When I left my city apartment and moved to a house in the suburbs, I was thrilled at the idea of having my own private retreat -- a back yard in which I could play ball with my kids, entertain friends or simply meditate under a tree. Suburban life would be, I expected, a far cry from the old apartment building with its anemic patch of grass, boxed in by the asphalt parking lot, where we used to fire up the Smokey Joe. Now, we could sit on our patio and listen to the rustling of leaves in the poplar trees, rather than the scratching of rats in the dumpster.
For two years I got my wish. In daytime, our kids kicked the soccer ball around while we planted hostas and impatiens that were eaten by rabbits and chased the neighbor's cat away from the baby wrens in our birdhouse. At dusk, we lit citronella candles to keep away the mosquitoes that came out at night -- the usual variety I'd known since girlhood, the lazy, slow ones easily swatted or repelled by a can of Off with the lower DEET concentration. We listened to the rhythmic hum of the neighbor's pool-cleaning machine and the song of the crickets. We counted fireflies. It was close to magical.
And then you arrived, uninvited, without proper paperwork, stowed away in a ship from Hong Kong, I hear, in some new tires. You are a breed apart, you who do not require the cover of darkness to assault your prey. You violate the natural order of things, a mosquito that will bite anytime, anywhere, that can breed in the water that sits in the base of the picnic table's umbrella stand or the indentation in the seat of the Big Wheel or the saucer underneath the potted hibiscus. You use the very trees against me, lying in wait in their shade.
In Singapore the police go door-to-door to keep you in check, but here, blithely unconcerned about Homeland Security, fearing John Ashcroft et al. not one whit, you spread out across the countryside, establishing cells in every community. Once you were detected, it was already too late; you were unstoppable. Few places where people gather are untouched by the pain and suffering you cause.
Sure you're forced to eat a little crow now and then, but whenever you can, you zero in on your favorite treat: Me. And your bites are much worse than the mosquito bites of my youth, what with the constant threat of the deadly disease you carry and the huge itchy welts that disturb my sleep and make it look as though I have a nasty, contagious skin condition.
I only want to know why. Why have you chosen this venue in which to torment me? The yard, the focus of suburban pleasures, the closest we can get to the Garden from which we were expelled. What cruel joke is this, that I must never set foot outside without cloaking myself in chemicals, which, according to my cousin the conservation biologist, will eventually cause me serious neurological damage?
I've tried to live with you, I really have. But long sleeves and long pants are too hot for the 90-degree July days here, and there was that time when you flew right under my shirt and bit me above my navel -- that was playing dirty. So I switched to more comfortable clothes and sprayed repellent on every corner of my person. But why, why should I be forced to endanger myself with these noxious substances? Why should I continue to buy pesticide-free organic produce only to cover my body with chemicals I wouldn't allow on my zucchini?
I've made up my mind, Asian Tiger Mosquito. You will disturb my tranquillity no longer. I'm going to fight you. To paraphrase Bill Murray in "Caddyshack," I've got superior firepower and superior intelligence. I will use every weapon at my disposal to eliminate you; yes, I'm going to kill you, and no jury in the land will convict me for it.
My first weapon, one you can never hope to possess: cash. I've just purchased the newest technology in mosquito-eating machines. Masquerading as me, the machine will seduce you with its scent, and then, when you're too close to turn back, it will suck you into its bowels and hold you there until you suffocate.
Do you think I'm sorry? Even scientists are hard-pressed to find a single discernible purpose to your very existence. Do you think I pity you one iota? Do you think I'll feel any regret when I clear that net of hundreds of little dead bodies? Ha!
Today I set up the new machine in the garden, and even though I wore repellent, you bit me eight times. I can only presume that you sense your advantage is about to be revoked. Fine. It was your last meal, so I hope you enjoyed it.
See you on the other side, Mosquito.