I moved into my Tucson, Arizona, apartment at the start of a sputtering monsoon during which the skies binge-rained, hard, about once a week or so. For short bursts the roads, sidewalks and sometimes even the wash flowed with water that broke the summer’s terrible heat, conjuring vegetable plots and garden parties, inspiring me to plant.
After less than a week, I abandoned my ambitions to the mosquitoes. I ran the swamp cooler instead and watched the dawn through dusty windows. But no matter where I went, the mosquitoes followed, even into the shower. A dark mosquito with feathery antennae and silvery markings, Aedes aegypti is delicate, tentative, its long legs striped black and silvery, its black body spotted white. Aedes aegypti is skittish and fast. I never successfully swatted one, although I did smack myself in the face trying. That was why I hadn’t wanted roommates: so that I could write in peace.
In Tucson, an arid place, the ubiquity of backyard mosquitoes can surprise newcomers who have not learned the city’s ecology. Here in the Borderlands, human history—some human history, anyway—can be everywhere and nowhere at once, shaping the land but erased from memory. But current ecology bears witness to the past, even in the form of bloodthirsty insects. Aedes aegypti, those tiny torments, thrive anywhere they find water: in the detritus of pool parties; road trash; stomping puddles; effusive gardening intentions. In Tucson, Aedes aegypti tell stories revealing that the most persistent-seeming boundaries—between urban and wild; trammeled and not; between bodies, countries, continents—are permeable after all.