I was in a conversation with someone recently about mosquitoes, and it reminded me of a night I spent in Asia many years ago. The more I reflected on that night, the more I realized that some pivotal things occurred while I was trying to avoid those little suckers. The following is my dramatization of the night.
I’m no safari man; this is the closest thing to a night in the jungle I’ve ever experienced, but I believe it’s quite possible that my little shack on this river is party to the largest mosquitoes ever to reek blood-sucking havoc on the human race. It’s as if a whole tribe of the little parasites got into a batch of rotten Thai food and mutated into a race of supermosquitoes, capable of sniffing out untapped American blood from great distances and each carrying the size and strength of ten mosquitoes.
Good Lord, it’s not enough that I’m hearing their oversized exoskeletons (do mosquitoes have those?) hurl themselves against my hastily installed protective netting. I swear, I can actually hear them whistling through the air, a second before they crash against my dark green shield of mesh. How fast does a mosquito need to dive through the air to create a whistle? I think on it a moment before I remember I’m too lousy at math to equate such a thing. So I gotta think of something else to pass the time, cause I sure as crap ain’t getting any sleep tonight.
Somehow, despite being the largest body among the three in our overnight abode, I drew the short straw and wound up on the dirt floor, while my two average sized companions are resting comfortably on a pair of cots encased in far more appropriately sized insect netting. (And I do mean resting; I can hear their snores beneath the squadron of mosquito bombardiers.) No matter. I’m getting used to it – this business of nobody paying mind to the discomfort experienced by the freakishly tall member of our group. It’s Asia. Nothing here is built for a guy my size, so I’ve learned to suck it up and think about all the gold I must be collecting in heaven, especially on torturous nights like this one – shoulders squeezed between a set of cots and legs curled tightly to my body beneath a mosquito net that covers less than half my length were I fully extended.
Insomnia is not new to me; I’d probably be wide awake even if I weren’t so uncomfortable. My brain has been selfishly using up the night’s quiet hours and my stillness in the dark for years; it continues its daily assault upon my own sleep starved cells even now, as the portion of my mind in charge of pure Anxiety does its thing, striking up its familiar symphony of nervousness, the crashing barrage of blood-bent mosquitoes acting as its percussion beats.
Anxiety has me preoccupied with what I shall do when this whole wild mission trip is concluded in a month, and I must go home, where most people barely knew I was ever gone, where most people lived only weeks of life in six months while I’ve squeezed years into the same period. How will I ever be normal again? Never mind, I was weird long before I became a missionary. Now Anxiety has me hoping I don’t stop being weird. What does a weird guy do with the rest of his life?
Of course, Anxiety’s not all that smart, really. Anxiety doesn’t know that my current physical predicament in this mosquito playground is about as easy as life is going to get for me. It’s unaware of the violent case of food poisoning I’m only days away from, the reminders of which will still make me queasy years later whenever I see a Pho’ restaurant. It doesn’t know a thing about fixing the broken air conditioner on the steam-bath bus that will imprison me and the group for over a week while we journey North to South among Vietnam’s million rice fields. Anxiety doesn’t know that I’ll have my sex organ groped by a Vietnamese soldier while riding a ferry across another mosquito infested river, but it will understand better than most parts of my mind, why the event will send me into an emotional tailspin and why I’ll develop an involuntary disdain for that man’s whole country.
It’s not as though Anxiety needs the benefit of all that forethought to mess with me. On this sticky, cramped, bug infested night – it is already stirring something in my gut. Yes, it certainly has some havoc planned for me when I get home to the States, where shortly after kissing the soil on my reentry, it will solidify the idea in my mind that I should go to some private college and learn to become a music pastor and get a job with a church, which it knows is a hellaceously dumb idea. But it doesn’t yet know it will be outsmarted by the Almighty, who will remind me that I don’t like church nearly enough to spend so much time in one. But before that revelation, I will stumble into a meeting with a woman while scouting an out of state college; she will take a liking to me and eventually convince me to contact her daughter, who I will meet, marry, and have kids with, and then I will discover that the worries which spill forth from cramped nights and strange foreigners groping my privates and worries about what I will become – these things are just warmups to the Anxiety that threatens to take over when large portions of my heart are running around outside my body, and I find myself constantly fighting the fear that I am failing those parts of me.
Anxiety doesn’t know a lot of things, like the fact that virtually every individual in the whole human race, not just me – will live all their thousands of days and still die wondering what they ought to be when they grow up. If it knew that – how truly few of us are smart enough to solve this quandary, it would feel less disgusted with me by comparison, shut up and let me sleep a few minutes before the sun rises and my group and I have to cross that river into Laos. It would let me rest long enough, granting me the energy to fully appreciate a small gift of laughter when the light begins to show, and I hear one of my companions complaining that one of his eyelids is swollen shut from a mosquito bite, and both of those well rested fellows are riddled with nasty bites from head to toe, as though our Lao hosts sabotaged their netting, while I, with my ever vigilant Anxiety and half-sized protective net, am free from the effects of those little disease carrying vampires.
Oh, I suppose everything happens for a reason.