Here, near the ocean, the mosquitoes keep me awake. That and other things. But the mosquitoes are what it is easiest to talk about.
Every few minutes when I think, with an exclamation mark at the end, I cannot take it anymore, I turn on the light and pace the room like a big game hunter. When I find a mosquito I kill it with a newspaper and think, good, now for sleep.
But there are always more of them, they are without end. And soon I hear a whine-sound close to my ear. I do not know what makes the whine-sound, is it the mosquito’s wings beating faster than I can imagine, or is it something else?
Sometimes after I think I have killed all the mosquitoes I hear the whine-sound and I do not know if I am imagining it or if it is real. In this way the mosquitoes, the whine-sound, remind me a lot of love.
In the darkness when the whine-sound grows loudest and I think the mosquito is close to my ear I hit my ear, hard, with the palm of my hand. Most times there is silence after that, only the ringing of my ear in the darkness.
But then the whine-sound starts again, for I almost always miss the mosquito.
Here, which is near the ocean, is the second greenest city in the world, so they say. After Paris. I wonder what Paris thinks about this, to be number one to here, to have pipped here at the post.
It is Sunday night and it is after midnight, a time when no-one who can think of any reason to be happy has an excuse to be awake. It is quiet, apart from the insect noises outside my window and the hum of the fridge and the rush and rattle of the garden. And the mosquitoes.
I do not think I would be able to sleep even if there were no mosquitoes. I have been trying to sleep for too long and my thoughts are tangled up like the bedclothes crowded at my feet.
But maybe it will be better in the morning.
I think I sleep sometime around four. When I wake it is light and already as hot as the sulks and I can hear voices in the kitchen outside my door. One of the voices is Paolo Two’s voice.
Paolo Two and I sleep in different rooms though sometimes he will sneak into my room when it is late and everyone else is asleep.
Two nights ago he snuck into my room.
I was sleeping but I opened the door when he knocked. Outside in the night sky a quarter moon peeked out behind the ghosts of some clouds. Bats flitted across the swimming pool behind the trees.
Can I come in, Paolo Two said. Are you sleeping.
You can come in, I said, I’m not sleeping, though the light was off and the bed was a turbulent scene.
Paolo Two sat beside me on the bed in just his shorts. I looked at the hair on his chest and on his legs. I sat with my bare knees hugged up tight and looked at him.
We can’t keep doing this, I said to Paolo Two.
I know, he said, then he kissed me and rubbed my bare knees.
Afterwards he peeled our skins apart and went back to his room.
Sometimes I think it is my fault, that I am too accommodating. Though maybe accommodating is too nice a way to say it, as though I am a flight attendant who has held the plane back for late arrivals. Perhaps I should have told Paolo Two, no, not tonight. Told him the plane was already on the runway, already somewhere over the Atlantic. But really, was I going to do that?
Because I like the way hair continues to grow on Paolo Two’s chest and shoulders and back, as though he is still a boy turning into a man. Once I plucked some of the hairs from his back with my tweezers while he slept, amazed all the while he did not wake but slept on, his body heavy, brown, long, beside me on the bed.
Last night he did not sneak into my room.
Extract from the story 'Ocean', included in the collection The Psychological Benefits Of Exercise. Further extracts will be published here on a reasonably regular basis, if anyone wants.