Sam’s Storybook
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Sam’s Storybook

The Blood Diet

I’m a mosquito, you’re a mosquito, I hate mosquitos

I have mosquito blood. It runs in the family. Matrilineal. They cover me and leave welts that swell the size of softballs.

It can be convenient for others. On one hike through alpine meadows in the Rockies, I was a bug lamp. My friends were free from the buzzing while I bruised my arm smacking them dead. The blood was coming to the surface one way or another.

I once read that mosquitos have a preferred blood type. I don’t know what mine is, but I always mean to ask. It seems like something an adult should know. But drawing blood always makes me nervous, and makes me forget the question.

Some years ago I was sick. I hadn’t eaten in days. And after barely getting by on ice cubes and Pedialyte popsicles, I dragged my nauseous self to campus health. They wanted to take my blood. I said O.K. but that I couldn’t promise I would stay conscious. The nurse gave me Powerade — blue and sticky-sweet. I managed a sip and the missing blood without any embarrassing bodily responses.

They never found anything wrong, and it never really went away. I guess sometimes blood keeps secrets.

I often think about this Radiolab episode on horseshoe crab blood. Their blood is baby blue and used in trials for human medicines. The crabs don’t die when we take their blood. We just grab them from the beach during a full moon, line them up in labs, drain a third of their blood or so, and take them back to the sea.

We use crab blood to save us like I use Deep Woods Off for the mosquitos and Sertraline for the nausea. Never too much of a second thought. Best not to unravel the pitfalls.

The crabs popped into my head again recently when I came across a National Geographic article about how COVID drug and vaccine research is dependent on the blood of these beings that roamed the Earth before dinosaurs.

It’s hard to manage this in my head. I worry about the crabs. But, I mean, I worry about the people too. I don’t worry about the mosquitoes so much, maybe because they have the power. Or maybe just because they’re annoying and I’m itchy.

But it’s weird, right? The whole passing around blood to stay alive thing. Draining to give to another. To figure out what is hiding in it. To take and test. To live.

Human blood drives feel good. An easy way to save someone with consent from the donor. But the blood drive I conduct every summer for mosquitos doesn’t feel good. At best it’s a nuisance, and at worst I scratch open a bite and it gets infected. The fear of making the acquaintance of a mosquito with West Nile gnaws at me constantly.

I guess I can’t blame them, but mostly, I would like for mosquitoes to leave me alone.

I imagine horseshoe crabs must feel the same. I don’t know how they could enjoy their donation. But I also need medicine. My Sertraline is baby blue.

There’s work being done on making synthetic horseshoe crab blood, which I felt for a moment might cure my muddled morals. But as the Radiolab episode noted: Once we don’t need them anymore, that could be bad for the crabs too. Before using them for blood, we crushed them up for fertilizer.

I feel like I’ve been thinking about blood way too much lately. I cut my hand on a broken coffee mug and watched the deep red bloom across my thumb. I’m on edge. I think it’s because of the horror stories from COVID emergency rooms of young people with thick, clotting blood.

I also read too much late at night. The blue glow of my phone draws mosquitoes to my face. They must have slipped in through a hail-cracked screen or a door held open a moment too long. I was mindlessly scrolling the other night when someone retweeted a tweet that read: “Someone (any gender) not wanting kids at all just don’t sit good in my spirit…like you content with your bloodline possibility ending with you?”

The word bloodline is weird. Is my blood only valuable if it belongs to someone else? I wonder if they knew my bloodline continued in mosquitoes, they’d make an exception.

I don’t know why it matters to me. I guess I’ve gotten good at vampirically taking validation from strangers on the internet. I don’t usually feel morally confused about my lack of desire to pass on my mosquito blood.

I wonder if we can break ourselves out of this life-draining cycle of valuing everything by economic contributions. I guess it’s impossible to live within capitalism and not be a vampire, really. Or, actually, maybe vampires are too mythical and romantic. Maybe we’re all really just mosquitoes. Tiny, occasionally deadly, always annoying. So often it feels like we’re just sucking blood from one another ’til someone without the privilege of a nurse handing them Powerade passes out.

But who am I to talk? I’m just a horseshoe crab mosquito coated in poison to keep the actual mosquitos at bay.

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Samantha Harrington

Samantha Harrington

Freelance journo and designer. I write. A lot. Tea obsessed but need coffee to live. Usually dancing- poorly.