Net Loss

This is my bed:

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Nice, right? Note the netting – a new addition! I put up the mosquito netting because I kept waking up between 3 and 4am with painful hands. The mosquitoes would bite me on the knuckles while I slept – always on the knuckles. I don’t know a lot about mosquitoes except that I don’t like them. I don’t know if they give off chemicals that tell other mosquitoes where to go. They seem to enjoy my joints (getting high off human blood…).

One night I woke up, my hands tingling with bites. I turned on my lights, and there above my bed were four fat mosquitoes. Still half-asleep and full of anger, I smashed them all and left blood stains on my wall. I sat there staring at my clock. I’m ok on a little sleep, but I am worthless on interrupted sleep. And this was happening almost every night. I was going a little crazy. I would wake up to phantom mosquito sounds at 3am, turn on my light, and sit in perfect silence for fifteen minutes or so, ears straining for humming. When I finally caught one, I was so relieved that I wasn’t going insane. When I didn’t, I worried that I had finally cracked.

Recognizing that such paranoia (and repeated sleep deprivation) was not healthy, I put up the netting. The first night I got bit twice. I chalked it up to accidentally trapping the mosquitoes in with me. Then another night, another set of bites. I woke up in the morning to see two fat mosquitoes on the inside of my netting. My paranoia settled back in. I wasn’t safe inside my shield? But I had put up a wall around me – how did they breach my defenses?

I realized the problem through sitting up in the middle of the night, listening to humming. For whatever reason (again, I don’t study mosquitoes), the little bloodsuckers here stick to the floor level. They don’t come swooping down – they sort of drift up. And the netting was behind my headboard, so the mosquitoes were under my bed, and coming up in the rather large gap under my bed between the netting/headboard and the mattress. That’s why they were always perched on my headboard. That’s why they always bit my hands – I sleep with my hands above my head, putting them closest to the gap.

So I put the netting next to the mattress. A little more intrusive, but worth it to keep from getting bit. Problem solved *dusts itchy hands off*.
Then I got bit some more.

Last night I woke up, having just sleep-smacked myself in the ear/pillow as a mosquito taunted me. I turned on the light. Just above me was a mosquito with a swollen abdomen. My hand itched. My sleep victim was a blood spot on my pillow – lovely. Looking around, I saw another post-gorging insect by the net’s overlap. And I started to blubber. I was the picture of piteous, broken defeat. I don’t think I’ve blubbered like a little girl since…I was a little girl.

The great injustices of the universe tumbled down upon me at 3:47am. All I wanted was to make it through a night without getting bit. I’m so scared of getting that lone case of malaria, even though it’s not a threat in this province. I’m tired of my hands hurting. And how – HOW ARE THEY GETTING IN?! Not fully awake, I rise to my feet on the mattress and start inspecting. There are no holes. There are no gaps. How is it that three – THREE – mosquitoes get in? Do they help each other out? Is my bed some horrible reverse of The Great Escape?

The only other problem I can see is that the netting lets me out – It’s not a perfect bubble. It’s got an opening where the edges overlap, and there is a gap sometimes between the two edges. I’ve noticed it, but when I look at it and think “A bug would have to be really smart to figure out how to get in this way.” Mosquitoes aren’t smart. They’re just voracious. I’m still more upset by the number. Ok, one lone mosquito figures out how to get in and bites me. Asshole mosquito. But three? They must be in cahoots. There must be chemical clues, like ants marking the way to cake.

I could tuck in the edge at night. I could buy a little velcro and ensure that the edges don’t open up. It’s a small inconvenience to me, but it might be best in the long run/ immediate need for a full night’s sleep.
The other solution is to never open my windows. As far as solutions go it’s absolute. Just stick to the air conditioner and accept that my room will start to smell stale after a while. But on cool days I like opening my window and letting the breezes make the curtains waft around. It’s pretty, damnit.

  • Wafting curtains and environmental awareness, accepting that IKEA makes the single worst mosquito netting in the history of all netting?
  • Or air conditioning and a stale room, where I get to sleep without fear of humming in my ear and bites on my hands?

Philosophical Aside:
I do alright with most bugs in my room, reaction wise. If I don’t feel threatened by them I throw them out my window and let them live (millipedes for example). I hate mosquitoes, but the only time I really had a girly freak out was when a giant cockroach got stuck in my drying sheets. That was awful because it was scared too, and it was so fast and I almost couldn’t squish it because it darted around so much. And it was big.

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(I took this picture postmortem, obviously)
I think that is, perhaps, what our fear of bugs and snakes is all about – the speed. We don’t like things that are fast. Perhaps that’s an evolutionary trigger. Snakes are quick. Spiders are quick. Roaches are quick. Birds are quick (I know several people who are afraid of birds). Maybe when people admit they don’t like “creepy crawlies,” they’re actually talking about the fact that bugs are fast movers, and that’s unnerving to our animal brains.
Maybe that’s why I’ve never met anyone who is afraid of turtles.

OBE

OBE is an acronym – a military acronym which means “Overcome by Events.” It is used to describe a situation in which nothing has gone correctly, and there is no salvaging a plan.

Today I was OBE. Interestingly enough, I also found the point at which I walk out of a situation. I’ve never walked away from something – it took ten hours and an IKEA.

Note: The original draft of this post was a lot longer. I’m editing it down to highlight why today was rough.
The plan was as follows: Get up early, get to IKEA and set up delivery of goods, get perfume at Sephora, go buy bracelet at Tibetan district, maybe hit up JinLi or one of the monasteries and relax. If it’s too late, I’ll take a taxi back. At one point during my horrible day today – when Vega realized he left his umbrella at IKEA and had me watch his backpack for twenty-odd minutes in a mall – I can only think that this was supposed to be a fun, quick trip. IKEA was supposed to be, at most, maybe half of my day. Pick out some cool things for my room and move on. It was not supposed to be a maddening full day of Hell.

But it was – IKEA was not a fun experience. There were so many people, constantly moving and stopping. I don’t speak Swedish or Chinese, so nothing made sense. The workers were not really interested in helping me, and Vega was so…I’ll say polite…that he just kept agreeing to do what they said, which was mostly go find someone else. This was when he showed up at the end to help me buy my list – I let him go relax while I walked around because he was so clearly bored. In short, what was supposed to take maybe two hours took closer to five, and ate up the entire day. I got my first case of anxiety ever, and I blame the music – they kept “Let it Snow!” and “Let it Go!” playing on repeat.

I got the perfume at Sephora – nonrefundable I’m told. Brilliant.

On the metro, I’m in line to get on the train. It’s going to be packed – it always is at the junction at Tianfu Square. It’s the only stop where Lines 1 and 2 of the metro meet. Exiting passengers go out the middle, entering passengers enter on the sides. I’m in line – there’s a guard trying to keep people from getting too close to the doors. As the people start exiting, something goes wrong – no, not wrong. I’m told this is just how China is. A second line forms next to our “official” line, and they start cutting people off and shoving through the exiting passengers. The guard stops our line, and I’m not allowed on the train. Vega is. I’m staring at my angry, pudgy face in the glass of the tunnel, fuming. I tell myself it could be worse – the footage of Ukraine on the TV makes me guilty for feeling so put out.

On the second train, I’m shoved hard into the doors, as I think someone fell over in the jostling.

There’s no line for the WenJiang bus – a blessing! The driver takes a strangely circuitous route to avoid traffic. The was no line for the bus because all the buses have stopped running in Wenjiang for the day. Vega apologizes again and suggests we get a taxi. The first taxi we see doesn’t know the IBIS hotel. I say I have the address, but Vega wants a taxi that knows the hotel.

That’s when I walk away.

I’ve had enough – I spent hours in a store in utter confusion, I got cut out of my subway line, there are no buses, I’ve been dealing with unhelpful people. I haven’t eaten since breakfast. I will not walk around in circles trying to find a specific taxi, and I will not hear one more word.

So I tell Vega it would be easier if he found himself a taxi to the school, I will be “just fine” walking. Because English is not his native language, I don’t think he can hear my tone change. But I can – I recognize what’s going on. I am being hyper-chipper, which means I am just about to snap. He’s not comfortable with me walking, but I don’t care. And before I say anything cruel or sarcastic (I’ve been biting down cruel, sarcastic, mean-spirited things all day – if I start, I won’t stop), I’m off. I sort of know where I’m going. It might be a mile and a half or so to the hotel.

I think it can’t get any worse – but it can.

In my angry walking, I step wrong or hit a weird spot in the sidewalk. My heel decides to remind me of every nerve ending in my foot. It hurts, bad, but I can still walk, and now I’m really angry walking. I’m stewing and I like it. I like how hurtful I’m being to the world in my head, squashing the nice voice that tells me to chill and just roll with the punches. The only thing that voice can get through is to tell me if I scowl more people will stare. I try not to scowl.

I know I have to head south, but there are no intersections for a good long while. I’m worried about my foot and don’t realize that I’ve started to cross the first intersection I find just when the light turns green. I dodge cars (mindful of moody foot) and keep walking.

A man hits me with a flyer – I won’t take it, so he jabs my arm with the pointed end as I pass. I don’t know how I kept a calm exterior – I murdered him in my brain.

At last, I see my landmark – the Gloria something Hotel, with its shark fin top. WenJiang Park – I know where I am! In the park over a hundred Chinese people are dancing some sort of soft Zumba to a techno beat. It’s twilight, but I will make it.

I stop at the HongQi chain to get a milk tea once I get close to my hotel, to calm myself. I reach for the tea, and somehow upend the price tag shelf. I’m holding this plastic shelf thing in my hand, staring at it like it’s an alien. I fix the shelf and rest my forehead against the door for a slow exhalation. My hotel is a block away.

I make it to my room. My room, which was not cleaned today.

OBE