The bug nestled inside of my ear like a dog twirling in circles to find its ideal comfort position.
Bzzz, bzzz, bzzz, it said like a cooing baby, completely lacking all respect. F*cker, I’m trying to sleep.
I woke up at 4 in the morning and knew the bug found its new apartment before I had time to think. Sorry, but this landlord does not accept free riders.
I did exactly what you’re not supposed to do and stuck my finger inside of my ear. Oh my god, get out, get out, get out. My heart pounded against my chest as I stared at the top bunk above me in pitch-black darkness, feeling helpless.
Do I go to the hospital? Where even is the hospital in Laos? For the past 19 months, I’ve tried my best to avoid going to the hospital when possible in Asia, usually self-diagnosing myself, or FaceTiming my parents for their diagnosis from abroad, using zoomed in photos and videos of my sudden ailments.
I quickly typed into Google, “how to remove bug in ear,” and found a Wikihow page with 14 steps. Great!
First step: Try to wiggle the bug out of your ear. If that doesn’t work, use a light to draw the bug out.
I could hear the creep crawling around in my ear, burrowing into its bed, getting ready for a good nights sleep. Not today.
I decided to combine the two and used the light from my phone. I held it against my ear, jiggling it back and forth as if I were holding a salt shaker.
Nothing came out. (Yes, I was trying to type so fast that I typed “Bus” instead of “Bug.”)
The guy in the bunk next to me woke up, looked at me, probably thought I had some weird fetish, and sauntered off to the bathroom, drunk with sleep… or probably booze.
Second step: If that doesn’t work, use olive or baby oil to kill the bug, then shake it out.
Yeah, great, where the f*ck am I supposed to get that at 4 in the morning in Laos?!
Luckily, I have lavender oil in my bag from when I had lice last year in Cambodia. Ah, what luck I have.
I run to the bathroom, FaceTime my parents, and drown my ear with the sweet scent of lavender. My ear clogs up and the scraping suddenly stops, but so does every other sound.
“Hold your ear tilted for a few minutes, and then shake it out,” my dad said.
“It should come out,” my mom said. I prayed they were right.
“Remember, all animals are our friends, so when it comes out, make sure you bring it outside to save it,” my dad said sarcastically.
After several minutes, I tilted my head, the thick liquid dribbling out of my ear like spilt rotten milk.
I saw nothing.
“It’s still in there,” I said, thinking of all the things my new neighbor could do to my ear.
“If the scraping stopped, it should be dead,” my mom said. The scraping had stopped. The little sh*t was dead.
But its carcass was still in there.
I drowned my ear with water 11 times; pour, tilt, shake, pour, tilt, shake, like I had come up with some new dance move. I started digging tweezers inside of my ear, knowing that was the last thing you were supposed to do, but at this point, I didn’t care.
“Still nothing,” I said. Forty minutes had passed since the bug made its new home, and by the looks of things, it was not willing to leave anytime soon. He had probably already engraved a plaque and hung it up: “Over My Dead Body.”
“Go to sleep, lie on your side, and it will come out in the morning.”
I gave up, took over an hour to fall back asleep to make sure a family of maggots didn’t suddenly appear in my ear, and waited until the morning to deal with the situation.
The swimming pool in my ear the next morning swished back and forth, back and forth like a metronome.
I didn’t want to wait around for the bug to spill out of my ear, so I gave it a shot and walked 4 kilometers in the boiling 35-degree heat to experience a hospital in Laos.
As I walked in, everyone stared at my soaked crop top and denim shorts, sweat dripping down my armpits like a faucet.
“English, do you speak English?” I said.
After walking in circles around the hospital and nine people later, I followed a woman to the E.N.T. section.
“Bug in my ear,” I said to one of the staff members.
“Ah, yes, we clean!” He said enthusiastically.
I sat on a black chair with fuzz coming out of the holes, and waited for my death sentence.
A woman came over, looked in my ear, said something to the original staff member, and grabbed a syringe and a water bottle.
“What…” I said, hoping I wouldn’t suddenly be one of those “foreigner in hospital gone wrong” stories.
“Your ear is infected, we must clean it.” He said.
Four other women came over, grabbed my head, tilted it to the side, and squirted water into my ear with the syringe. I heard nothing but an overwhelming wooshing sound. When it ended, I looked down to see an enormous pile of earwax on a metal plate.
“Infected, your ear infected. We give you antibiotics. Also, you give $10,” the staff member said in broken English.
“Thank you,” I said, handing over 100,000 kip.
On my way out, the friendly staff member drove me back to my hostel on the motorbike.
I could finally hear, and glad the antics were over.
But they weren’t.
An hour later, as I’m relaxing in my bed, typing this story, I feel painful tingles over my entire body. When I turn around, I see an entire line of ants crawling from the window and all over my bed in an assembly line.
Their one job: to get Monica.