The power went out again. A loud boom startles me; the thunderstorm rattles the entire building. I’m laying in the darkness on the bottom bunk in a relatively empty shared-dorm room. Each bunk bed is separated by a short wall made of plaster. This wall doesn’t touch the ceiling making it easy to overhear my neighbor smacking her lips and sucking her teeth clean of the debris from the bag of chips she loudly consumed moments before. Now she’s swishing water around her mouth before swallowing loudly and sucking her teeth further. I roll my eyes and bite my tongue. Having to hear the happenings of the inside of someone’s mouth has long been a pet peeve of mine.
The humidity in the room rises quickly without the aid of the air conditioner. Sweat begins to bead on my upper lip. I bring my knee to my chest as I reach down to scratch the top of my foot. I ponder which sight I should prioritize tomorrow, ahead of the scheduled rainfall; Shwedagon Pagoda, the National Museum, Kandawgi Park…The back of my shoulder begins to itch. I reach across my torso to alleviate the irritation and I’m alarmed by what I feel. A cluster of three bites inflamed to the point of joining forces to make one large swollen mass. I glance back down at my foot and notice the same type of swelling happening on the bite I previously itched. I feel a tickle on my hip that quickly becomes an itch…I scratch and sit up.
Looking at my legs my eyes widen. Dozens of raised bumps decorate my skin. I blink rapidly and look around for the culprit. It’s too dark in the room, the electricity a victim of the storm, so I grab my phone and flick upwards on the screen in order to activate the flashlight. I shine the bright light onto the bed near my legs hoping to see a spider or a congregation of happy mosquitoes, but my eyes settle on nothing. The itching sensation springs to life at the base of my butt cheeks, which were pressed firmly into the mattress while I was investigating the bites on my feet. The realization hits me and I spring from the bed, alarmed, like a cat running from water. I scratch the welts now forming on my arse nearly dropping my phone in the scuffle. Scratching with both hands now I leave the bunk entirely and head for the bathroom.
I’m appalled at the reflection of my swollen skin. Chocolate colored marshmallows cover my flesh. I splash them with water and then wash my hands. I don’t touch the towel hanging by the mirror and b-line for the bunk instead. Grateful I hadn’t unpacked anything and that I’d hung my clothes over the curtain rod at the entrance of the small space, I dress in a hurry. I nearly fall down the steep stairway carrying all of my belongings and scratching everywhere. I complain to the receptionist about their infestation and demand a refund. When met with her attempts to placate my decision to leave I stare at her hard and continue scratching. I don’t take my eyes off her until she puts my money on the countertop. I snatch the cash and make my way towards the door.
It’s after midnight and the streets are relatively quiet. A rat scurries behind the dumpster opposite me and I shutter. My skin is on fire, my body aches and my eyes have one desire, to sleep. I dig around my purse for my phone and press my thumb to the home button to unlock the screen. I open maps.me and zoom into the three blocks surrounding my immediate area in search of a hotel. Locating one two and a half blocks over I pivot and begin to waddle down the middle of the road vs the sidewalk area, because rats, ew.