I’ve been reading a lot of Hyperbole and a Half lately; my apologies for completely ripping off her style for this. My story isn’t nearly as hilarious or as awesome-tastically illustrated, but it’s the interwebz and I am thus encouraged to post whatever’s on my mind for full public knowledge. BE AFRAID.
In grade school, I was obsessed with tragic heroines. Like Anne Shirley of the Green Gables, I swooned at stories of young ladies struck down in their youth by consumption, unrequited love, or similar afflictions. I was certain that I, being similarly pale of skin and of delicate construction, would also no doubt find some appropriately gothic end before the tender age of nineteen.
I was convinced that my end had come one hot, particularly non-gothic San Antonio summer afternoon. I had been helping my parents Diazinon our lawn, a ritual particular to Southern summers, during which fire ants rule mercilessly. We were particularly adamant in our desire to stamp out these pests, as I was fairly allergic to fire ants, having spent a week on crutches–crutches!–in fourth grade due to a few ant bites on my feet. (Hrm. Perhaps my assessment of my delicate constitution wasn’t entirely unfounded.)
Being a peculiarly paranoid child, I dutifully read all the scary warning labels on the pesticide. And all the potential side effects one might expect, might one ingest some of said pesticide. Despite this, I forgot to immediately wash my hands upon completing this task. And then ATE AN APPLE. With MY HANDS. *GASP!* I didn’t actually look into a mirror to confirm this, but I’m pretty sure my face went completely white. (Yes, whiter than my usual ivory shade.)
Terrified as I was by the knowledge of my impending and certain death-by-Diazinon, I didn’t say anything to my parents. My grade-school-logic went something like this: I’m about to die, but I shouldn’t tell my parents, thus worrying them and filling our last moments together with sorrow. I’ll sacrifice my own peace of mind by not telling them. Gosh, what a noble kid I am. I’ll probably get some kind of posthumous medal for thoughtfulness.
(Okay, I probably didn’t know the word “posthumous” at the time. Then again, I might have. I was annoyingly precocious. You know how you wanted to smack Doogie Howser around? Or worse yet, Wesley Crusher? I was that kid. Only worse, shorter, and wearing a Care Bears shirt.)
So this led to one of the most agonizing (well, up until that point) afternoons of my life. Mom had to get groceries, and I miserably followed her around the produce section, pushing the shopping cart with immense sadness and what I imagined was a quiet dignity. Mom may have told me to snap out of my grumpiness at some point. I took this in stride, imagining how sad she’d be the next day when she discovered me dead in my pink-blanketed bed.
I was so absorbed in imagining the consequences of my tragic death that at some point that evening I completely neglected to notice that I was, in fact, actually still quite alive. I only realized this upon waking the following morning, with some mild disappointment.
I’d love to time-travel back and scare that younger self with the knowledge that I’d at least live to a ripe old age of 33, no sign of consumption or wasting disease of any kind. Sigh, what an incredible disappointment my normal, happy adulthood is!