NEXT  >>>
 Remember me? It’s pollen. Spring’s here, and I’m going to careen into your life like the Cat in the Hat—no warrant, only a giant shedding feline sprawled on the couch spreading a billion airborne irritants.  
 It’s sad because spring is supposed to be happy. You open your eyes to the wonder of new growth, and you brim with joy. No more winter. No more cold. No more staving off the wolves with a dull stick while your fire dribbles to ashen waste behind you. No more will you cower, lank, shivering, brooding over the fact that it’s early February, and there’s still a month and a half of this shit.   
 But I’m here, billions of floating plant sperm ready to take that happiness and squash it. Your sinuses fill. Your nose runs. Your eyes turn into leaky reservoirs that burst at inopportune times, making you look like a meth addict about to paw random people for spare change.
 Occasionally, my buddy Wind will get involved, ratcheting this thing up from really bad to a complete shit storm. It will be as if someone is blowing a gigantic pile of crushed leaves into your face. One moment you will be fine. The next, every part of your face will liquefy, and you will run sobbing to the bathroom.
 I am like a fly who has singled you out as the person most likely to capitulate to its whims and start screaming. You’ll start off nonchalant, collected, calm—but this is only because you haven’t been pushed enough. Within thirty seconds, you will ask: Is there something wrong with me? Do I smell bad or what? Is it the shampoo I use?
 As time progresses, you will be reduced to the psychotic mess of someone forced to watch Carl’s Jr. commercials for three hours straight. Rage, sadness, loss of the will to live… an inevitable progression brought to you by nature’s little miracle.  
 Soon, you’ll be watching TV and chance upon an allergy medication commercial, something with a name that brings to mind cruel animal experiments: Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra. You’ll stuff them down, despite the warnings of a nuclear weapon facility on the side. “May eat away bone marrow.” “May cause hallucinations of small green men peeing on you.” “The devil may appear and require the sacrifice of your first-born son.”
 Whatever. You’re under duress. You need to leave the room without immediately breaking out in hives. You need to use your eyes without producing enough tears to rehydrate California. And if little James has to go, then hail Satan, haul out the barbeque and let’s do this thing.
 Ha! Your ignorance is topped only by your Kleenex supply. The drugs promise clarity, but they only take advantage of someone who will do anything to be normal again. Like terrorists holding hostages, all they need is one small payment to get your health back. But once they realize you will capitulate, it becomes as many weekly payments as it takes to beat nature. It’s a slippery slope indeed—probably with a lot of ragweed, dandelions, sagebrush, grass, and flowering shrubs to fall into on the way down too.  
 Everyone else, on the other hand, will be fine. When you swab the volatile snot dam with bunches of toilet paper, they raise their eyebrows and think, Jesus, what is wrong with you? They are whole, made to smile in health insurance brochures. They can shake hands without a thought, not worrying whether the last bout of nose running has left a massive loogie hiding somewhere in their palm.
 They offer disinterested anecdotes on how to fix your problems, but none of it makes sense, like an uncle who used gene therapy or replaced his nose with a cone or something. They go on and on and on, and all you can think is, Why are these little green men peeing on me?
 Someday you will be free of me—winter actually. By that time, a cold, lifeless planet will seem really, really nice. No plants, no trees, a clear, allergy-free wind whipping through every layer of clothing. Yep, just can’t wait for winter. 
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