The average mosquito cannot fly far or fast, often staying within several hundred feet of where they were hatched.
Airborne travel is my family’s love language but it seemed to fissure and break as I stepped on the cross Atlantic flight. I could smell every meal, the packaged cookies like an off-brand Christmas and the bitter coffee a reminder that my eyes sagged. The meat made my jaw tired and the rice tickled my teeth. The air was thin and each breath made my throat tighten. I started watching the horror film, It just as the plane reached the Atlantic. Pennywise, with a drooping smile, sharp teeth, and a lazy eye, morphed to fit the child’s biggest fear, a walking infection, a burnt corpse, a headless body. I wondered what he would become for me. But then I knew he could not become my biggest fear. A small mosquito already had.
Mosquitos have six needles they use when they suck blood. One of them spits saliva back into our blood stream to move it. Sometimes, this leaves us with an often-deadly virus, which just hitched a ride in the mosquito; there is nothing in it for her.
I heard Meg sniffling two seats over and watched the light on Haley’s phone. I leaned over and asked Haley for an update every thirty minutes. She took it like a pro. When the flight attendant saw me shaking, she asked me if I was cold. I said yes, but I could hardly feel it. She brought me an extra blanket and a hot bottle of water to hold against my stomach. I felt the heat like a harsh reminder of my own body. My own mortality. The mortality of my sisters beside me. Of my mother waiting for the ambulance in Russia. Of my father, stuck in a malaria-induced coma with failing organs and no medicine to bring him back to life.
Mosquitoes are considered the deadliest “animal” in the world. There are over 3,500 different types and of all of those; only one species carries the Anopheles gene, which transmits malaria and kills more than one million people every year.
It was Thursday, about 11 pm Texas time. 11 am Russia time. 6 am Paris time. I hadn’t slept through the night since Sunday. We would see my mom in 17 hours. She hadn’t slept at all since Sunday. We would see my dad in 27 hours. He had done nothing but sleep since Sunday.
Only female mosquitos bite. They need the blood to grow, hatch, and nurture their babies.
In a pregnant nine hours, my parents would get on their own five-person flight. The pilot who guided them. A female doctor, keeping my dad alive, checking his vitals every half hour, adjusting his medicines to keep his blood pressure and heart rate level. The altitude would be their biggest fear for that eight-hour flight. A male nurse, feeding water to his motionless body, covering him with a blanket because his temperature will drop, making sure the machines kept breathing for him. My mom, who sat on two chairs that folded into a bed. My mom, who ate overcooked chicken and picked her way through a tin of assorted Hershey candies. My mom, who was given a sleeping pill that didn’t make her sleep. My mom, who watched the sunrise for eight hours because their plane was chasing the sun. My dad, on a gurney, strapped to machines he didn’t know he was depending on. They traveled airborne in fear.
One study found that mosquitos land on people with Type O blood nearly twice as often as A+. My dad is A+.
A mosquito fits on the tip of your finger, the ability to take hundreds of lives just by trying to feed her young. Our plane was huge, transporting hundreds of passengers. My parent’s was small with only five. We all were flying airborne to keep a family together, to keep a family alive.
But our dad was dying.
What was there to do?