There is a war waging in Ecuador. My enemies and I are ferocious and unremitting. As many battles as I win, as many battalions I slaughter, they never relent. They throw their little winged bodies against my defenses. But I am bloodthirsty. I am pitiless. And this is war.
In the morning, when I stumble around the kitchen cooking my eggs, I rely solely on melee armaments. Though crude, my hands are the military hardware of the hour. As I strike out at my victims, I’m filled morbid excitement, killing one, sometimes two little harbingers of inflammation at a time. I search my palms for their crushed little bodies and cackle gleefully when I discover another corpse. I spot a smear of my own blood and am satisfied that I have exacted my revenge. But as time passes, the news of the exposed flesh filled with my bloody nectar passes through their ranks, and their dead brethren are replaced ten fold. I cannot keep up! What are my two clubs of death against the flood of hundreds of little stinging needles, searching for a patch of skin in which to sink? A back of a knee; A shoulder; A shirt that defies my orders by sliding up and exposing a strip of my lower back. The moment that my vigilant watch is focused on one front, they flank me and attack from the other. I flail dumbly. I am the cow in a river infested with a school of razor sharp teeth.
I try to outmaneuver my enemy, shuffling a strange little dance while scooping maracuya for my morning juice. I know my enemies’ limitations. They are unable to land on a moving target. So we salsa together, the swarm and I, we saunter gracefully across the kitchen floor. I lead and they follow. But they know my limitations as well. Like guerillas, they bide their time until I stop to tend to my eggs, or fumble with my coffee, or clean my dishes, and then silently slip past my watchmen and pillage my flesh. Moments pass before I know I’ve been had, before the consequences of their raids are noticed. And though my counterattack is fierce, the damage has already been done. This time the smear of blood on my hand is a scarlet letter, announcing to all who see that I have been shamed once again.
I can no longer rely on melee. This war is on. I run to the closet and dig out the chemical weaponry. A brittle green coil is introduced to the clash. I smirk maniacally at the swarm. I light my newest weapon and the sickly sweet smoke curls mischievously from its tip. Hah! Breathe this in you heinous little monsters! Come near if you dare! I defy you to get to me now! But the enemy is a devious one. They play the long game. As I sit curled on the couch, preparing my lessons, knitting, reading a book, protected in the fog of toxic fumes, I am lost in other thoughts. The sweet period of relief dangerously tempers my mind. My vigilance slacks. I am soft. I begin to forget that I’m at war. But they do not forget. The fiends lay in wait on the periphery, watching the coil get smaller and smaller, watching for the moment when their siege will bear fruit, when my supplies will run dry, and I am once again naked to their barrage. The moment comes, and I am unprepared. I pay for my distraction with my blood.
I prepare myself for the continuing war before I leave the house. It is just one battlefield and this morning is just one battle. My enemy is everywhere. I fortify my defenses, drenching myself in chemicals, which make me gag and sneeze, and the polish melt off my toenails. My discomfort and destroyed adornments matter not. This is war! Libraries, museums, priceless works of art have been destroyed in the waging of war. Do not, my enemy, think for a moment, that I am not willing to sacrifice my pedicure and my sinuses if it means triumph. The strength of this chemical blockade is woefully limited. In less than an hour I have regressed to the prehistoric melee weapons of my ancestors, and am striking out with my hands. I snatch them from the air. I crush them between my palms. I let them think they have me, and smash them into the very flesh they are attempting to violate. I leave a trail of the bodies of fallen foes in my wake, across the village, along the beaches, in the classrooms where I teach. But it is not all victory. The ones I kill only serve as a distraction as their compatriots feast upon me. They are martyrs for their cause. My skin is on fire. They do not just steal my blood, they leave a bit a poison beneath my skin that inflames and burns and eats away my sanity. With every welt they spit in my eye, they rub my nose in my misstep. I accumulate more and more swollen lumps throughout the day, each a malevolent and infuriating testament to my failure.
It is night, and with it, the sweet relief from the violence of the day. My bed is a fortress; a bubble; it’s the “Star Wars” missile defense system in the dreams of American Republican presidents of old. The net is first positioned and the edges tucked beneath the mattress. The resulting safe zone created is then meticulously scrutinized, and any stray militant who dared to sneak his way in during the procedure is deftly executed. I nestle into the security of my enclosed refuge. Calm. Peace. Bliss. The silence of the night settles in. But as the world gets quieter, another sound arises. A humm, a buzz, but not the sound of one commando stealing past the barrier, it’s a more distant chorus, a discordant orchestra of a thousand tiny violins. At first I thought it was just a ringing in my ears, but no! The eeeeeeeeeee morphs into a malevolent warning. We’ll be here in the morning, it whispers. The slit of light from the bathroom reveals tiny little bodies carpeting the outside of the net around me. I can hear their hunger, their craving. They are waiting sleeplessly, biding their time. The menacing concert swells. You can’t stay in there forever, they sing to me. Tomorrow is another dayeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
Original published July 3, 2011, on tumblr as “¿¡Tu Quieres Guerra!?”.