This morning I stood in the kitchen, lost in a dense fog between the sink and the coffee maker. Long slow 360-degree stare around the kitchen, eyes wary, squinting, suspicious of this stupor, this room, my strange presence in the middle of it. It took half a minute to fight my way to the surface and remember I can’t make coffee without water. Oh yeah. WATER. The coffee was already in the filter, waiting, and somehow I lost the next step. You can imagine how impressive I was behind the wheel of a car an hour later. In truth, the fog does lift, and I actually earn my paycheck by the time I get to work.
This is not early Alzheimer’s, sleep deprivation, or a hangover. It’s allergy-head.
If you want to know how it feels to have allergies, which is a little like asking if you’d like to sample poison ivy, imagine those blow-up clowns with the weighted rounded bottoms that weeble wobble back and forth when they get punched in their weird plastic faces. You are the clown. You FEEL like a clown. Complete with the big fat nose, the swollen face, head full of air, and absolutely no capacity to escape being punched over and over in the eyes, the chest, even the back of your misshapen floaty head. You only get to bounce a little, lean forward or back like a drunken sailor, and come back up again for another round. THAT is what pollen season will do to a person.
Not that I’m complaining. Allergies are manageable in all sorts of ways. I understand why animals seek mud holes, go underground, and play dead. We all have our ways of coping. I will run again soon, when my lungs don’t sound like screen doors swinging back and forth on rusty hinges. I can live without red wine for now; I’m somewhere between feeling the break is nice and absence makes the heart grow fonder. And thankfully the feds haven’t flagged my driver’s license for buying too much Zyrtec D. Yet. I’m grateful I don’t have back pain or acid reflux or jumpy legs or Tourette’s. Any number of other chronic situations would be much harder to handle. Allergies are predominantly annoying. And stupid-making. It’s humbling to be stupid though, and the pauses it forces while I try to remember what I’m doing help me see things I’ve been overlooking. I found my insurance cards, some cash, and a half-dozen cobwebs while I was gazing around, trying to figure out how to make coffee.
Allergies are also temporary. I know it’s dark to think this way, but I often tell myself after the 15th sneeze in a row when I can’t see through the film on my contacts and any exposed skin is red and bumpy, that blindness is forever. Cancer is the real deal. I still have two hands and two feet, though I can’t remember what they’re for exactly. Temporary incapacitation is a small price to pay for the life I have, the pollen-sticky dogs and timothy grass-stained horse I love, for the contaminated house and yellow-dusted forest I come home to every day right now. Soon the sun will wither the landscape into golds and browns, the trees and grasses will no longer billow tiny toxins into my atmosphere, and I will breathe and see and think again. So what if my allergy-head itches and I can’t hear? Everybody loves a clown. I think there’s a song about it – if I could just for the life of me remember how it goes.