Insect on leaf, location unknown, August 4, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Sudha Surendran via Scopio, St George News
FEATURE – Sitting in discomfort. I’m doing that right now. But what I really want to do is scratch the itchy tingling that’s dancing around both of my ankles. Forty-four cotton swab-sized lumps dot the flesh exposed by my three-quarter length leggings. Small blood sacs have formed in their center, which look like a mini donut.
I don’t even have the worst of it. One of my boys has one hundred and fifty nine bites on his front and back legs. We counted this afternoon. My friend’s 16-year-old girl has so many we can’t count—the multiple bites have turned from her ankles to her buttocks into a connected landscape of angry red welts.
We’re not sure if the welts are due to her unintentional itch or an allergic reaction to the biting Belize fly. But we’re sure the sheer number of bites has something to do with her wearing a bikini in the jungle.
She had clothes. pants even. But eventually on the 1.8-mile trek through the sloppy jungle trails, over the sprawling buttresses of tree roots and the boulder-laden steps with crude rope aids anchored between tall trees, she took them off.
We climbed through the jungle to Antelope Waterfall with the intention of repelling it with our guides, which we did, which explains the swimsuit as a relevant piece of clothing. It just shouldn’t have been the only piece of clothing in her case. Hindsight is what it is and all.
But even the rest of us, dressed in various forms of appropriate clothing, were still heavily attacked. And we’re all suffering like royalty now.
The common name of the culprit is the bottomless fly. Its scientific name is Simuliidae. But whatever you call it, it’s an annoying little bloodsucker whose small stature doesn’t prepare you for the pain it causes.
We met hundreds of these bottomless flies yesterday in the Belize jungle at a place called Bocawina. The name, half Spanish and half Mayan, meaning grimace, didn’t help prepare us for the bugs that awaited us either.
Mayflower Bocawina National Park always fails in the rainy season, especially now in the wake of the powerful hurricanes that have made their way through the Caribbean. Weeks later, within the park’s confines, the waterfalls are torrents, the jungle trees and trails gurgle with wetness, and the bottomless flies are in a truly exquisite Renaissance period.
Or at least they were for our party of eight yesterday afternoon.
In her book Rising Strong, Brené Brown says, “Our instinct is to run away from pain. In fact, most of us have never been taught how to bear, come to terms with, or communicate a discomfort, only how to discharge it or put it down or pretend it’s not happening.”
Yes that. Exactly.
I know Brené meant emotional pain, but that’s what I want to do with the physical pain that’s currently screaming at me from my ankles: I want to dump it, dump it, and pretend it’s not happening. But most of all I want to itch. I want to scratch and dig and scratch until the nagging itch goes away.
The thing about bottomless fly bites itching, though, is that it only gets worse if you try to discharge it. It oozes and reddens and swells. And I swear it’s multiplying too.
My dear friend and I, she about as bitten as me from the previous day’s adventures, don’t know this yet as we try to sit across from each other on the couch with the discomfort in the wee hours of the morning, but the bites are only getting worse .
They will redden and harden and swell so that our ankles, especially mine, will disappear by nightfall. They will hurt and fit and require being scratched all day. While we clean up breakfast. While we prepare lunch for the seven hungry children. While we clean up lunch. As we drive the flimsy golf cart into town to get some cash. As we help with a variety of schoolwork through Canvas. When we all ride together later at sunset.
The bites stay. The discomfort will remain. But eventually it will pass.
And so we continue to sit in the uneasiness, determined not to scratch ourselves, determined to learn a little better how to stay in it, and determined never again to let her daughter wear a red bikini in the Belizean jungle.
Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News. All opinions expressed are their own and are not representative of St. George News staff or management.
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