The Mosquito Man Cometh
Brub. Brub. BrubbubBUBUBBZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
Ripped out of a lovely dream, the throbbing buzz gives me an instant headache.
For a millisecond I wonder what that god-awful noise is. I turn my head and see the baby wake up with a similar start, more towards the soul-searing terror end of the spectrum.
I snatch her up just as she starts to really panic.
“It’s OK, baby,” I tell her in a calm voice. Falsely calm. Still sleep-fogged and fumbly.
Then I remember I have to work today. It’s Monday. “It’s just the moquito man,” I tell Miss M. I’m on late shift, so I have the luxury of sleeping in… until the mosquito man does his thing. (And to sleep deprived parents out there – yes the baby sleeps til 9, but she won’t GO to sleep until midnight, which is just hell for a working mum.)
Every Monday the mosquito man parks his van outside our house and pulls the rip-cord on a fog machine. Dense clouds of white poison billows across our small front yard. The spooky scariness of the garden white-out evokes thoughts of ghosts, monsters and aliens. Perhaps a combination of all three. It’s no wonder the baby is afraid.
I am not sure the fog does anything apart from making the local mosquitoes a bit high. I don’t think the fog is so good for humans though, so Darling Man and I usually blunder about shutting windows and trying to distract the baby.
I rush to the kitchen to make up a bottle before the poison wafts back to our old-fashioned kitchen, a wall of wire mesh making it virtually an outdoor room, a bush kitchen.
Once the fog machine has passed us by and the baby is involved in her bottle, I start making myself a coffee (cursing the jarpot Darling Man bought instead of a kettle).
This is usually when I’m caught out for a second time, standing in my wall-less kitchen in a work shirt and undies or a greying once-white nightie as the mosquito man does his second pass, spraying liquid poison in the drainage channel that separates our house from our neighbour’s.
Singapore takes mosquito-borne diseases seriously. You can be fined for having stagnant water around the house. A colleague told me he was once fined after an inspector found water in a saucer under an indoor pot plant. He lives in a highrise, so no one is safe. There’s also prime time television ads warning of the dangers of dengue.
We watch these ads with worry. Our house has no mosquito screens. When we first moved in, we rigged up a mosquito net over the baby’s cot. But over time we’ve stopped using it, relying instead on an ad-hoc combination of mosquito coils, tea-tree oil and manic mosquito-chasing every time we see a leggy silhouette against our white walls.
We know the dangers of dengue. Darling Man and I were both struck down with the disease in 2009 while we were living in Hell Money Hem in Ho Chi Minh City. It came on fast, beginning with a back ache and a sore head and quickly escalating to a high fever that couldn’t be tamed. I was five months pregnant at the time and within a few days I was in hospital in an isolation room, hooked up to a drip, having regular scans to check the baby was ok.
It was a very stressful time. Darling Man and I spent days wedged together in my narrow hospital bed, watching snowy television and sharing meals delivered by our favourite restaurants.
“It’s ok, she’s a strong baby,” Darling Man kept telling me, as I blinked back tears.
Darling Man’s insurance wouldn’t cover the fancy Western hospital I was in, so he spent his nights writhing on our bed at home and organised friends to bring him to the hospital during the day.
Miss M’s personality was already evident by the time she was a five-month fetus. In one scan she appears to be giving the finger, or flipping the bird, as Americans would say. In another, she somersaults away from the scanner, a printout capturing a beautifully formed pair of heels and a lot of black nothing. She was cheeky, even then.
Thankfully, I recovered. The baby was unaffected by the disease. But now I worry about the effects of the anti-dengue poison that she inhales every week. What can we do but plan our escape?
9 years ago