It began with a single moth, fluttering around my kitchen.
I killed it instantly, intoxicated by power.
I marveled at my ability to snuff out the life of such a small creature without a single feeling of remorse. But then, the next night, there was another moth; this time in my bedroom. Then another appeared in my bathroom, and another in the living room. I killed them all. Pretty soon, my murderous routine became monotonous, and I longed for the same sweet release of death that I so eagerly provided the moths.
I looked around my apartment for the source of all these moths. Why did they plague me so?
I had just paid for the annual cleaning of my apartment – surely they couldn’t survive in such a pristine environment? And yet here they were. And I knew that if I didn’t do something soon, I would become the Elizabeth Báthory of moth-killing.
So I did the one thing I swore to myself I would never do: I opened my closet.
Stillness. But I was not deceived. I pushed aside an old cardigan from Forever 21. Wings fluttered. My heart sank. The killing began anew.
I spent the rest of the night clearing out my closet, taking out cardigans and jackets, towels and sheets, and killing every single moth I stumbled upon. I vacuumed the closet, wiped down the shelves, and went through my clothes to see what I had to toss and what I could salvage.
Luckily there wasn’t any major moth damage, although I did find a nest on the sleeve of a corduroy dinner jacket I’d bought in high school. (Man, I have a lot from Forever 21).
I decided I’d rather toss most of the clothes than wash them, since they were mostly old sweaters that didn’t fit anymore, and quite frankly I couldn’t be bothered. I took four loads of laundry to the laundromat on the corner and prayed that the worst was over. I’m still itching just thinking about the nest.
The next day, I put everything back in my closet, which was now perfectly clean and organized. I went around the apartment, wiping down underneath my furniture to ensure they didn’t try and recolonize.
No more moths. The coast was clear.
The next night, as I made dinner, a solitary moth-soldier took flight. But how? I’d eradicated them, or so I thought. I went back to the closet, going through my jackets. No moths there. Where did this one straggler spawn from? I went back to my kitchen, looking through my cabinets. Were they pantry moths? Was I dealing with an entirely different specimen? I didn’t have any unsealed food and I certainly didn’t have any grains. Did I even have a pantry? What were these creatures?
I looked through the kitchen cabinet where I keep bowls and plates, and was surprised to find what appeared to be coffee grounds on the third shelf. How did they get there? They didn’t. Upon closer inspection, it dawned on me they were tiny little bits of round wood. Now I also had termites.
Apparently when drywood termites are ready to reproduce, they send out swarmer termites to fly around and find a new America for them to eat. The kitchen “moths” I’d been killing were in fact winged termites, completely unrelated to my closet-moth infestation. I took everything out of my cabinet and wiped it down completely with orange oil, hoping to kill the termites.
There were a few tiny holes in my shelves, but to be honest they were almost unnoticeable. My biggest fear was just that I’d have to share my apartment with a colony of termites, when for years I had told people I lived alone.
In a week or two, I’ll check and see if there are any more wooden termite droppings, but in the meantime local nuns are taking shifts to ensure that someone is always praying for me and my insect-colony apartment. I just hope I’ll be able to give up this life of violence and make amends for the souls of the dozens of insects whose lives have been lost so casually by my hand.
But more importantly, I’ve learned a valuable lesson from all of this: Being an adult involves taking care of yourself and your possessions, and a home requires care just like anything else does. When you live alone, you can’t take for granted the things you had when you lived with your parents. Nothing will get dusted unless you dust it. Pests will get in if you don’t keep things clean and vigilantly inspect your home. No one is going to come and clean your apartment (unless you pay them to).
In the meantime, I have decided my annual cleaning will now be a bi-annual event.
Take that, pests!