One of the worst things about being British is that many of us are cursed with the ‘over polite gene’. Oh it’s all very well if you are born state side (come on! You know who you are! J ), but for us Brits, there is nothing worse than trying to remain selflessly silent during long dark nights of social sleeping arrangements - especially when you are dealing with a mischievous, selfish and unyielding mosquito!
I optimistically pull the mozzie nets over the bunk early. I have another guest tonight and that makes it far worse when an attack happens. It’s bad enough that the bed creaks every time I move (of course I will lie uncomfortably for hours before I allow another creak to MAYBE disturb my fellow snoozer) but killing a mozzie at midnight is not a silent affair. When he comes to visit, like he has done every night since my tent leaked and I entered the dorm, I will have no other defences than a one handed clap, a swift swipe and a whispered curse. Frankly, this is just not enough!
I block all obvious exits and tuck myself in. Podcast on, skin covered…and sleep!
One hour later I am woken by the mozzie engines approaching over the sound defences of Radio 4’s World Service. A single rogue and ambitious kamikaze fighter (that may as well be a flying hippo, such is the scale of its intrusion) has infiltrated the netting and is out for blood! The tone is designed to annoy and to demand attention. A bit like a baby’s cry! But why? For what purpose? It needs to feed but why do I need to know about it? It’s going to take what it wants anyway right? How can something so small be so aggressive, so annoying, so inexorably loud. It finds its target. A small section of forehead above the sheet. It strikes at the unprotected juicy skin and my attempt at a silent defence manoeuvre is far too slow. A rookie could have done better. Within seconds I’m itching. Strike one to the mozzie.
I think it’s gone away but it has only changed its tactics to stealth mode, switching off all sirens and landing so quietly, so smoothly on my arm that has come out in my forehead's defence, that I didn’t feel a thing. Not until my arm swells and the numbing fluid wears off seconds later. Surely it has had it's fill? Surely I have suffered enough? Please!
Silence descends on the dark room. Long enough that I dare to hope once more that it is spent. Full from my blood and satisfied with its evenings work. I turn slowly, purposefully onto my side in a way that will not invoke another creak from the bed, ever conscious of the Spanish long haired stranger that happily sleeps in blissful ignorance to the war that is raging in this very room. Just as my mind starts to drift into beautiful oblivion – IT’S THERE! So loud in my ear, so close that I feel he is inside my skull. Why did they not use this in Guantanamo? Water boarding? Pa! That’s for wimps! I cannot stay under the duvet for long. The heat is building; the carbon dioxide is suffocating and my claustrophobia is all consuming. I must get out. I must go over the top. But wait. I have an idea. Moving silently and swiftly in the dark, I pull the pillowcase from the hard, skinny pillow and forge a tent for my head. Here the air is lighter and not so suffocating, with just a small gap for my nostrils. I breath, I feel myself relax. Once more, sleep starts to creep in like a warm tide. I pray for it to take me. Dzzzzt! No warning. Another attack. This time straight into my nostril. No mercy. No mercy! I blow out like a raging bull. I shake my head. I swear just a little too loud. The bed creaks and I whisper ‘Pleease. Just let me sleep’. But there will be no sleep in this bunk tonight where the mosquito net has snared me. Trapped in the dorm of doom.
It is time. Silently, I raise my defeated body from the bed. Head hanging low, I grab my things and head outside to my tent! Back to my private bubble, where no one can hear me scream!