Choosing a Superpower
A couple years ago, my dad, my baby brother, and I were playing "Would You Rather."
My brother asked my dad, "Would you rather have the superpower of always making a basketball shot, or always spelling every word correctly?"
My dad, who I don't think ever played basketball in his life, chose the former (which I guessed correctly). My baffled brother asked why. My dad and I answered in unison: he already spelled every word correctly, so it would be a waste of a superpower.
In his last weeks, my dad fretted over not having anything to leave me and my brother as an inheritance. But he did. He gave us the gift of poetry, of a certain delight in playing with words, and of the capacity for being left in breathless appreciation over each stumbled-upon flash of eloquence.
Step 1: Try all of the conventional remedies. Yes. All of them. None of them will work, and your cupboards will be full of barely-used bottles and tubes of various creams and pastes, but you’ll desperately figure each one is “worth a shot.”
Step 2: Try (almost) all of the unconventional remedies. Your naturopath friends will reassure you that this or that leaf, crushed with some common kitchen ingredient or other, will provide relief. It won’t. But it’s worth a shot too.
Step 3: Become desperate.
Step 4: Heat water until it’s so hellishly scalding that it might melt your skin off if you touch it. You know those hot springs in Yellowstone that melt unfortunate tourists every few years? You want it hotter than that.
Step 5: Think about what you want most in the whole world. True love? A billion dollars? Your own private island? Trust me, you’ll need to have this image in mind.
Step 6: Take a deep breath.
Step 7: Apply impossibly heated water to afflicted areas. The poison oak will begin to itch. Yes, begin. Nothing you’ve felt ‘til now was itchy in comparison. It’s like when parents say they didn’t know what love was until they saw their baby’s face for the first time. Until now, you’ve had no idea what itching is.
Step 8: Focus on that image of what you want most in the world, and promise yourself that you’ll have it if only you manage not to claw the afflicted skin off in the next 30 seconds. (This won’t be enough to stop you. But it might delay the inevitable for a few seconds.)
Step 9: Apply more beyond-boiling water. Don’t let your skin cool off.
Step 10: Observe with whatever detachment you can muster that you’re willing to throw away your greatest desire in exchange for scratching a little rash. Question what this says about you, your willpower, and your commitment to your goals and dreams. With any luck, you’ll be distracted enough by this self-discovery that you’ll forget to scratch for a few more seconds.
Step 11: Sigh in relief as that unimaginable itching subsides.
Repeat every 2-3 hours as necessary.
Note: I'm not a doctor. All of this is provided for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. I don't actually recommend boiling your skin off, tempting as it may be.
That Feeling When...
You need your fix of fresh vegetables. Not in the mood for the usual solution of ordering various unappetizing sides (an over-baked potato, creamed spinach, the “seasonal vegetable medley” that’s always code for steamed carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower), you go to a vegan restaurant that, for some reason, exists in the middle of nowhere in Arizona.
Throughout the meal, you can’t figure out why the waiter is treating you oddly. It’s not ‘til you lift your leather jacket off your leather purse and pull out your leather wallet to pay that you realize what might be the problem.
And so you tip a little too well, and decide against writing on the receipt that it’s all second-hand so it doesn’t exactly count, and then embarrassedly slink out in your leather boots.
...and then you find yourself having a tarot reading while drinking from coconut shells at a kava bar in Berkeley, California.
Fifth-generation Berkeley native, freelance writer, and enthusiastic traveler.