My life has not changed at all. As in the last ten years, it is blessed by the stars and eschewed by the men. Be not afraid if time passes and there is no word from me, be not anxious by the tram-station nor blue when you're playing, because I have taken my destiny in my own hands. I have thought in light-years and I have suffered in seconds.
I’ve been blessed with three things in my life: a great family, a wonderful intellect and the godsend of never getting bitten by mosquitoes. Jack is markedly lacking in this third category, a fact which is giving him some serious difficulties in his permanence in the Caribbean. On the first day in the new house he wakes up to the discovery that the only thing that saved him from getting two-hundred blowjobs on the night was the fact that he was wearing underpants. The rest of his body looks like it had been carpet-bombed by Nixon.
First solution devised by Jack: he purchases a body-spray meant to repel mosquitoes. This has all the effect of putting mayonnaise on his body alongside a menu and a map of his anatomy, and the next day we’re all but expecting to find a small plate with a ticket saying ‘Compliments to the chef!’
Second solution devised by Jack: he purchases some of those weird green wheels which you sort of set on fire so that they will emit a smoke which repels mosquitoes. The effect is double-fold: the mosquitoes all leave in an instant, yes, but within ten-minutes of smelling that repulsive smog me and Jack have to run out of there as well and the next thing we know we have to fumigate our room. No wonder the mosquitoes couldn’t stay in there – not even a fucking bomb-disposal unit armed with gas-masks could get into that room once the smoke starts puffing. ‘Read the instruction manual,’ I tell Jack, ‘surely you’re using them wrongly.’ I see him leafing through the booklet, then his eyes flare up and he hits the roof in one of the longest rants yet. Apparently, the green weird wheel-thing is not meant to be used with people present in the room.
‘Then what the fuck is the point of lighting one in the first place?’ screams Jack at the top of his voice. ‘So we can have an empty room being rid of mosquitoes?’
Third solution devised by Jack: he walks in with a mosquito-net. This time he finally gets it right. I’m rather impressed by the sight of the thing: it’s like a white sail going from the roof to the floor and it makes his bed uncannily similar to a bridal dress. Obviously the new solution works extremely well, except that, as I mentioned, the guy tends to have nightmares and wake up talking in his sleep. The first night with the mosquito-net he sits up in his nightmare and finds himself involved in a huge mass which, in the dark, he can’t identify, so much so that he panics and starts shrieking ‘No! What is this! What is this!’
‘It’s just your bloody net, you twit,’ I slur from my camp-bed, without opening my eyes (I’m quite used to his nocturnal bursts of Hellenic pathos, by now). Following that enunciation, his weight slumps back into the bed and five seconds later I get to listen to him as he begins snoring like a lumberjack.
What I expected to be an innocuous diversion turns out an absolutely soul-destroying novelty to me as I wake up the next day like I’d been shagging in a bush of nettles. The mosquitoes had an orgiastic feast tonight. My body is itching on every single cubic centimetre of skin: it appears that for all of my fabulous blessings, once Jack’s deeply odoriferous body becomes unavailable the mosquitoes will not disdain bomb-diving onto my own. I spend a few nights playing the role of the plat-du-jour until I reach the edge of a nervous breakdown and decide enough is enough. Life cannot be lived in these conditions. I need to take a pause from my daily routines of beach and reading to imitate the initiative of the Welshman.
Thus began my rather tormented relationship with the mosquito-net.
The first thing it did was to require me to take a rather annoying trip to a hypermarket as distant as the Betelgeuse system and inaccessible by bus. I reach it with half the South Pacific in sweat splashing off of my shoulders, roasting in the midday sun. Then I walk through the doors, and it’s like stepping into the Westminster of the penguins. The air-conditioning is biblical and it keeps the ambience somewhere below seven degrees centigrade, so that after ten minutes of ambling in those labyrinthine corridors I am dying of pneumonia. I manage to keep myself conscious somehow, then I manage to purchase the mosquito-net and carry it to my house. There, I find myself in the embarrassing position of having to hang the thing.
This may not sound like the hardest task in the world, but once faced with the practicalities of it, it becomes impressive. The net is tight and incredibly delicate to handle, there’s nothing on the ceiling you can hang it to, you’ve got to improvise some wacky kind of own support and even when you do the bloody string doesn’t get tied, the stool on which I am standing is having the time of its life in jolting me around like a stupid doll, and, most importantly, the net just will not open up. It falls on my bed in a sort of vertical waterfall only to spread like an extra cover on the cushions, rather than elegantly expanding sideways to leave some sleeping space for myself. I do manage to hang the net up eventually, and I finally go to sleep.
That night I wake up in the middle of a ghastly nightmare in which I am being crushed at the bottom of the ocean by a tidal wave which won’t let me up to breathe, and I wake to find that the mosquito net has somehow enveloped itself around my body like an anaconda and is wrapped around my face and over my mouth, half-suffocating me and doing its damn best to kill me. Talk about excessive zeal – I needed it to give me a good night’s sleep, not to turn me into a fucking cadaver. I remove the death-net from my face and start thinking of a solution.
Eventually I resolve to take two brooms and cross them over my bed so I can hang my mosquito-net at a given distance from my face. The solution works perfectly but it ends up giving my bed a rather striking resemblance to a grave, which is amusingly appropriate since I have to wake up at 6:30 every morning and I invariably do so with the battered face of a zombie. Between me and Jack, we spend a year re-enacting a scene from George Romero every time we have the morning coffee.