My blood is type O rhesus negative. The universal donor. It’s fairly rare, and word of my arrival went out early to the mosquitos of Thailand, who have gorged on my blood for two months now.
Before I left, Dr. Engel muttered darkly about the psychotropic effects of taking malaria pills for a whole year.
‘How bad is it where you’re going?’
‘I don’t know. Better than Africa. Or Central America.’
I didn’t want the malaria pills either. They cost more than a bag of smack and give you nightmares. Eventually, we agreed that I would wear long trousers and use DEET insect repellent.
This is what happens when I wear DEET.
I spread a thin layer on my exposed skin, as directed. It’s the extra-strength stuff that turns car-paint to carrot juice, so I wash my hands carefully. Then I get absorbed in a book or a chat. Without thinking, I scratch my existing bites with newly grown-out nails (with my new stress-free life, I no longer bite my nails—well, mostly). Then I chew my nails, just a little, because old habits die hard. My tongue goes numb. Burble…stagger…
I wash my hands again. And do it again. Meanwhile, the skeeters snicker in the shadows, waiting for me to scratch off all the DEET to expose their tender midnight snack.
Why do some people get bitten all the time? I’ve heard so many explanations—thinner female skin, blood sugar level, hormones, blood type. Whenever I meet someone who complains as much as I do, I ask their blood-type. Odds are they’re O negative too, the 8% of the population who are suckers enough to give blood to anybody but who can accept it only from each other. Can mosquitos sniff this gullibility? Is that why some people get to sit calmly, unblemished, while I scratch like a beach dog and treat every headache as incipient dengue fever?