I let a mosquito suck me dry.
It started in the most unspectacular way possible. I sat at my desk, as I did most evenings; suspended over an unfinished sentence. I let my hand come to rest at the end of the page after violently scraping my pencil across a line of my own words. It served as a weight while the summer wind from the window rustled the pages beneath it. As I watched them flicker between wood and sky, drenched in warm golden-hour beams, I marveled at how effortlessly nature could create the simple beauties that I toiled endlessly to replicate on paper. My mind wandered so far into the realm of hopeless abandonment that I hardly noticed it land. A dainty mosquito. Posed neatly between my knuckles.
Perhaps it was my momentary fixation on the natural world, or perhaps it was just the permanent numbness that I had started to wear like a heavy cape, but I felt no instinct to flinch at the flying fiend. Rather, I let my eyes feed greedily on its shape. I pondered how it must feel to be so weightless, to balance on legs as thin as hair and still stand proud.
I knew I should shake it, send it flying to follow the setting sun, or some street lamp imposter along the way. However, something about it was different. It wouldn’t loiter aimlessly with buddies around some buzzing beacon. It was too patient, too still, as though it had spent its whole life meditating here upon my hand.
As soon as I had sunken into the stillness, it made its move. I think it could sense me taking hedonistic pleasure in analyzing its delicate shape. It lowered its face to my skin and sucked. A concentrated stinging sensation pulsed in my knuckle. Its antennae twitched rapidly and out of rhythm, overwhelmed by the pleasures of the feast. I imagined the life of my hand draining into this tiny creature and falling limp on the page, never to write or destroy writing again. I reveled in the thought for a moment, how nice it might be to resign into the ranks of those who had simply stopped trying, who sank into an armchair and let someone else’s voice do the talking.
The mosquito commanded my attention once more when it took its flight. It had a funny way of surprising me even with even the most predictable actions. It took off somewhat less gracefully than it landed, now carting off a belly of my blood. Bobbing gently into the approaching dusk, the mosquito was off to new lands and new knuckles. As I watched it fade from infinitesimal to invisible, my own sedentariness occurred to me. The only time
I strayed from my cozy yet lackluster apartment anymore was to hover behind the bar of my survival job. Lifting foaming pints to weary loners had even replaced my feeble attempts at going to the gym. I was not too discouraged by this gloomy pattern. After all, the only life I needed was inside of me. And after four years of college, I had the documentation that points to someone who should be able to artfully translate their soul onto a page. Or two pages. Or even a novel. However, I was starting to think that all of the lectures and seminars and red x’s had done a better job piling on top of me then building me up. The sunlight in my mind that I used to explore freely now poked through slim cracks. I could barely get through a sentence before abolishing it with an overly critical eye and an aggressive eraser-bearing hand.
Realizing that I had remained still for several moments after the mosquito’s departure, I let out a deep exhale and raised myself from my seat. After transporting my armful of crumpled pages from my desk into the recycling, I swiped my apron from the counter and trudged the six flights and four blocks to work.
The bar was fairly busy for a Monday. I spotted the usuals at the bar and pool table. I wondered if they were missing their daughter’s soccer games or if they had nothing to miss at all. I don’t know which one made me more sad. On cue, my boss huffed at me to “smile more, Marjorie” as I passed him to take my place at the bar. My name is Margaret. The clock-in screen beckoned me, glowing a little too vividly for the dark, oaky, vibe of the pub. As mundane as the ordeal of going to work had become, this was a contrast I seemed to notice every time. I placed my finger upon the screen to find something unusual. To the left of the base of my pointer finger was a small bump. The bite. I leaned my face close into my hand to examine the swelling under the glow of the screen.
It was not my first mosquito bite. My childhood, primarily nestled among the woods of upstate, had provided me with bite speckled arms and legs that would keep me up all night scratching with bitten down nails. I didn’t get as many in the city. In fact, I’m not sure I had gotten any in years until this one. Looking at the bite triggered it to start itching, and I carefully eased the irritation with my left hand, trying not to scrape the bump directly. It was kind of a memento, a memory of an old friend. Before I could get too deeply sentimental, a whistle from the bar tuned me back into reality, and I pivoted sharply with a dry smile.
The next day it rained, and I love the rain. Getting out of bed a little earlier than normal to catch the show, I groggily pulled myself to my desk, and placed down my coffee on my crocheted coaster. The percussive drops provided me with a little extra creative fuel, and I cracked open the window to broaden the sensations. Tentatively, I began to list words that could describe the moment:
Trash. Who was I, Dr. Seuss? The sound of paper tearing from my notepad better mimicked the sound of the flourishing rain than any of the words I could conjure. One of my favorite poems came to mind; Langston Hughes’ “April Rain Song.” In seven lines, that poem could make me feel like I was out in that storm, drenched in pleasant spring rain. I think I liked it so much because it’s not the kind of poem my professors had taught me to call upon as a favorite. It wasn’t saturated in religious motifs, it wasn’t littered with annotations and footnotes. It just sang for anyone to hear. It sang for me, at least.
The rain must have covered the buzzing. However, my presently heightened tactile senses caused me to feel the soft landing of the mosquito on my left hand. There was no sense of introductory pause this time, we were acquaintances now. The mosquito felt welcomed to pierce the surface of my skin and take its feast. It occurred to me that this was one of the only interactions I had had in a while that genuinely benefitted someone else. I could provide this fragile creature with its very life force, the sustenance it needed to survive. The relationship may have technically been parasitic, but it was a relationship nonetheless.
This transaction began to occur daily. The mosquito would coast through my window and land on me in a moment of depleted stillness. I would allow it to harvest its fill while tirelessly subjecting it to my ever-curious gaze. The bumps began to cover up my hands and travel up my arms. The itching grew worse, but it was always temporarily pleasant to scratch. Being bitten by the mosquito became a highlight of my daily routine, mostly because it wasn’t routine. It still managed to take me by surprise every time it arrived, hypnotizing me into arrival. Desk. Bite. Work. Bed. The order remained, but the timing was in the hands of the mosquito. Some nights I would even run late for work, lingering around the apartment in anticipation of the inevitable bite.
It wasn’t long before I noticed the growth. Not only in the mosquito, but in the marks it left behind. Its dinners became lengthier, as it took more of me to feed its growing appetite. My already pale skin became nearly translucent, and after a while I could no longer hoist myself out of my chair and the six flights and four blocks to get to work. After the night had transformed my window into a mirror, I could track the already slight amount of fat and muscle I possessed sinking further into my bones. My long, dark hair falling more and more lifelessly down my arms. My large brown eyes caving in upon themselves and shrinking to make room for heavy purple bags that pulled beneath them. The buzzing of the mosquito’s wings became thunderingly loud, leaving my ears ringing in the wake of its departure. My already modest routine became dismally singular. All that remained was bite and desk. The only energy I could muster was spent to scratch and to write, although I hadn’t done much writing in a while.
On a balmy afternoon in the late summer, I sat motionless at my desk. There was barely enough blood left in my body to keep my heart pumping when I heard the approaching buzz. Without moving my head, I focused my eyes on the window. The monstrous creature approached with intensity, each of its angular legs dangling at nearly a foot long. One more feasting, and I would plunge into permanent numbness. I didn’t think I would mind too much, I had been anticipating it for a while. My eyelids fell wearily, and I awaited the mosquito’s final visit.
A furious bump caused me to pry my sleepy eyes into a soft focus. The mosquito’s wingspan had grown too large for my window. I looked into its greed panged face, if you could even call it a face, and could sense it commanding me to offer myself over. The adrenaline of panic infused me with the tiniest hint of energy, and I considered simply lifting my hand to the hideous thing. I scanned the dismal place for a sign. Pillows were astrew, dishes were left gathering mold, and crumpled pages had scattered the floor for weeks untouched. Finally, my gaze descended upon my battered notepad. A singular page fluttered under the weight of a dull pencil, serving as the most serene call to action I had ever encountered. I grasped the Ticonderoga and started to write with care:
“I let a mosquito suck me dry.” ♦
Zoë Aarts is a senior at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. She is a triple major in Musical Theatre, English, and American Studies. While she is new to submitting her work outside of school, she has previously been published in Rider’s Venture literary magazine.