“You’re lucky,” said my friend with who lives in Milan. “We had hundreds of flying ants just before you arrived. They come every year.”
“Do they bite?” I asked.
“No,” she said.
“Then I would prefer them to the mosquitos,” I said. “How many bites did you have on your legs yesterday?”
“Exactly sixteen on each leg,” my friend told me stoically. “I counted them.”
“Very fair of the mosquitos,” I said.
“Thirty-two is thirty two too many,” she told me. She did not have to tell me. We were eating breakfast outdoors again.
I have never understood why people eat outdoors. Especially in the UK. Buying barbecues so they can eat outdoors in the UK: what is that all about? The food gets cold, the flies deposit picked-up dog shit on your food and birds circle menacingly. It is ridiculous.
Even in Milan in 84F temperatures it is not a good idea. The flies come to the food equally dirtied as if they were in England and, the last two days, the few mosquitos who did not bite me on the first day got up early to have a go at me over breakfast… and stayed up late.
My arms are a mess. Why did god create Italian mosquitos? It is bad enough he created Luchino Visconti films.
There is now a vivid circle on the edge of my right hand – dark red, as if the blood beneath the skin has been polluted by some Satanic creature.
“That’s not a mosquito bite,” my friend said, trying to reassure me.
It did not reassure me. What other blood-obsessed creatures are attacking me?
“I want to get an owl,” my friend said.
“Do they eat mosquitos?” I asked.
She ignored me. “The authorities look into it and bring an appropriate nest,” she explained.
I think she said that. My mind was elsewhere. I was thinking about the mosquitos.
“They will carry off small children and domestic pets,” I said.
My friend looked at me.
“Owls,” I stated glumly.
Later in the day, my friend bought me a hat with protective gauze. I think it was a joke. It may not have been.
In the evening, she told me: “The flying ants have come back. I think they come through the walls.”
It was not a reassuring thing to tell me.