When I was a kid I got a cold every summer. We would affectionately refer to it as a “Cody Cold,” as if this were an illness specific to me, registered trademark and all. It wasn’t a traumatic illness in any way, no ebola-bleeding-from-my-pores issues here. My nose leaked, my eyes watered, I mustered through. It typically lasted a few weeks, coming and going throughout the summer. One day I’d wake up and have to blow my nose. “Do you have a Cody Cold?” my Mom would ask, reaching for the medicine cabinet. I’d shrug. Illness – whatever. I didn’t give a shit.
Years passed. Sometime in college I was struck by a Cody Cold at the onset of spring. Others too appeared to have my branded illness. Runny nose and eyes, general grumpiness, a desperate need for a tissue only when one isn’t handy. “Allergies,” these people explained. “Probably hayweed. Or rag pollen.” I forget the culprit – all I remember is the shock I felt knowing that maybe I wasn’t alone, that maybe “Cody Colds” were actually a symptom of a much larger, much more widespread biological ailment. Perhaps I didn’t have a cold at all, trademarked version or not. Maybe I just had allergies.
Aging, it seems, does not improve allergies. Since college, I’ve hurtled deeper and deeper into this rabbit hole of allergic reactions, each year worse than the one before. Just as the grass turns green, the trees pop out buds, flowers begin to bloom majestically – I hock up a bolus of snot the size of a softball. And while nature produces spring slowly, gently, I produce snot like an untethered firehouse, my nose leaking fluids at a pace that must cause issues with my internal water table. Sometimes, as I drink a glass of water I wonder if it’s that same water that’s coming out of my eyes. All those tubes are connected, I think, maybe instead of going down my throat, the water is simply traveling into my nasal cavity and out my tear ducts. I miss the days of Cody Colds, when I could simply say “Whatever” and power through. These allergies make me feel like the Kool-Aid man is trying to burst out of my skull.
Imagine for a moment, if you will, your typical evening. Say, 9:30 PM. You’re settled comfortably in front of the television or computer monitor, pants long since doffed, jaw slack as a deflated balloon. Relaxed, essentially. Pudding. Suddenly, a man shaped like a squeezed tube of toothpaste bursts into the room and jams his enormous, sand-covered thumbs into your eyes. “Oh shit!” you yell. Desperately, you claw your way out of his grasp and scramble to the bathroom, knocking over chairs and appliances along the way. In the bathroom, you rip the door off the medicine cabinet and grab the lone tiny bottle of Visine, received as a thoughtful Christmas present that you never expected to use. Leaning back against the sink, you squeeze the bottle into your eye – one drop, two, three. Your face is soaked. How the fuck does anyone do this. Meanwhile, the big man gets a thumb back in your other eye, his coarse, sandy fingernail scraping at the cornea. Where the hell is one of those chemical lab industrial eye cleaners when you need it? Visine isn’t cutting it – it’s possible nothing will cut it beyond digging your eyes out with a spoon. I do have spoons, you realize, somewhat crazily.
Around about 10 PM, the big man leaves. You look in the mirror, curious to see what’s left of your face. Where once were eyes there are now two pairs of big, red lips. It would be gross if they weren’t so sensuous and alluring.
This happens every night, by the way. Until winter.