A few mornings ago, Saffy emerged from her bedroom looking like something a cat might have dragged home at two in the morning. Her hair was a wild mess, her eyes were bloodshot, and she walked like she was dragging 5kg weights on each ankle.
If you were a 20-year-old, the overall look would have been a surefire sign of a fabulously wild night out the night before. But if you’re not, you have to diagnose something else.
“I’ve not slept a wink!” Saffy moaned as she shuffled to the couch and face-planted herself onto the cushions.
At the dining table, Amanda lifted her eyes from the newspaper and stared. “Don’t tell me you bought yourself a new battery-operated toy…” she began.
Saffy’s groan was muffled into the cushion. With a supreme act of core strength, she lifted her head and turned it to the side. “Oh, I wish! No! I was bitten alive by mosquitoes the whole night! I mean, look at my arms and legs!”
Her afflicted appendages twitched on cue but even from where we were sitting, we could see, now that she mentioned it, numerous white lumps scattered all over otherwise pure white skin.
Amanda sucked in her breath. “That’s really gross, Saff!”
“I even turned the air-con up full blast and down to the lowest setting and buried myself under the duvet!” Saffy went on. “But I could still hear them whining about my head and I swear a few of them managed to get under the covers. I was itching and scratching all night!”
“It’s so strange,” Amanda observed, “how you always get bitten and I don’t!”
“I read somewhere that mosquitoes tend to go for people with a certain blood type,” I said. “Type O-plus, maybe? I can’t remember. What’s your blood type, Saff?”
“After last night, I have no blood left!” Saffy announced, already casting herself in the role of the tragic heroine Mina in Dracula in Toa Payoh’. “I’ve been sucked dry!”
When Sharyn heard about Saffy’s nocturnal trauma, she said it was because of the recent monsoon rains. “I hope you don’t get dengue!” she said with all the empathy and sympathy of a harassed mother of three. “Wah, I ever get dengue! Jia lat!”
In the next cubicle, Saffy looked up from her computer. Absent-mindedly, she scratched her forearm and stared at Sharyn. “That is the most horrible thing you could say to someone, Shazz!” she told her best friend. “As if I’m not already literally scarred for life, you’ve now made me paranoid about dengue!”
Sharyn, her face the very image of bo chap, waved her hands. “Aiyoh, you so drama! You won’t die from dengue one lah!”
“Ugh, what am I going to do? I’m scared to sleep now!” Saffy stared grumpily up at the ceiling. “I mean, how do the mosquitoes get into my room in the first place? I have no plants. The windows are always closed. Meanwhile, Amanda and Jason have blemish-free skin. No mosquitoes ever bother them!”
“Your blood is sweeter mah! Like my eldest son. If he in the room and got mosquito, he sure kena! The rest of us are like, got mosquito meh?”
In spite of herself, Saffy was quite taken by the idea that she had sweet blood. After all, if she couldn’t be as rich, tall and Harvard-educated as Amanda, at least she could take comfort in the fact that her blood was alluringly sweet, whilst Amanda’s was, well, blandly tasteless. The fact that the yardstick for this comparison was an annoying, whining blood-sucking insect was neither here nor there.
For the rest of the day, she went around the office telling everyone that she had sweet blood, an announcement she delivered while discretely scratching her arms.
That evening, she came home to find that Amanda had bought her citronella candles and essential oils. “I have also placed open cans of beer in the corners of your room,” she said. “The yeast is supposed to attract the mozzies, and once they get into the can, they can’t get out again and they drown!”
At which Saffy burst into tears. Amanda’s eyes swivelled to me. I shrugged and retreated to the kitchen where I pretended to be busy looking for pasta. In the lounge room, I could near Saffy sniffle loudly.
“That’s just about the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me!” she hiccupped through her tears.
“Seriously, Saff, you need to get a life!
“No, really! I love you so much! Come here, I need to give you a hug. Wait, where are you going? Come back! I need to hug you! Amanda! Oy!”