This is a secret I’ve been keeping to myself for a long time, but since my relationship with you has gone better in recent months I feel the time has come to present you a friend of mine. However, it may become anticlimactic just introducing them to you, it might change your opinion of me, and the relationship we’ve built through the years. And believe me, that’s the biggest of my worries.
Please remain seated, be patient with me, and keep an open mind for what you are about to hear. It may be hard to believe, but I want to let you know that whatever I say, it doesn’t change how highly I think of you. And how much I need you. So please again, don’t judge too hard.
It all started as every big event happening in life: in the bathroom.
I was a college freshman, thanks to a scholarship I was living the adventure track several miles from home. When this exchange program invited young naïve students to the fast growing country of Vietnam, I didn’t hesitate about signing up, specially if the opportunity could kept me away from the eternal banter of my two roomates, and their endless cycle of recontiliation sex after every fight.
Perhaps I rushed my decision. Shame on my laziness. I never read the fine print. No one told me up until the last minute, once I had arrived at the airport in Hanoi, that I was deemed to teach children in the countryside, not in the capital as I had expected.
At first I laughed the mistake off, the novelty of traveling shoved pink tinted glasses on my face. I went to a small town in the mountains, pretending I didn’t care much about the location of my new home, as long as I had a roof over my head, a hot meal on the table and toilet paper in the bathroom. Which the program’s organizers provided by hosting me with a local family.
The job was easy, the kids were nice, the food was amazing. The only challenge in general was, no surprise, the bathroom.
You see, the restroom was outside the main house of the Nguyen family. If nature called in the middle of the night, you had to leave the house and walk through complete darkness for about 30 yards, which felt like walking across a soccer field, all while praying not stumbling upon one the wild beast plaguing your imagination.
Maybe you think that I’m beating around the bush with all this explanation, but believe me, it will pay off once you hear the full story.
The night it all started, I arrived to the toilet seat on safety. Everything was going according to plan, I had the gentle light bulb protecting me from the uncertainty of outside and the pleasure of discharging. As you can expect from a countryside bathroom, the floor was bare cement, and the walls had nothing but bare bricks. There were also those openings for ventilation that no one should call windows.
People outside could peer at you doing your business if they found a reason to do so. Fortunately, my host family was very respectful, granting some privacy by staying away from the surroundings whenever they knew I was doing my business inside. Manners kept humans far from the room, but in the wildness of nature, when night came, some visitors weren’t that civil.
It was a hot early morning during May, the sun was still due for a couple of hours but the heat had forced me to wake up way before my usual time. Not even the recent rains had spared me from sweating from every pore. I was feeling sticky and miserable. To add insult to injury, an unmistakable ‘bzzz bzzz’ reached my ears.
I couldn’t help to groan while flapping my hands around, unable to find the source of that ennerving sound. Or there was nothing and everything was a product of my imagination, or the bastard was way too small for me being able to see it.
The buzzing sound kept going. I was fed up with the mosquito bites, they gave me the most excruciating reaction in the world, with end days of itchiness in red bumpy spots. That’s why I was determined to kill the guy before any damage could be done. I checked the mirror, on the window, around the lights, under the seat. That buzzing sound becoming every time louder and more menacing. I could have left the place, expecting the bug wouldn’t follow me, but my morning bad mood made things personal.
At some point, the noise went so deafening I felt it inside my ear. My immediate reaction was slapping my temple.
“That’s it. You did it, you finally started hitting yourself.” A tiny loud voice berated me.
I looked around, no one. I peeked outside, no one. At least the mosquito had left, I thought. And with a dumbfounded smile, I zipped up and went back to bed. The dark path towards the house was as troubling as always. It scared the living out of me only by remembering the house owner had told me I should be careful with the buffalos wandering around.
“Are you stupid. She said you shouldn’t pull them by the horns. No buffalo is awake at this time in the morning.”
“Who said that?” I whispered, afraid of being heard, and turned around, pretending I could find the source of the voice in the darkness.
“I’m your conscience Paul.”
“My conscience has never spoken to me before.”
“No shit, that explains why you are such a failure.”
I jolted into the house, heart racing and hands trembling while I put the crossbar back on. My mouth tasted awful from having too much rice liquor last night. I had intended to brush my teeth after peeing, but all this mosquito business had made me forget it. I was about to warn Mrs. Nguyen about the posibility of an intruder when the voice spoke again.
“Just to recall, you want to tell this old lady there’s a mysterious someone outside, in the sheer darkness, cussing in whispers in perfect English for unknown reasons? Can you buy your own bullshit?”
I swallowed hard what tasted like bile.
“There you go, I’m glad I have shoved some common sense in that nut sized brain of yours. My job as a conscience is done here.”
My index finger reached my right ear, shaking the interior from the place where the voice was coming from.
“Whoa dude, that’s not the way you treat someone who just saved you from social embarrassment! Here, let me do something…” it felt like my ear popped. “There, there. You’ve had a long day and I need you to sleep. From now on, you will be a good guy who listens to his conscience, okay?”
I don’t know what kind of magic trick the voice performed in me, the next second I was crawling back to bed. It was the most peaceful and long slumber I had experienced in my life. In that state of bliss, unsure of either being awake or sleeping, I bought a flight ticket back home from my phone. That very same morning I was leaving the homestay just after noon, and took the plane wearing nothing but my pajamas. From thereon, life has been quite hetic.
So yeah it is as crazy as it sounds, I’ve been following blindlessly a mosquito’s voice inside my ear all these years. You know, life is easier if someone else takes the hard choices for you. That’s why I never questioned the mosquito. It was it who suggested me to contact you after my roommates funeral. What better way to assure the word one is not insane than knocking at the doors of the madhouse myself, eh? I’m glad we met, you are amazing at listening with patience about my plans and problems. I guess you are the first person who never questioned the mosquito’s decisions. It has such a great eye, that it predicted I’ll eventually grew to like you.
Now, all these years in therapy could lead you to believe it was me doing the talking, when in reality it was the mosquito. But things are about to change.
This morning, I woke up.
It may sound mundane but belive me, I’ve been in Morpheus’ arms for decades. Waking up with a killing nausea was the first harsh reminder of the cruelty of the world. Like all important events in life it ended in the bathroom. Who would have thought bugs don’t live as much as humans!
I’m going to miss the little fella, now it’s so silent inside that it’s scary. The mosquito knew best, it was always engrossed in my wellbeing.
As it had said, I was nothing but a gullible idiot, thinking all those lies about other people loving me. Yet I’m a bit remorseful about killing my roomates.
These are the first thoughts I can share with you in person, the first time I’m able to speak to my therapist without influences. You know, after a while this is a situation I had started dreaming about. I wanted to thank you for the medication too… Where are my manners?
“Nice to meet you, my name is Paul.” I produce a tiny Ziploc bag from my trouser pocket, I had spent most of the morning fishing it out of the toilet. “This is my conscience, its name is Mosquito.”