Wish You Were Here: It’s Not COVID, It’s the Trees

photo: Pixabay/Mojpe

Allergies, they’re nothing to sneeze at.

It’s 2 a.m. and I’m in the bathroom, puking my guts out and when I say puking, I mean puking. My eyes water, I wheeze, I hack up a lung and everything I ate post dinner and still it’s far from over.

There are many good reasons to puke — watermelon margaritas, strawberry mojitos, those little rum numbers with the pineapple and orange I can never remember the name of — all worth getting to know the inside of your toilet a little better.

Braving a boat, any boat, in any water in pursuit of some remote island away from anyone asking you to wipe their tush, hold their boogers or cut sandwich bread into small triangles for them — worth it.

But allergies? Let’s just say, the jury’s still out.

Finally, I go into our bedroom and drag the 4-foot x (honestly, I have no idea the configurations) area rug into the hallway, roll it into a plastic storage bag and haul it up to the attic, convinced the dust is to blame.

If Jon saw me doing this, it might be the end for us.

So I guess in retrospect, it’s a good thing my husband can sleep through my late-night allergy attacks, carpet relocations and three-quarters of When Harry Met Sally because I’ve officially reached a new level of insanity/neuroses/allergy culprit speculation.

I knew this day would come. On some level, I knew that it was only a matter of time before Fall arrived and I started body bagging floor coverings and buying air purifiers; before I started dreaming of hermetically sealed homes the way other women my age dream of Chris Hemsworth; assuring anyone within six feet that I was COVID-free and Hay Fever-full.

I knew there was a line and that it was thin, a slope, slippery and that before I knew it, I’d be sleeping with those breathe better strips on my nose, in an upright position, spooning a bottle of Nyquil, but somehow I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.

“I promise I don’t have COVID,” I told Brinna the next morning, schlepping into her (Olympic-size swimming pool of a) living room.

“That’s why I cut them all down. I hate trees. They’re so… leafy,” Brinna said, looking like she just emerged from ten days in the Tahitian sun.

“It’s not the trees. It’s the pollen and the… dust and… mold and.. why can’t I ever find a tissue in this house?” I replied, plopping into a chair that easily cost more than my college education. “I’m so sick of being sick. Do you think I’m a hypochondriac?”

“Don’t make me answer that,” she retorted, handing me a glass of something sinful.

“It’s nine in the morning.”

“The early bird gets the Tequila. Drink up, my friend.”

“You’re not actually supposed to swallow the worm, right? I mean, it’s like a bay leaf, isn’t it?”

Someone knocked at the door.

“Wait. Why can’t you eat bay leaves? I’ve been eating bay leaves for years…”

The Tequila went down the wrong pipe and I started coughing and isn’t it always when you’re coughing like that that people ask, “Are you okay?” and no matter how much you nod or give them a thumbs up or sit there with some mixed drink pouring out of your nose like Niagra Falls, they just keep at it because they think you’re choking and maybe I’m way off base on this but isn’t choking (like drowning) sort of a silent activity?

A sweaty-looking man came in then, carrying a large roll of something over his shoulder. He asked me if I was all right while I coughed and coughed and coughed some more. “Do you have COVID?” he asked. “I had it… three times already… you got the shot, right?”

I nodded.

“You got the second one?”

Thumbs up.

“How about the booster?”

I wave my hand as if to say, All good! but still, he persisted.

“You’re sure you’re alright?”

I nodded again, excusing myself to the bathroom but they followed me. “Don’t close the door,” Brinna called after me, catching the handle. “Just in case.”

“She’s right,” Roll of Something Sweaty Man said. “That’s how it happens. One minute you’re eating a piece of steak and the next minute, you’re a slab of meat, chillin’ in a morgue somewhere… it happened to my cousin’s husband’s nephew’s neighbor out in… Michigan? I gotta tell ya, I can’t remember.”

He plopped down the roll and wiped the sweat from his brow. “You really ought to get tested.”

I blew my nose, while Brinna stood there supervising. “I tested.”

“Did you test a second time?” Brinna watched me, attempting a brow furrow but the Botox won out.

I nodded. “I did.”

“How about the expiration date?” Sweaty Man chimed in. “These things don’t last forever, you know. Did you check to make sure it wasn’t expired?”

“That’s a good point, Les. Did you check it? You know you’re not good with those kinds of things,” Brinna said, starting to disinfect everything I’ve come into contact with.

“What kinds of things?”

“You know… expiration dates, appointment times, remembering to put your car into park before you get out of it.”

“Oh…crap,” I said, rushing to the front door.

She trailed behind me, holding her shirt over her nose now. “You did it again, didn’t you?”

“Maybe.”

“See… this is exactly what I was telling Paul the other day…”

“Who’s Paul?”

“Right here,” Sweaty Man called from the next room.

“You can’t just presume things, Les. Because you know what they say about presuming…don’t you?”

I coughed again.

“It makes an ass out of you and me.”

“I don’t think that’s correct.”

“Go home, Les. Get some rest. Tell Jon and the kid… kids? Are there more than one? Anyway, give everyone our love!”

The door slammed behind me. “But I don’t have COVID,” I yelled. “You can’t get COVID from trees or carpeting… just like you didn’t get crabs from Harry Albright’s hot tub senior year after homecoming!”

I suddenly became distinctly aware of someone watching me. “Good morning, Mrs. Burns. So nice to see you looking well and oh…” I said, hustling toward my car. “Look at the time! Gotta get home to the kids!” I said, before sneezing once, twice, three times.

“COVID?” she asked.

“Allergies.”

“You got those from a hot tub, too?”

“Have a good morning, Mrs. Burns.”

I hopped into my car, put it quickly in reverse and started out the driveway but then I saw her chasing after me. “You all right?” For an old woman, she sure can sprint.

She caught my arm as I opened the window. “Take a test! When you get home. Take a test and listen… be sure to check the expiration.” She leaned in then, looked around, lowering her voice so it was barely audible. “You know, I had crabs once. Nasty things. Back in the army, I was a nurse and you know what happened was… ”

I started coughing, loudly and violently. She backed away, her tawdry tale of red, white and blue love in the afternoon thankfully interrupted by my unexpected expectorating. God bless me (and my allergies.)

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.