The itch


The bugs have been biting my legs since I got to Brisbane. I douse myself in insect repellent, swat them away, slap them, swear at them, beg them to stop, but still they bite. I wake up in the morning with little red welts peppering my legs.


There is frangipani in the garden, a forest of bamboo and a possum that likes roast potato. Each night, it climbs down from the trees and sits next to the porch railing, playing chicken with Murphy the cat and waiting for scraps.


Being social is an effort, even with people I know very well. Even with people I love. What I want has nothing to do with it; after awhile, of their own accord, my body and my brain begin to rebel.


Out on the Moil River, near Peppimenarti, the mosquitoes are particularly nasty. They carry brain fever and disease, as well as a brutal itch. They breed in the swamp, sharing the mud, reeds and lilies with the barramundi that were hiding from our fishing lines and a huge saltwater crocodile. You can?t stay out there after sunset. At dusk, the mosquitoes swarm. At night, they eat you alive.


There was a time when I couldn?t say no to lovers. No, I don?t want to share your bed tonight. I can?t sleep before 3am and I?d rather spend those blank hours writing. No, I don?t want to spend half my day trying to study while you pretend this is a functional space. I can?t concentrate on raw philosophy when all you really want to do is send your hand creeping up my leg. I require solitude. I require my own space. I require a door that closes and locks from the inside. Five hundred a year and a room of one?s own. And I want and I need and I crave to write.


The difference is what gives.