by Sharon Glantz
Sharon has experience as a writer, manager
She especially enjoys cross-venue projects. Her current projects include:
I dragged my headachy groggy body out of bed. On the way to the bathroom, I glanced out the window. The frost left only a small circle through which I could see the icy street. I shivered, even though the air was moist and warm from the vaporizer. The only thing worse than snow is ice. I longed for the heat of summer.
The bathroom mirror reflected the tell-tale puffiness of still yet another sinus infection that no amount of make-up could hide. This would be my third in a year. I was so tried of being sick, I wanted to die. Not really, but I felt like I was sleeping my life away. Blowing a rainbow of colors into a tissue, I moved beyond despair, beyond rage, into a sneezing fit and presto -- it all came back to me.
It's not like I planned on forgetting. Weird stuff hardly ever happens to me. But then again, maybe everyone in denial says that. A year ago today, a conscious neuropeptide in my body found a way to talk to me on my cellular phone. Talk about weird. I remember I tried to listen to what it had to say, but when I finally got healthy, it was easier to attribute the weirdness to a raging feverish flu. Those three conversations refused to take root in my conscious mind, making it easy to deny the existence of this talking cell -- or whatever it called itself -- during its silence. And who wouldn't deny such weirdness?
As I tried to relieve the pressure in my nasal cavities by breathing the same steam that fogged the mirror, I wondered how long had it been since I paid any attention to my sneezes. I did remember that neuropeptide told me it would use sneezes to communicate after I replaced the dead battery in my cell phone and conversation ceased. It said something about how it had to match the right time with the right frequency.
The shock of memory gave me pause, but no relief. Sinus infections are relentless. I'd already tried every supposed cure possible, both conventional and not-so-conventional -- antibiotics, nasal sprays, herbs, acupuncture, naturopathy, home remedies, prayer. But still I got sick. Not that I was so sick I couldn't function. No, that would be too easy. I was just sick enough to feel lousy and antisocial. Not that I found being antisocial such a bad thing. If I reached past another layer of denial, I would have to admit the sinus infections were a convenient way to hide away in my apartment.
Through the dewy surface of the mirror, I saw my eyes widen and fill with tears. What did I do to deserve such a chronic condition for which there was no relief? The only thing worse than feeling yourself suffer is watching yourself suffer. I made a deep growling sound in my throat and let it turn into a scream, thankful my neighbors went to work in the wee hours. Self-pity sucks.
I did my morning routine, grabbed my mug of hot coffee, inhaled more steam, locked the front door of my apartment and got into my car. I opened my daybook and set it on the seat next to my cell phone. In my morning daze, I could have sworn the cell phone looked at me accusingly for forgetting its importance in my life. To shake off these absurd thoughts, I started the car.
Unlike me, the motor purred happily. I bought a new car every other year because I practically lived on the road. Made for an excellent tax write off. This year I drove a canary yellow Saturn. It was my favorite car so far. I tried not to think about the sublime selling techniques used to sell these cars. Selling should be an opportunity to pit one's wits against a client, take them farther than they ever planned to go. Making a sale should feel like a victory, a conquest, the proof that one's will has prevailed. The sales people at Saturn required no skill to make this sale. Any idiot could have done it.
As I pulled out of the parking lot of the humongous complex I called home, I pasted a smile on my face. I was now ready to sell my little heart out. I reached into the back seat for the materials I needed for my first appointment. My back seat was a cross between a file cabinet and an office supply room. Each catalogue and order form was clearly labeled. My customers gloried in my speed at ordering and delivering souvenirs, chachkas, thingees and other provocative junk for their gift boutiques, gas station shoppees or other such retail outlets.
My continually foggy brain challenged my ability to juggle the many customers I needed to cram into a day to assure that my profit margin supported my lifestyle. Today would be no better. The rear view mirror revealed the dark circles under the puffiness and a green-tinted pallor that would not add to my charm. The headache brought my eyebrows together into a permanent frown no matter how many teeth I displayed. I was beginning to look as bad as I felt. This was not good. My grim thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of my cell phone.
"Amy's Gift Distribution, this is Amy," I said into the phone. I was more relieved than I cared to admit that the call was from a client, not a cell. Better yet, my 11 o'clock canceled. Lucky me.
As I waved goodbye to my 10 o'clock, happily carrying off a bigger order than usual that justified my joy at having three hours of freedom, I flung my phone. I wanted to believe it was an accident, but observation of my own reflexes told me otherwise. Maybe I was mad at the phone. I pushed the thoughts away that could easily follow, picked up the phone and checked its status. Fortunately, it landed on the grass and didn't seem the worse for it.
I drove to a heavily wooded park and hid my car amidst the old growth trees. The misty rain had melted the morning ice, but I still had the chills. When I first started taking midday naps, I insisted on being at home. But the Xmas season made demands of distance and I learned to sleep in parks and rest stops. When the car's heater finally warmed me down to the bone, it made me drowsy.
The ringing of my phone jolted me out of a dreamless sleep. "Hello?" I said into the phone. I'd been in such a deep slumber, I forgot where and when I was.
"Sorry to wake you."
"You didn't wake me." Never 'fess up to naps in the middle of the day. Customers don't like to think you ever sleep.
"You were sleeping very deeply, this I know to be true. But the minute you remembered me, I knew I finally got the right frequency." The voice was familiar, but I couldn't place it. "Remember me?" My heart leapt into my throat as denial turned into recognition. "Did I scare you?"
"Of course not," I said.
"You can't lie to me. I have a contract with neurons in your brain and others in your cardiovascular system who tell me everything. We neuropeptides make many friends. Nor can you pretend I don't exist, much as you have tried."
"Then why did you ask?," I snapped. "I'm sorry. But I thought maybe I was so sick last year, I made you up. Please don't hate me."
"Hate you? Do you hate God?"
"Sometimes." I knew what the neuropeptide -- whatever that was -- really meant, but I was in the mood to be difficult.
"Bad example. I hoped a metaphor might encourage you to remember me in a better light, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's hopeless."
"I'm sorry," I said. "It's just that--"
"You don't feel good. You think I don't know that? Why do you think I called you out of a dead sleep?"
"Does that mean you can heal me?," I said. My headache had reemerged and my stomach was growling.
"Just because I'm conscious doesn't mean I'm some kind of grand master. You're no better than the other ninety-nine percent of the cells in your body who want to follow me as though I were some kind of guru. I may not be prescient, but I can tell you that if you don't eat soon, you'll feel even worse than you do now. That's why you're getting that headache. Eat." I grabbed my lunch and ate my sandwich.
"What can I call you? Maybe if I had a name or something --"
"You wouldn't pretend I never talked to you? Fine. Call me, ah, Mike."
"Mike? No that won't work."
"Mike is the name of my ex-boyfriend."
"You remember him."
"Why are you being so mean?
"I'm not. I'm angry. I have a thing about being ignored."
"I have the same thing."
"Why don't I call you Peppy?"
"Sounds like the name of a small neurotic dog."
"You know about dogs?"
"I told you -- I have a contract with some of the neurons in your brain. They know all sorts of things. They're not as good as I am about seeing the big picture, but they are some of the few who tolerate me and my opinions."
"Peppy, can I ask you a stupid question?"
"Please do. I love stupidity."
"What exactly is a neuropeptide?"
"I was born from a neuron, secreted into being that time you saved some dog after it got hit by a car, carrying it home and tending its foot. You laid your hands on its foot and said a bunch of words. It got to its feet and ran off. The other neurons told me the dog had been stunned rather than hurt, but in your mind, you healed it. Your faith and belief resulted in me. I have 36 amino acids and reside in your central nervous system."
"Wow. I remember that. But you didn't die when I figured out the truth of the situation?" I always harbored that memory with great fondness.
"You may have come to a different conclusion intellectually, but emotionally, you believe you were responsible for the dog's healing."
"And why shouldn't I? You have a contract with these other neurons? What does that mean?" I asked with my mouth full.
"I'd be crazy without them even if I do scare them a bit. The contract we have is something like your marriage contracts. They're part of my -- best word I can come up with is tribe. Yeah, that's it. They're part of my tribe."
"And you hold tribal councils at your local organ?" I laughed at my own joke, spitting food into the phone and onto the dashboard.
"As a matter of fact we do."
"So there's the circulatory tribe, the digestive tribe, and you're the neurological tribe. What's so funny?" I wasn't laughing but I couldn't help but share the pleasure.
"You're way off. Our tribes are collections of neurons from many different systems within your body. We send amino acids to the organs for meetings. Our leaders -- what you would identify as proteins -- do the scheduling and coordinating."
"This is too weird." Food was helping me think clearly and under the circumstances, I wasn't so sure that was a good thing.
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