Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chariots of Satan

The hum of a mosquito in my ear is like an alarm for my subconscious, and it jerks me awake.  My iPhone says it’s 2:30am.  I grasp into the air above my head until I find the string that turns on the overhead light.  I turn it on to the dimmest setting and try to find the mosquito without waking Audrey and Grant, but when I clap my hands the first time in an unsuccessful attempt to kill it they wake up.

They sit up.  Audrey yawns and rubs her eyes.  Grant scratches the back of his neck and squints at me. 

“I know, they’re driving me crazy too, I couldn’t sleep,” he says. 

“It’s so freaking hot in here, why doesn’t this place have air conditioning or at least a fan?” demands Audrey.

The vacation house their dad has rented for this family reunion sits high atop the mountain and has a stunning view of the Sagami Bay and Oshima Island.  It has three bedrooms and two baths, room for the whole family.  His mom and dad, his sister and brother-in-law, their son, Buddy and our two kids.  And me.  They invited me to join them for their family vacation even though technically, I'm not family anymore.

As fabulous as this house is, it does not have air conditioning or even a fan, and the tatami room the kids and I are sleeping in has heated up as the night wore on.  The air is sticky and heavy.  I haven’t opened the windows because I don’t trust the screens to keep out the bugs but now it feels like we have no choice, and besides, the mosquitoes have found their way into the room even with the window closed.  I slide it open and a mountain breeze drifts into the room like a quiet song.

“We’ve got to find that thing and kill it,” Grant declares.

“I’m going upstairs to get us some water,” Audrey announces.

“Shhhhh!” I remind them both.  Their cousins and grandparents are sleeping one shoji-door away and although my kids and I don’t sleep well under these hot and buggy conditions everyone else in the house seems to be having no trouble at all.

Grant and I inspect the walls of the room, trying to find the mosquito or mosquitoes.  Audrey returns with a 2-liter bottle of water and two tiny porcelain teacups of ice.  “Would you believe these are the only thing I could find in the kitchen that can be used for drinking?  There are no glasses or mugs or anything up there!”

“Well these will do under the circumstances.  Just don’t break them,” I say.

Audrey pours water into the porcelain cups and the three of us sit down on Grant’s futon in the middle the tatami room.  We wait for the mosquito to appear.  “There is nothing on this earth I hate more than mosquitoes,” Grant says.  “They are pure evil.  I call them Chariots of Satan.” 

Audrey and I start laughing and I remind both of us to be quiet and not wake the rest of the family.

“This is the second worst night of sleep I’ve ever had in my life,” whispers Grant.  In a hushed voice he tells us the story of the worst, which was three years ago on a boy scout camping trip in a cave.

Audrey stands up suddenly and points across the room at a Chariot of Satan.  She approaches it with her hands held out in front of her, ready to smack it.  It continues towards the window and then vanishes.  It seems to have passed straight through the window itself.  That’s when we realize how the mosquito must have gotten into the room in the first place.  There is a small crack between the window and the screen. 

I stuff two yukatas into the crack and stand with my hands outstretched for several seconds, ready to catch them if they fall back out.  They don’t. 

With the window open and the ocean breeze floating through the room it is now cooler and we breathe easier.  The crack is plugged and the only known Chariot of Satan is gone. 

I turn out the light and we lie back down.  In the darkness the kids whisper about what a hard night this is.  They complain about the bugs and the heat and the lack of air conditioning and glasses. 

And they’re right that it is a hard night.  But it's also a night we will always remember.  People sleep through the night all the time and there is nothing at all memorable about that. 

But a night like tonight - not everyone gets a chance like this in their lifetime.

A chance to sit together on tatamis in Japan at 2:30 in the morning,
hot and itchy,
while brainstorming strategies to kill mosquitoes,
and laughing,
and shushing each other,
and drinking ice water out of


Anonymous said...

Does this remind you of a night with a crying infant in the rv in the everglades in 1999? Also, couldn't Noah have requested that the mosquitoes stay on the shore?

Melanie Gao said...

I had forgotten about that night in the Everglades! But yes it was very much like that. :)

Noah really should have negotiated that one better.