There were four of us guys, all in our 20's. We were split
between two vehicles when we pulled into Mulegé just after dark
in the heat and sweat of a long sticky summer evening, the kind
where you just sit and drip. Sheet lightning flashed across the
gulf as we dropped off the dirt highway.
We drove out the length of the estuary on the north shore. The
mango trees and rich, dense tropical growth bouncing off our
highbeam headlights was easy-lookin' after the many dusty days
of desert. The hotel on the north point was closed. Our
thinking was to get as close to the water as possible; it might
be a little cooler. But no place to stay, so we went back into
town and found a little clapboard hotel a hundred yards south of
the plaza and the Viejo Hacienda. The place has four rooms if I
recall, and we took two of them, two twin beds each, for
something less than $10 a room. Wide windows opened, not even
closable, no screens, just a hole through plywood around which
someone had placed lovely and soiled torn worn bedsheets, as
curtains, through which we hoped a lot of cool air would pass as
the night worked on.
We were whupped from the long day's drive along the dirt and
decided on an early dinner and a good night's sleep after all
the toughness of the desert from the days before. We wandered
around the town a bit, of course hoping we'd spot four lovelies
looking for a foreign affair with dusty warriors. No such luck
at the time so we wandered into a simple place on the road
coming into town and sat, outdoors, eating Mexican food and
coolish cervesa. It was so damned hot we didn't even want to
drink serious alcohol, so you know it had to be miserable. We
finished dinner and wandered back to the center and sat outside
our rooms in rusty spring-metal chairs and waited, hoping for
hungry women or a cooling trend with almost equal vigor. But at
least there was ample ventilation in our rooms, we reflected,
looking for something positive.
Before long we gave up on the tooth fairy and just said good
night and left our doors open, one more port-of-entry, undressed
with lights off and lay with threadbare sheets covering us only
as an essence of modesty. Sweat covered our bodies but not in a
cooling way. We prayed for a breeze that never showed. No
problema, we were desert warriors. We could deal with this.
Finally, we slept.
Somewhere in the middle of the night, half-punch-drunk from lack
of sleep in the desert and the softness of the bed and the
intense heat, I snapped awake. Perspiration poured off my body.
The dank and nasty mattress beneath me was wet with sweat. I
turned over and tried to go back to sleep.
Eventually we all slept, a masculine slumber, deep rumbling
REM-stuff, where all is dark and challenging and full of
unknowns to answer and other heavy moments, mysterious, known
only to men but not, there, understood. Here in this space,
subdued concepts rise to the surface and a dream-sorting somehow
puts everything you've experienced and imagined, awake and
asleep, for that period, into foggy perspective, The intangible
genetic links that are harbored deep in your soul rise up and
attempt to connect to what your consciousness perceives as
Here, we're all sucking up some heavy Z's, with the windows wide
and warm fuzzies on the brain and it seems the fuzzies are now
coming in the form of high-frequency buzzing around my eyes and
ears. ZZZZZzzzzzzzuuiiipppp! VVVVVvvvvviiiiimmmmm! Too, too
hot to cover up. Stir and come half-awake. Regain
Slowly I realize the room is full of mosquitoes, the guiltless
pest that wants my blood and leaves me itching for days.
Scorpions, snakes, no prob. But mosquitoes? Bad stuff.
The dark part of night slowed and stopped. No clock ticked to
measure time, but high-pitched tiny-winged songs filled the
night every few seconds anew, reset the endless, timeless ticks
of the second hand.
In an instant we were aware, we knew a silent needle was poised
and driven home and injecting poison and we were all awake. We
spent the early morning hours slashing through the black air,
slapping our eyes, cheeks, our ears until they rang in
repercussion. We buried our heads in limp, moist pillows and
tried to burrow under the sheets and the mosquitoes found myriad
routs to access toughened flesh. There was no escape. During
the darkness, pillows smashed against walls, sheets flailed
against the air and the invisible marauders. Leaning
maddeningly toward morning and daylight I was anxious to at
least be able to count the kills, still-wet bloodspots against
the walls. Just-twitching, wounded and bent slight frames on
the bed and floor.
When the west-facing sun rose, at last, above the Sea of Cortez,
enough to raise us from the battlefield, we were up and
inspecting the war zone. Blood was scattered, in dollops, on
ceiling and walls, the floor, all were covered, littered with
mosquitoes. The thin sheets were spotted with red. I wanted to
sweep them into a pile just to appreciate the pain and death we
And that was a night in Mulegé a while back. Mosquitoes were
the word, at least that night. We scratched and itched our way
into clothing and, early in the mist of a new dawn, packed and
moved to another new experience. El Coyote, just into Bahia
Conception. There, I took what could have been a prize-winning
photo. But it was just a little off-center, a little fuzzy, as
if I had moved the camera just at the wrong moment. I captured
my three friends, standing each on one leg and one arm waving in
the air. I almost told them to stop waving and just get natural
before I realized that they already were. They were smacking
mosquitoes. And just before my shutter snapped open, closed for
an exposure at a moment in time, one of those little suckers
nailed my cheek.
Those were the years before we had knowledge of El Niño
and La Niña; before we knew of predictable damp and dry
seasons. Those were the years where we were young and restless
and willing to tolerate the unknown. Sometimes we encountered
young ladies and sometimes we met our match with mosquitoes.
Certainly we had preferences, but who can always choose? And
besides, women or mosquitoes: they were both equally
unpredictable. And they both gave you the itch.