In the shade.
A young man dressed in loose blue linen, who has never left the Boroughs, walks with stern intent along the west side of Central Park in full bloom. He appears as if he has not slept in days. His eyes are scarlet with blood vessels and weariness. The overcast day soothes his newly found light sensitivity as he rubs his neck under the collar slowly with the tips of his fingers. Irritable and unapproachable, he goes from the park through the hoards of humanity wearing designer labels and craftsmen hocking their wares. He rapidly scratches the back of his neck with exhausted desperation. All he can think is that the cantankerous cankers will not cease. He pops a pill without water.
He wonders what could have caused these blisters and why does everything itch all at once? He has had allergic reactions before but that was because of the bedbugs that traveled to his apartment with the delivery of his new mattress. He discarded it and sleeps on a pullout now. He wonders if it could be the synthetic fibers of the couch. The young man in blue stops and scratches his leg while leaning on a marble façade of an entrance to a retail building. The intensity of unnerving, incessant itching increases.
He gouges his lower back with nubs because he filed his fingernails down so not to cut his face while he slept, but sleep never comes. His temper is ignited when a tourist with a white visor bumps into him while looking up at the airplanes flying over Manhattan.
“Don’t touch me,” he screams and keeps walking.
The tourist says, “I was told to expect this.”
The young man in blue rushes into a Duane Reade and itches his shoulders as he enters. The Allergy Medications sign comes into view dangling above a cluttered aisle, a rescue ship to castaways on a desert island.
The man in loose blue linen grabs all of the ointments, creams and pills that can be purchased without a prescription. He never had use for doctors, and thought they were paid too much, but he contemplates going to the emergency room if this last ditch effort does not cure him. He thinks he really should not have passed on the job with health insurance. Brightly colored boxes holding the relief tumble onto the checkout counter. The squat male clerk with pock marks dappling his face looks at the man in blue with revulsion.
“Dude, you get stung by a bee or some shit?” the clerk asks.
The young man in blue, eyes almost closed, crashes through the exit and jogs through the crowded sidewalks. People get out of his way as he pants and cradles his white paper bag of medicine like a baby. He reaches the shade of the park.
Faster and faster he stumbles and knocks over a lithograph merchant and her plastic covered pictures. He cannot stand it any longer. Getting the medication to his blood quickly will be his only resort. A favorite sycamore tree is found.
He rips his bag open as he tears off his blue linen shirt and pants. He rifles through his pockets and finds his nail clipper and pulls a credit card out of his wallet. The creams are smeared all over his body. He struggles to get the antihistamine pills out of the generic packaging but finally chops the pills on the card.
He snorts the powder and large chunks get lodged in his stuffed up nose. Unbeknownst to him, a couple from the ‘Burbs’ with their newborn watch, get up and leave. They wave a cop down on the street. The young man, no longer in blue, sits on the top of his hands as he scratches his palms on the roots. It is not working. Panic sets in and he begins to shake. His eyes shut completely as his throat begins to close. All goes dark.
The cop sees the young man collapse and runs over to see if he is overdosing. The cop checks his pockets and then his pulse. He finds the medication. The young cop radios for a “Bus” and puts the man on his side away from the tree so he won’t choke on his vomit. The cop looks over at the tree, and having grown up in Jersey, realizes what is there. He calls another cop in so he can wait for the ambulance and wash his hands.
The EMT’s get the young man in the ambulance and the driver says, “That is the worst case of poison ivy I’ve ever seen.”
“I didn’t know we had it in Central Park.”
“Neither did he.”