Ganta – 09 Oct 2011

Morning – it’s hard to muster words for last night. The stifling, airless heat, radiating up from the floor, in from the walls. The plastic free-standing fan sparking and balking, in a pathetic and ineffectual attempt to provide any breeze. A forgotten TV crackling talk show nonsense somewhere down the hall while an argument erupts from the street below. The sound of diesel generators masks everything else.

I’ve pulled the curtain away from the window to give the fan what little assistance I can. I’m not worried about mosquitoes coming in through the gaping holes in the screen, but the mice worry me; I keep startling at the imagined sound of something scraping on the grate.

The mosquito net is a mess; I’ve jury rigged it in a way that generally seals the bed, but it lays low across my waist; I’ve got to keep my legs under the blanket or they’ll be easy prey. Every movement snags the net and pulls it down closer to my face; it catches as I roll over, bringing the not-quite-large enough bedsheet up with it. I wake – realizing that I’ve been asleep for at least a little – curled in a ball with my face against the bare mattress. I was dreaming of a vortex pulling me down into darkness, with spiders and mice nipping at my fingers. I roll, carefully onto my back; I don’t want to think about what’s on that mattress. There’s a stinging sensation on the back of my hands; no dream there – I’ve been bitten by some sort of insect. My feet too. My head is pounding in the darkness, I’m sweating and short of breath. Hypochondria sets in: heart attack? I’m toast if it is. Malaria? Plausible. Anxiety attack? More likely. Dehydration? Let’s try that one first.

I’ve tucked my water bottle under the net, so it’s easy to test the dehydration hypothesis. But there’s no room to sit up, so I choke and cough as the water comes down the back of my throught. Still, the remedy is obvious. I drain the bottle and ponder fighting my way out of the netting to refill it for more. The liter I’ve just downed has given me a glimmer of hope that I’ll make it through the night. I illuminate my watch: 11:30 p.m. – seven more hours, then three more days. I wonder if, just maybe, a heart attack would have been more merciful.

[Again, a reminder: these posts are all one week old, and I’m putting them up in sequence, roughly corresponding to when they were written, to give a feel for my time in Liberia as it happened.]

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