Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Nose Knows

I hate my nose.

Not the way it looks, the way it works. It seems to me that at all moments, there is something or other going catastrophically wrong with that organ.

It began in my childhood, with me sleeping on one side, then the other, in order to ensure that I had at least one working nostril. Thus able to partially breathe, I would drift off into a fitful sleep peppered with villainous individuals attempting to smother me with varied objects.

My mother would try to help. She would give me hot, boiling bowls of water, have me l
ean over them, then drape a towel over my head in order to trap the steam and allow me to breathe it.

Bless her, this only made the problem worse. I was forced to gasp like a fish for air as my nose closed further and further off.

I would salvage pillows from all corners of my home, making a kind of ramp for my back and head which would keep me sleeping in a sitting position. For years, I would awake wondering why I could not find the air in my room, only to realize that Mom, in her infinite kindness, had thought I was uncomfortable and had removed the additional pillows.

Later, as time went by, I began treating my allergies with an array of noxious chemicals, none of which had any effect.

I did amateur duct work to prevent heat from entering my room, and had many arguments with Dad about the open window I left in my room in the dead of winter. I was allergic to the dust and mildew in the vents, and the heat kept my nose blocked off completely.

Then I made an excessively expensive purchase of a humidifier, which I used to fill my room with enough humidity to keep my throat from closing off when the heat went on, which would consequently prevent me from sleeping or kill me.

I tried more noxious chemicals. I threw out all my scented belongings, then my mom's, then my dad's. I selected the laundry soap, the dish soap, the candles, the shampoo.

After 22 years of struggling, I finally resorted to the only treatment that yeilded any results, regardless of the consequences. I became a chronic user of nasal spray. I admit I am addicted, but what can be wrong about finally being able to draw an unhindered breath?

All day I have been without this glorious compound, and I am in the worst pain imaginable. I feel like my head is in a vice. I know, that in exactly thirty minutes, I will speed to CVS to get my fix. I will tear open the cardboard, rip away the plastic safety seal, prime the pump, then give myself the sweet relief I long for. Then, breathing deeply, I will drive home.

We have vaccines for polio, smallpox, cures for the plague, treatments for cancer and malaria. Why then, does no one think to create some kind of working solution for people like me, with no relief from chronic allergies?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Places Like This Make Holy People Go Blind

There is a jazz bar near Aimee's house.

This was where we, the cool, the adult, the mature post-college and college students would go on our visit to Michiana. We would have a Night Out. There would be Music. Not just Music, but Jazz.

Aimee, being the kind, sweet, innocent young woman that she is, was concerned.

"Are you sure this will be okay?" she asked for the sixteenth time as we entered her mother's car (her own being far too filled with the Essentials of Commuting to support THREE WHOLE people. If you are a commuter student, you will understand). "I don't want you guys to be uncomfortable..."

We, Jennifer and I, assured her we certainly had seen far worse in Peru alone, nothing else could shock us. We shared horror stories from Miami County, complete with bathrooms too filthy and potentially hazardous for Roman to allow us to enter. Rooms with smoke so thick, one could not find the bar, let alone order, and places where the bartenders needed help knowing what alcohol went into what drink, since they were only ever asked for beer.

Aimee was not consoled.

She was certain this place, Phoenix-something, as she told us, would be nicer than that piano bar, Rumrunners, which had horrified her on her 21st birthday. This place, recommended by her father and several other companions, was bound to be (as she said) "classy."

This was hard for my Aimee. She goes to Bethel. She could be lynched or burned as a witch, for even being seen with Jennifer and I, who by Bethel's standards were so evil that the sun flinched away from us during the daylight and clouds covered the moon when we ventured out that night. So horrible among women that our red-tinted eyes lit the city streets as we...danced.

Bethel is heating the pyre for Aimee.

We have decided to meet at the Skin Pit. Maybe Hell can finally deal with some of our incurable lesions, which some refer to as zits.

The bar had a guy, a nice guy, checking ID when we entered. He was the same age as my father, and a poor excuse for a bouncer. His arms were as skinny as mine, and he looked about as mean as the guy at my church who makes sure to shake everyone's hands before they leave.
He was the best part of that bar. We should have sat by him, talked to him, and gotten to know him, seeing as he was the only part of The Phoenix which was, well, savory. Bless him.
We found a seat in the corner by an old and unused piano. Aimee and Jen began to discuss the wimpyness of Bethel music students. They don't know their keys, can't transpose, and many other things. Aimee reported that she is planning on telling potential employers that she took her music classes at Manchester.

And, Dad, remember? You wanted me to visit Bethel? Apply there?

In your face.

Then the band came out.

This is where things get a little freaky.

This is where the fifty and sixty year old band members take the chair-lift up onto the stage so their hips won't give out, pull up their pants and hold them there as they sing, and begin the music.

The singing prompted my friend Jennifer, who knows the music these men were singing (better, even, than those who were singing it), to being her commentary.

"TOM PETTY!" she would cry at the end of each song, pulled from the late fifties, and sixties. "FREEBIRD!!!!!"

Soon she realized these men had removed their hearing aids before the show and began to simply mutter: "Sing it right..." followed by an outcry of, "IF YOU ARE GOING TO HARMONIZE, DO IT RIGHT!" while screaming in my ear, "HE ISN'T A THIRD ABOVE!"
This meant something to poor Jen.

In the meantime, the drunks had staggered off their bar stools, pushed away their more-sober friends, and waddled out onto the dance floor. While the lead singer used his elbows to secure his pants as he grasped the microphone, my personal hero, Mrs. Mom Jeans, reeled onto the floor.
Now she might have been Ms. Mom Jeans, I don't know.

Either way, she had affection for her partner. Great affection.

Her spindly hands reached, down, down, to her dance partners buttocks. She grasped, and kneaded her target like bread dough, possibly attesting to the age of the man in question and its effect on the elasticity of his skin.

At first I did not realize what I was seeing, thinking that it must have been some kind of optical illusion. But when other inebriated, staggering grandparents drug themselves onto the floor, I knew.

I had a friend. He bent towards me from his table, continuously asking if I could see the stage. He seemed to think that the lead singers profuse sweating had drawn me to this bar, or that I would fall helplessly into drunken admiration with him (impossible, since I had no noxious liquid clenched in my hands).

"Can you see?" he yelled at me, followed by several gestures and mouth movement that may have been an indicator of continued speech.

"What?!" I shouted back.

"Yeah!" he said, then staggered away.

Meanwhile, the throng of dancers was growing. A moderately young woman was on the floor, bumping and grinding in a way that did not befit her rapidly decaying joints. As if the physical contact was not enough to convince her dance partner to take her home with him, now, she began to draw him to her with the allure that only someone with a fifth of Jack Daniels coursing through their bloodstreams can, by prying her shirt from her ample muhoogilas, thrusting them in the direction of her partner, and displaying her camisole, which was not fufilling its duty.

At this point, Aimee had paled. She begged me to tell her if I was offended. I was laughing too hard to answer. My response was only to scrawl on a fragment of notebook paper a sketch of myself, blind, led by my dog on another visit to Aimee's.

Underneath, I wrote carefully, neatly in the half-light: "It's things like this that make holy people go blind."