Currently, I live on a tropical island.
And yes – it’s just as you are imagining:
Each morning I am woken, from my ocean-suspended tree house, by a monkey butler handing me a Malibu rum cocktail in a glossy coconut shell. With a tiny umbrella. And a crazy straw. Yes, he is wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Yes, so am I. This is the uniform of Tropical Island. Yes, all Tropical Islands are the same as Hawaii, because Hawaii is the Boss of Tropical Islands. I daintily sip my drink, do some calming yoga, then swing on a vine down onto a giant floating clam shell, on which a troupe of friendly dolphins cart me off to work.
PSYCHE. Nearly got you there didn’t I?
Of course, everyone knows no real work happens on tropical islands. I mainly make a living getting cute little black children to gather round me cutely and ethnically as I cradle them lovingly and model the latest in grass skirt and coconut bra fashion. I post these pictures on Instragram. They get lots of likes.
So it’s all very lovely, here in my utopia.
But – and oh dear, here I must break the god-awful news to you – there be trouble in my paradise.
There be mosquitos.
Mosquitos suck. (Yes, I know what I did there. No, it was not intentional. I just talk like a 90s teen.)
With mosquitos come the obvious hazards. Itchy bites. That irritating eeee sound as you’re trying to sleep. Coming to terms with the fact that putting an end to this slow torture would mean smearing a whole household-worth of blood on yourself.
I know. I hear you. I feel you. I itch you. This palaver ain’t fun, anywhere in the world.
At their cutest, mosquitos are ruining marriage proposals during romantic lakeside sunset picnics that involve chocolate-dipped strawberries and Tiffany engagement rings in glasses of sparkling rosé (author’s note: not taken from personal experience).
At their “oh stop it you!” cheekiest, they’re supping on some fresh Australian B-negative, taken straight from any patch of skin just above or between the legs that underwear doesn’t quite cover (author’s note: taken from some very uncomfortable, itchy, awkward-next-day-at-work personal experiences).
And at their worst … do you know what … no. I’m not going get started on mosquitos at their worst *COUGH* malaria and dengue fever.
I know, in usual tirades-disguised-as-essays, this would be the point where I actually do get started on malaria and dengue.
But I can’t.
In part because I couldn’t bear to burst your bubble and tell you that (a) not even my slice of tropical heaven is bereft of illnesses, and (b) my monkey butler lacks the resources necessary to adequately medicate tropical diseases.
But mainly I can’t really get started because I don’t even know. Because (author’s note) I’ve never had either.
To get this straight, I don’t want Dengue. Or malaria. Neither are a barrel of laughs.
But do you know what else isn’t particularly awesome?
An undefined infection that involves a bucket of pus in your head as a result of an over-scratched itchy bite that you didn’t cover up before walking through an open sewerage drain (of course I speak hypothetically here – there are no sewers in my paradise, for people do not excrete waste. Instead, as we sleep, faecal matter is transformed within the body into a hauntingly beautiful melody that we emit from our mouths at sunrise).
Be it because they are ordinary beyond belief, or because they are just plain gross, no-one cares about run-of-the-mill ailments, even if sometimes the symptoms are remarkably similar. Or at least I think they are, because I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never had an exotic tropical disease to match my exotic tropical lifestyle.
People don’t care, years down the track as you regale them with battle stories from your tough time in island paradise, that you braved the sniffles, or scraped your foot.
No-one cares that those sniffles lasted for two months, turning your nose into a red-raw hosepipe from which befell a constant streaming flow of snot, all remaining mucous took residence in your glands causing each yawn to feel like a knock-out punch, and you were so high on cold and flu meds that you wondered why your pillow was moving but didn’t realise you’d been lying on the dog for the past three hours.
And no-one cares that your foot-scrape joined forces with the over-scratched itchy bite (see above) to completely immobilise your foot and fill your whole person with painful, disgusting pus, to the point where even looking at a semi-sharp object would cause another boil to erupt from your skin.
No-one gives a shit about that. They want to hear only of the exotic. They want Malaria. Or Dengue. On you.
WELL EXCUSE MY HEALTH, BUT I’VE NEVER HAD EITHER.
So I won’t get started on dengue and malaria, but I will tell you that at their worst they kill around 12,500 and 627,000 in the world each year respectively, hospitalise thousands (even millions), and cause needless suffering to countless people who cannot afford the doctors, the meds, the mosquito nets, the know-how to avoid this horrid fate. At their best, well, they are both very, very, very-to-the-power-of-a-hundred uncomfortable.
Needless to say, I don’t actually want either. I don’t want either to exist in this world. I don’t want mosquitos to exist in this world. I am lucky to not have had either dengue or malaria, because I am lucky to have access to wire mesh windows (in my ocean tree house), repellant that doubles as nail polish remover (true story) and preventative meds that happen to make my skin look amazing, even if they also give me nightmares. Better that than the real-life nightmare of malaria, I guess.
What I do want, though, is to attract more than just pure and unbridled disgust, maybe a little pity even, and definitely some admiration, when I tell people I am not well because a boo-boo went septic and pus is now oozing from every orifice.
Or maybe the disgust comes from watching me scratch the mozzie bites on my butt.
I’m Mosquitoes are disgusting.