The scene of the crime: it happened in the bedroom, with a mosquito racket
Pardon my departure from my normal stories about eating and more eating,but I have a confession to make: last night, a murder was committed in our house. The victim was just a few millimeters long, and the final blow was delivered by deadly electric shock. I have to say, I’m not sorry to see him go.
There are moments in every day that I think to myself that I’m having a “Malaysia — Truly Asia” moment. Sometimes it’s when I’m at a cafe and order a hot coffee with milk and get instead an iced soursop juice with plum. Sometimes it’s when the Gravy Baby and I are out and about and an elderly Chinese lady with one good eye and four rotten teeth comes up to me and tells me that I’d better be careful with my cute baby, or he’ll get stolen (by who? You? Is this a compliment, and if so, why?)
Or, in the case of last night, it’s when I woke up to mosquito bites covering my ankles and arms and itching like crazy and immediately thought, “OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO GET DENGUE FEVER AND SO IS MY BABY.”
See, up until two years ago, before we moved here, a mosquito bite was just that — an itchy annoyance, but relatively harmless. Since then, mosquito bites have taken on a whole new meaning. Of course, there’s malaria, which actually isn’t a big threat in urban areas such as Kuala Lumpur. There’s also preventative medicine available for it should you find yourself in a jungle or other backwoods destination. But with dengue fever, there’s no vaccine, and there’s no cure — you just have to ride it out. We’ve had a few friends get it while we’ve lived here, and it sounds just awful. The idea of getting a tropical disease that no one can really do much to treat you for freaks me out. I’ve had my fair share of health scares while traveling through Asia, including a friend of mine who was bitten by a wild dog while we were vacationing in Thailand. That’s a phone call you never want to make to your mom at 3:00 in the morning her time: “Mom, don’t freak out, but one of us just got bitten by a dog.” I place that only slightly above ever having to tell her that I woke up in jail and I don’t know what country I’m in.
Ever since the Gravy Baby was born, my fear of dengue fever has increased like, a hundred fold. It’s one thing to mess with me, but my child — well, that’s a whole other battle that I refuse to let these mosquitoes win. The Gravy Baby has all sorts of anti-mosquito devices — repellent wristbands, natural mosquito balm, a mosquito net for his stroller. I try not to let my overprotectiveness reach Threat Level Orange in terms of insanity, but I’ll be honest, there are times when we leave the house and he looks like an eccentric invalid from Grey Gardens. It’s not a great look for a 6 month-old.
So, as for last night, I went to bed as I do every night — mentally running down the list of worries that I have as a new parent and checking my Facebook profile one last time. Dengue fever is always on that list somewhere, but I go to bed every night generally just deciding that I’m too tired to worry about anything else until tomorrow, when my energy for parenting renews itself. At exactly 12:43 am I was woken up by a buzzing sound and a case of the itchies. There was a mosquito in the room. This would not stand.
Immediately I roused the hubby, who after surviving a sleepless pregnancy and the Gravy Baby’s newborn days, is now probably able to sleep standing up, or in a puddle of dirty water, or inside an ambulance with sirens blaring. “GET THE RACKET,” I whispered furiously.
The racket is a mosquito zapper that we keep plugged in next to our bed, instead of a more conventional bedside item, like a baseball bat. Yes, we fear mosquitoes more than intruders. If anyone were ever to break into our house, I guess we could waffle iron his face with the low voltage zapper. The hubby insisted that the racket was plugged in next to my side of the bed, and I insisted that it was not. We turned the light on. The racket was laying, ever dutifully, by the hubby’s side. And its battery was completely dead. I panicked. “We keep this thing charged at all times specifically so it can do battle for us at any minute,” I huffed. “Charge it. Charge it NOW.”
The hubby obediently, faithfully, and, with the wisdom that only a husband and a father who has survived the most hormonal of times with his wife, trudged into the other room to charge the racket, because of course, adding another layer to our lives overseas, almost every one of our appliances has a different-shaped plug. All of our outlets are Malaysian-style three-hole plugs, but the majority of our appliances are American, and so they have the two-pronged plug, thus requiring adapters. We’ve also got some of those rounded European plugs floating around the house. Our house is constantly humming with electricity at different voltages. I’m sure it’s all really safe.
So with the racket charging, the hubby flopped back onto the bed, face down, and went immobile almost immediately. I, in the meantime, had wrapped mosquito bands around the bottom of the Gravy Baby’s crib and covered myself in mosquito repellent. We fell back asleep for a few hours, and I woke again to more buzzing. I ran to the other room, grabbed the racket, kneeled on the bed and started swinging the racket around my head wildly. “I…WILL…NOT…GET…DENGUE…” I chanted repeatedly. I’m sure the gods of rain were probably thinking that I’d dialed the wrong number.
This went on for about 20 minutes, when finally the hubby had had enough. “Gimme that thing,” he grumbled. I handed it over. Gently, quietly, soothingly, he swooshed the racket over me while I muttered things that no sailor would dare repeat. I shook my fist at the fates that blessed me with a child who loves to sleep but continue to torture me in the middle of the night with other trivial nonsense. And then…and then…
Pssshbbt. A tiny flash of light, and the smell of burning flesh. The racket had met the mosquito, and the hubby had triumphed. I rolled over. “My hero,” I sighed. The racket fell from the hubby’s limp hand to the bed, and he started snoring. It was almost like he did it in his sleep.
However he did it, peace settled on Gravy Central finally, and hopefully, at least for now, we’re dengue-free, at least for another day.