Ingredients of High Alert; cherries and excuses

The cherries came all the way from California. Lucille extended the paper cup full of the summer burgundy fruit toward me in my kitchen and I took one. I ate it, remembering, savoring the taste, thinking …certainly I’m not still allergic to these…  But my itchy throat confirmed that I still was. So, case closed, no more cherries for me. Ever. Got it.

Late that same day, after the opening night of DesignInquiry, 2003 or thereabouts, a couple of friends and I sat at the kitchen counter picking at a green bean salad-something from Whole Foods. I did that thing—while my throat closed up and I couldn’t swallow—I walked over to the sink for water to drink to ‘test it’. One friend kept at his story but Audra noticed, asked how I was while I panicked a bit when I could barely answer with my swollen tongue.

The ER Doctor confirmed that eating the cherry was a ‘bad idea’ (actually, he said it was stupid). He told me that I’d alerted my system to sensitivities so that other allergic reactions would be amplified, that my body was on high-alert for the day or so. I don’t even know what was in that salad, but it was the cherry that started it all.

This seems familiar. Ingredients of high-alert can also pile up with sensitive experiences that amplify random bits without even knowing. The phrase ‘gun-shy’, or ‘been there’ can become road blocks, reasons to hold back, to make excuses, to fear.

When the dog coughs because the lasix hasn’t kicked in I’m prompted to turn the front page of the paper over because the sky is falling, while Cora leaves with her friend, a new driver so next I imagine detailed illustrations of what can go wrong.

But what if the cherry hadn’t become only a poison but instead infused into the years between that day and this moment, a sweetness, the suggestion of summer, Louise’s gesture and simply the fact that a friend was in my kitchen, sharing her time—when can this become the main story? I can still picture the paper cup and that moment—I was imagining how she had it tucked somewhere carefully with her carryon, how generous and touching, like Lucille…

What does it take to turn around internal assessments based on real experience of yes, transition is constant, love is lost and gained, bad things happen to good people, and no, I wasn’t forced to eat a cherry. What will it take to learn that when the dog coughs or Cora drives off most likely things will be alright.