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Stories by Mike Humfreville

Mosquito Mulegé    ( Posted November 20, 2002 )

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 reality.

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 semi-conciousness.

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 had inflicted.

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.

Copyright 2002-2006 Mike Humfreville

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