Thursday, September 06, 2012

Allergic reaction

I'm feeling quite sorry for myself. We visited my wife's cousin today, who lives in a house with three cats, two dogs (one small, the other a pony-sized Great Dane), three children, and thus a cloud of hair, dust and dander that could block out the moon. We stayed for two hours, of which I spent one hour and fifty-nine minutes sneezing, my eyes streaming, my throat burning, until finally everyone had enough of laughing at my reaction and we drove back to Halifax. My eyes are still red raw now and I'm draining through my nose, which suggests whatever I'm reacting to is going to take as long to get back out as it took to go in.

It wasn't always thus. I visited the same family last year with no more ill-effects than the Great Dane thwacking me in the nuts with its tail. Then, too, I seem to remember everyone laughing at my discomfort. I worry that this is a leitmotif of my existence: I have some needless pain, and people laugh at me.

We drove back, stopping occasionally to buy more tissues as I used up all the available supplies we had. Halifax and the area around it is very, very dark. You wonder where the people are hiding, but then you remember that there aren't so very many people out here, and it's not that they're hiding. They're just not there at all.

Earlier in the day, searching for the giant ball of dander, we got lost, and drove around for an hour, stopping every fifteen minutes to get directions. First, we had a woman in a bong shop in the middle of nowhere who gav us the right instructions, but with such an air of cluelessness that we didn't trust her and went in the wrong direction.

Then we stopped at a gas station and asked there. A man volunteered directions, but since we'd already fallen afoul of somebody telling us 'turn left at the community centre' (the Nova Scotia equivalent of somebody in Hong Kong telling you to 'look out for the Starbucks by the 7-11') we insisted that he drew us a map.

He got out a bit of paper and a pen, drew an oblong and a wavy line near it, babbled some nonsense about a fruit stand and a memorial, and we ran back to the car, worried it would be some sort of redneck cliche if we hung around any longer.

Now a fruit stand is usually a man stuck by the side of the road selling windblown berries, laced with carbon monoxide. We didn't see any evidence of this in rural Nova Scotia, but when we stopped at a decent sized farm shop to ask directions again, we discovered that this did in fact constitute a fruit stand (it was standing up, it had fruit in it) and we'd been going in the right direction all this time.

And so it proceeded for another twenty minutes, as it turned out we weren't limited by being lost, but by our own lack of faith. I imagine there's a Calvinist interpretation of this, as well as a Catholic one. Or any religious denomination you care to pick. We are all miserable sinners, but we're going in the right direction.

And then we're going to sneeze a lot.

I won't get a job writing parables on that basis, will I?


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