I lay down between the cool sheets and knew it wouldn’t be long until I was drifting off. It had been a long, productive day and I was ready to think of Nothing. I turned the lights out with a smug smile and rolled onto my side to hold Tom’s hand. It was too warm to spoon him but I like to know he’s there (gosh darn, we’re so cute). Soon, my phone would blare passive-aggressive music and I would awaken fresh and ready for coffee.
Nothing came. And then…
I waved a sleepy arm above my head. No. Not again.
I pulled my legs under the sheet, away from danger, and tucked and rolled into a mummified cocoon so that only my head was exposed.
I smacked my neck in outrage. Tom sat up with a groan.
“I can’t do this anymore!” I whined.
“Neither,” he growled, “can I”. He threw back the sheets and stormed from the bedroom. I heard a door creak and a bolt slide across but I knew the bathroom was no refuge. Nowhere was. We had barely slept for two nights. Every man for himself though, clearly. I turned on the lamp to survey the damage.
In the hour and a half’s sleep we’d managed to get, I’d obtained four mosquito bites down my left side. Shoulder, forearm, bum cheek and little toe screamed at me to scratch them.
I looked around accusingly, searching for the little bastard. The bare-stone walls that looked so good on camera offered no clues, hiding my enemy in a thousand possible nooks and crannies.
This was unacceptable. It was the 21st century and I was a modern, well-educated woman. I was not about to let an insect ruin my sleep for the third night in a row.
I reached for my phone.
“Fuck off!” I waved both arms in a tornado of deadly swipes.
Typing “how to deter mosquitos” into Google was the most desperate prayer I had made, other than the regular “do I have a brain tumour” (I’m still not entirely convinced I don’t).
“Google will show me,” I muttered. “Google knows everything.”
The results cometh. I scrolled past Wikipedia (no offense) and found the helpful “18 Proven Home Remedies to Get Rid of Mosquitoes”. God knows we love a good listicle.
“Oh-ho,” I said, with a flailing of arms. “You are dead, my son. So dead.”
I read down the list. Essential oils, no. Candles, no. Dry Ice? Nope. Mosquito trap! Now we were talking.
Reading quickly, I knew I’d have to improvise. It instructed me to mix yeast and sugar and place them in a bottle contraption that was much too complicated for 1.30am.
I hurried into the kitchen. This was an Air BnB and we were on a sodding sugar cleanse. We had no yeast either. But then my eyes alighted on the golden, glowing, miraculous jar of yeast extract.
I grabbed a bowl and spoon and rummaged through the cupboards. (Tom was still in the bathroom, crying I presume). They yielded some jam and a little bit of honey. Wishing it was breakfast time, I spooned marmite, jam and honey into the bowl and stirred it into a sticky mess. It gave off a satisfying pong.
Holding my precious potion before me, I carried it into the bedroom and placed it on the chest of drawers. That ought to lure them away from the bed. But what could I do to disguise how delicious our sweaty bodies smelled?
Back to the listicle. Lavender, tea-tree, mint, garlic… Basically, it recommended anything with a strong odour.
Then, suddenly, I remembered! I had found incense-sticks in a drawer of outdated tourist flyers. I immediately fished them out, holding them aloft with triumph. Patchouli sticks, you weird things, you were going to save us.
Defeat wagged a finger and said, “Nuh-uh, honey, you gonna need matches for those.”
Frantically I started opening every drawer and cupboard, but in my heart I knew there were no matches or lighters. The oven was electric. And neither of us were wanky or hipster enough (yet) to have some authentic flint stones to hand.
“Why don’t you smoke!” I snapped at Tom, as he finally emerged from the bathroom.
In the light, I could see his condition was much worse than mine. Two large discs of fire marked his back and one arm was swollen with bites.
“Oh babe,” I said.
He pouted and flopped down on the sofa. “I’m sleeping here,” he said.
“It’s ok,” I told him. “I think I can protect us for tonight. And tomorrow we’ll buy a mosquito net.”
“What’s that smell?” he asked.
I waved his question away. It was time to get down and dirty.
We had garlic and we had mint tea. Those would have to do. I chopped the garlic and put one bowl by the bed, a second by the sofa. The mint-tea I placed on my bedside table, because I figured it would be a nice victory drink too. For good measure, I put a patchouli incense stick in a jar of steaming water and wafted the vapours around the room.
“I’ve become my mother,” I realised aloud.
Tom was both too tired and too desperate to question the weird shit going on, and he just watched me from the comforting wrap of his Bosnian-silk sarong.
“Be gone, foul fiend!” I said to the shadows.
Tentatively, I got back into bed and switched off the light. The sheets smelled, inescapably, of sweaty human, but I hoped the other scents in the air would confuse the mosquito.
I lay down, my arms exposed in a brave show of defiance. Come try it, you little shit.
Ears alert for any tell-tale noises, I closed my eyes. So far, so good. I pictured the mozzy coughing as it flew into the protective cloud of garlic and patchouli, turning away to wheeze with pain. The alluring smell of the marmite potion would stand out like a mirage in a desert. The mosquito would fly unsuspectingly towards it, wondering what fantastic beast could smell so sweet, only to land in a bowl of sticky, oozing Death. I hoped it hurt. And I hoped it was slow.
Coming out of my sadistic reverie, I realised I had been lying there, un-assaulted, for at least five minutes. Had the wisdom of Google saved me once again?
I was pretty sure it had. Amazing! To celebrate, I rolled into my favorite sleeping position and hugged my pillow victoriously. I had done it. We were saved! I was…
The Mosquito Whisperer.
I smiled to the darkness and let all limbs loose from the sheets. Ahhhh, freedom.
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