By Lindsay Hebert
“Just count to 10. It will be over before you know it. Come on, I’ll count with you. Ok…Breathe…One…Two…”
It was over at three.
That was my mom speaking. I am a 26-year-old woman who flew her mother from L.A. to Paris because she had to get a shot.
I don’t remember if she was actually holding my hand because I was fixated on the window in front of me, contemplating Europe’s dearth of screens and how this might expedite my escape. I was sitting in what looked to be a dentist’s chair, clutching the padded armrests as they absorbed the sweat from my palms. The Air France doctor wore a bow tie and cheerfully tried his English out on my mother. Charmed, she tossed her high school French back at him. Andre translated between the two (did I fail to mention there was yet another along for moral support?), which was thoughtful of him, but this merry chitchat was distracting from the task at hand. If I managed to get my claws anywhere near that window frame, there would be no pulling me back.
Don’t tell me shots don’t really hurt. I agree with you. There’s just something invasive about a stranger getting all up in your shoulder with a syringe, tangling with your veins like that. Makes my stomach turn. And my arm ache. Just like it did for most of last week.
Talcott said he “highly recommended” vaccinations. I heard “gratuitous.” But the irony of the India situation was that if I chose to opt out, I’d be putting myself at risk for any number of diseases that if caught, would likely lead to more needles. Jeomar brought this to my attention after painting a picture of Air France as a kind of jungle where the doctor, armed with a blowgun, aims for the vein in your neck.
India’s been preceded with a bevy of warnings. Monkeys seem harmless enough and I’ve always thought spiders to be crafty creatures with a nice round number of limbs. It’s the mosquitoes that worry me. They’re the only things worse than needles, because they are needles – flying needles with wispy legs and bad intentions.
In my 26 years, I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid them. I’ve worn socks and gloves to bed in 98-degree weather, cinching my hoodie around my face so that only my nostrils show. I’ve repurposed my duvet cover into a body bag because I’m terrified I’ll expose vulnerable skin by kicking off the covers in my sleep. I balanced a barstool on my bed at 3am last summer and almost killed myself trying to permanently pin a mosquito to the ceiling.
When the India packing list came around I was disappointed to see that “insect ecran” was the only AUP endorsed line of defense listed. Missing, a mosquito net, which can turn any standard-issue cot into a lovely canopy bed. A toga made of bug-proof netting might be just the way to step out in Auroville. And if things get really bad, I can throw the net over my head and tie a ribbon around my neck like a lollipop ghost. The possibilities: endless.
Needless to say, I’m prepared. In my carry-on: citronella candle, citronella coil, anti-mosquito spray and anti-bug wipes. I’m even accessorizing with a mosquito-repelling bracelet.
I haven’t been this prepared since Brownies, but I fear this all might run a bit counter to the Auroville spirit. Number one on the charter: “Auroville belongs to nobody in particular.” Does this mean I have to share it with the mosquitoes? What if I promise to be extra nice to the monkeys?
I skipped down to number two: “Auroville will be the place of an unending education.” So I took it upon myself to get to know the enemy. I learned that it’s the female mosquitoes who do the blood sucking while the males buzz around slurping nectar and other sugary substances. This ruffled my feminist leanings until I read a bit further to find that a female mosquito’s lifespan is directly affected by her intake of good blood. With the right supply she can live two to four times longer than her male counterparts. Good call, lady bug.
The article went on to state that mosquitoes simply prefer some humans over others. This is based mainly on a person’s sweet smelling sweat and naturally alluring body odor.
I stopped there. I almost blushed.
I thought about the midnight hours I’d spent crazy-eyed, heavy breathing in the corner of my room in Paris, tissue in hand, forgoing sleep solely for the demolition of another living being. I thought about the insect repellent display in the camping store, how my face lit up at the thought of chemical warfare. I thought of one holiday morning two years ago when I went on a mosquito killing spree, murdering upwards of twelve before breakfast, streaking the walls of our hotel room with blood and exoskeleton. I was ashamed.
All along, she had been trying to tell me that she liked me. She found me, chose me, all because she thought I smelled nice. Who was I to question the delicate, highly developed olfactory of a lady mosquito? Her scream wasn’t a war cry, it was a siren song, pleading for a small drop of blood, a few more days.
Auroville Charter number three: “Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.”
Alright mosquitoes. I’ll keep my repellent arms to myself. After all, we’re here to lend a hand.