bugs were in the walls and I just had to keep them out and this was my life now. Since I didn't have a job and I was shunned by my family, I'd mostly be a hermit of course. I knew she didn't want to date me anymore, but maybe every now and then we could meet out in public and I'd buy new clothes and change in the public restroom and - Julie cut me off. I'm not breaking up with you.
She told me she'd just come from lunch with her friend who was a lawyer. She hadn't abandoned me. She'd been planning my escape. That night, we parked in front of my brother's apartment, ripped open Target bags and donned fresh-from-the-factory $20 jeans and T-shirts with pictures of The Beatles on them. Our clothes may not have been fancy, but they didn't have bed bugs, and therefore met the dress code for Hanukkah dinner.
With Julie's help, I told my landlord I was moving out. Independence be damned. I had something better. He could keep my love seat. He could not, however, keep my security deposit. With a sudden injection of multiple thousands of dollars, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I went to a store that sold small, sparkly objects and traded in the bed bug money for an engagement ring.
SHAPIRO: Writer Scott Brody and his wife Julie live in Brooklyn.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE GIRLS SONG, "CURLS")
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