Twelve Things Only the Mosquitoes Know by Kathryn McMahon

photo of woman sleeping under mosquito net

“sleeping under mosquito net” (image via Flickr user Chris Clogg)

  1. They know when we are rubbery with sweat. They know how often. They know if it’s us, or just me thinking of you, my breath a flag in the air.
  1. They know what you whisper in my ear. Sometimes they interrupt. Rude, but we are louder, itching with so many urges. When I’m bitten, by them, not by you, you say, don’t touch it; that makes it worse. For some reason, I listen.
  1. They know when we move into a new house, neutral territory, which they invade. You clap them dead, I slap red on my arm. First, we paint the walls eggshell, even the trim, to bring peace. Then, spontaneous with blood thirst, we paint the walls with smears of no-good, dusty bodies.
  1. They know when the egg takes and my insides don’t peel away, but swell. When my hormones jig around, and though you can’t tell and I can’t tell, I am fragrant. I am sucked from the outside-in by one; from the inside-out by thousands. I glow with my need to feed.
  1. They know when I light the citronella candles, and dive-bomb my hands. You say it’s not safe, but what about West Nile and Zika, what about the million other invisible dangers flitting just out of reach?
  1. They know when I wake with the sun and cry, when I fall asleep with the sun and cry. When the windows are open, they know if we are yelling and who is yelling the most, and why. They know when you drink, your sweet breath cursing them, cursing me. You whine like you’ve been around them too long, but you say it’s me you’ve had too much of.
  1. When you slam the door, they know the moment the screen tears into trespass. I’m free, someone shouts. Maybe one of us. Maybe all of them.
  1. They know when the yard goes to shit, making bougainvillea palaces, and I don’t feel like picking up where you left off. That would mean you aren’t coming back. Do I want this to be true or not? I blame my ripening ankles for not being able to do anything, though I long to rip something apart.
  1. They know when I cradle the bowl of my belly and exsanguinate the house of stagnant water and aftershave. What was I thinking.
  1. They know when I buy netting that I wrap myself in. I sit on the bed and drag nails across the mesh, insecure within the membrane of my turret even as tiny fingers rake upwards under my skin.
  1. They know when I fill the bathtub and, because I can’t take off my shirt by myself, go to my mother’s. Fuck it, I say, I’m staying the weekend. Monday becomes Tuesday, becomes another week, and when I get home, rafts of mosquito eggs circumnavigate the tub. Tossing out bathwater and babies, I think, at least someone wants to raise children in this house.
  1. They know when, again, I say, fuck it, and don’t shower for a week. I am sloe gin, they are tonic. I scratch for days, legs wet with blood, finally able to tear something soft and forgiving.

Kathryn McMahon is an American writer living abroad with her wife and dog. Her flash prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Tiny Donkey, The Baltimore Review, (b)OINK, Split Lip, Jellyfish Review, Psychopomp, and The Citron Review, among others. More of her writing can be found at darkandsparklystories.com. She tweets as @katoscope.