As far as seasons go, I’ve always been an autumn person. Give me Edgar Allan Poe’s nights in the lonesome October, when the leaves are crispèd and sere, pumpkins nestle plumply against dark brown fields, and the evenings begin to draw in.
But summer has its delights, many of them those small sounds which, taken together, form a sort of soundtrack to the long hot days. The soft chirr of crickets; the crisp phut-phut-phuttttttt of sprinklers; the low hum of air conditioning units; the siren-like song of the ice cream truck; the steady buzz of lawnmowers; the sound of children playing and laughing; the high-pitched, whiny buzz of mosquitoes . . . hey, how did that get in here?
If the mere mention of the sound of whining mosquitoes set your teeth on edge and made you glance nervously down at your arms, welcome to my world. Now, there are people who genuinely are not bothered by mosquitoes. These are the people who could be put inside one of those tents full of mosquitoes that you see in commercials for bug repellent, and who would sit there blissfully unconcerned as the bloodsucking terrors turned them into a free all you can eat buffet.
I know such people exist, just as I know there are people who can run a mile in less than four minutes, climb Everest without oxygen, and watch leadership debates without throwing something heavy at the TV set. To these amazing human beings, I extend my heartiest admiration and respect, while at the same time acknowledging that I will never be one of you.
Oh, I can ignore mosquitoes for a time; but that time ends as soon as I hear one. The instant that annoying screeeeee hits my eardrums, my head jerks round as if I’ve just had an uppercut to the jaw, my eyes start scanning every bit of exposed arm and leg, and my hand is poised, ready to strike. Even if it’s a false alarm, my peace is shattered as my senses go into high alert, converting every stray waft of breeze across my skin into a mozzie looking for dinner, and making every innocuous stray piece of dirt or leaf look like a mosquito just biding its time.
Even worse is when this happens indoors. Outside there’s at least a chance that the mosquito will eventually fly away, but inside I just know that it’s lying in wait for me. When we moved back to Canada from England several years ago, my British-born husband asked innocently why all the windows in our new house had screens on them, such a thing being unknown in Britain. “Just wait until summer,” I told him through gritted teeth, and as soon as the first mosquitoes hit he understood why the screens were there.
Despite the barrier, though, mosquitoes still manage to get in on occasion, not making their presence known until it’s time to go to bed. There I am, lying in bed, the room (at last) pleasantly dark, in that lovely dozy state halfway between wakefulness and sleeping, when I hear it: the sound of a mosquito homing in.
Instantly I am wide awake, sitting bolt upright in bed, my arms flailing around my head like a drowning person coming up for the third time. I snap the light on and, when I stop blinking, begin scrutinizing the walls and ceiling for any sign of the little blighter. Of course, the bedroom ceiling is stippled, so that every bump casts a shadow that looks just like a mosquito. I’ll make a few half-hearted waves, trying to dislodge the creature from wherever it’s lurking. If I find it, all is well and good. If I don’t, then I turn out the light, only to find that sleep remains elusive. I’m now on high alert, just waiting for the familiar sound to return, whereupon I’ll go through the whole process once more. No wonder I don’t get much . . .
I’m sorry, but you’ll have to excuse me for a bit. That mosquito from the second paragraph is back, and I can’t concentrate until I find it. There’s a stippled ceiling in here, so I might be gone for some time.