“Mom, we’re invited to the neighbors’ for a bonfire and s’mores!”
Nothing strikes fear, longing, and guilt into my heart like my daughter’s enthusiasm at this invitation. Don’t get me wrong. I like our neighbors. I love s’mores (I mean, I have a pulse). Bonfires are cozy and fun, and people get together to watch the flames as the sun goes down while the kids go catch lightning bugs.
And then there’s me. I love telling stories and jokes, roasting marshmallows, being with neighbors. I was also cursed to be born as an insatiable delicacy to mosquitoes. I’m kind of a big deal in the bloodsucker world. So most of the time, I politely excuse myself from such outdoor revelry because it’s not worth the consequences. Yes, it’s that bad.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband was out of town for two weeks and my neighbors invited my daughter and me over. I couldn’t say no. She was so excited about it, and I’d dodged all previous invitations by either sending her over alone or sending my husband over.
My time was up.
I dutifully dressed in light-colored, long-sleeved clothes and covered myself in a dense mist of DEET, some of which I accidentally inhaled. Such is my attractiveness to skeeters that I actually considered, after the burning in my windpipe began to subside, that this was perhaps a new strategy to avoid bites on the inside. Because let me tell you, those fuckers will find the uncovered area of skin the size of a pinprick, and they will stab their little stabby horns into it with abandon.
I even put the bug spray in my hair — my long, thick, black hair — and put my sweatshirt hood over it.
Of course, within seconds, they had found me.
I politely bobbed and weaved while helping to toast the marshmallows, telling jokes, helping my daughter to make her s’more. I even killed a mosquito by slapping it against my sweatshirt, where it left a little red dot of blood (probably my own). Somehow that did not deter them. They smelled blood. They are hungry little fuckers, and I am their all-you-can-eat buffet plus dessert. They are also cunning, float like a butterfly, sting like little Mohammed Alis without the silky boxing shorts.
“Mommy, why does this sign say close the damned door?”
To say my family doesn’t quite understand is an understatement. Even though I end up spending the summer looking like I’m recovering from a nasty bout of chicken pox, something about having mosquito bites on my face still doesn’t telegraph how uncomfortably itchy I get and why they should close the door when they go in or out.
It’s a peculiar habit of every single person in my family to ask me a question while standing with the door open. On the top of the list is the back sliding door. Important questions and comments such as “Can you turn on the sprinkler?” “Do you think these chicken breasts are done?” and the worst, “I’m just coming in to grab some bug spray. You won’t believe how buggy it is outside,” WHILE LEAVING THE DOOR OPEN SO THEY CAN “JUST” GRAB THE BUG SPRAY. A simple “close the door” won’t suffice. Everyone thinks I’m nagging.
Sick and tired of repeating myself over and over and over again, I put my newfound interest in hand-lettering to work. I crafted a beautiful, double-sided sign and taped it up right by the handle of the sliding door. The side facing out reads “Keep door closed.” The side facing in says “Mom says close the damned door.”
I put it up while my daughter was out playing in the backyard with her friend. As soon as she came in, she slid the door closed fast right after coming in. “Mom?” she asked. “Why does it say close the damned door?”
“Because I mean CLOSE THE DAMNED DOOR. No one listens to me, I’m sick of saying it a thousand times, and that’s the only way to get you to pay attention.”
Indeed, she’s gotten much better at not leaving the door open or asking questions standing with the door wide open. My husband, however, has yet to quite get with the program. Maybe I need to make a higher sign for him. I think I’ll do just that. He’s 5’11” so maybe I’ll hang it at around 5’8”.
This morning, hurrying out the front door to catch the bus to camp, I hear my daughter yell, “Mom! We opened the door and a mosquito FLEW OUT OF OUR HOUSE!”
Pretty sure that was the asshole skeeter who bit me all along my underwear line last night when I was eating dinner after I came home late from the gym.
Each night, the mosquitoes trapped in my house get together and pick out a body part to tattoo with their itchy stabbers. One night, they got the inside of the knees. Left, right. Check. Then they snacked along my hairline and on my cheeks. Another night, a bite on my eyelid and on the back of my head, through my hair. Outside of my elbows. They leave little connect-the-dot pictures which I’m pretty sure illustrate the middle finger emoji.
Last night, I went to bed slathered in every crevice with some essential oil anti-bug elixir, smelling like a giant tiki torch of citronella. This morning I only noticed a fresh bite or two. Partial victory?
I’m sorry, I’m busy.
So please accept my apologies when I don’t come to your cookout/campout/nature walk/bug festival. I would love to enjoy the great outdoors, but I can’t even enjoy the great indoors during this season of itch. Know that I would love to be like the rest of you who casually move around this world as though you do not have invisible proboscis targets all over your skin. I hate to be a killjoy.
But you know, we all have our things. Most of us are a killjoy about something.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to run over to my neighbor’s house. She’s offered me the use of her mosquito net from her time in the Peace Corps in Africa. Now I just need to find someone to lend me a bug suit for outdoors, and you might see me again before the first frost.