Leaving January 

It's a cold rainy day in early February, and looking out at it across the gray-on-grayer townscape -- trailer houses, drafty little churches, and leafless ice-colored trees -- I realize that for the first time in memory I've managed to get through the month of January untraumatized. January has been a real booger for me in years past. I decided last year that I must be allergic to it. After 12 straight years of suffering through it with some unnameable, indescribable Kafkaesque malady that poisoned my outlook and threatened my very existence, or seemed to - melodrama is also one of the symptoms - I came up with the allergy theory. When January's hostile airs invaded my fearful passageways, the immune system sent out its soldiers to smite the enemy intruders and, not finding any, they turned their weapons on the ol' moi respiratory organs instead, biting, as it were, the hand that feeds them. That's what causes the unpleasant effects with most allergies, in fact - overkill by the bodily defenses, like calling in the heavy artillery to fight bees. But I couldn't find a physician who'd stick around long enough to let me explain the theory, and I couldn't find anybody else who was interested in it, either. I noticed when I mentioned it in party chat and the like that those who didn't try to change the subject simply turned around and walked off. No begging of pardon or polite if transparent excuse-making like Miz Jimmie that time exclaiming, "Oh, my goodness, I just remembered, I left bacon frying!" and beating a classy retreat. I considered such shows of indifference to be rude, but we've turned into a rude society. Nobody wants to hear you out. Especially if your topic is yourself. Especially especially if it has anything even remotely to do with phlegm. People are glad to talk to you about their own phlegmatic difficulties. They just don't want to hear about yours. January usually gets the jump on itself, starting sometime after Christmas in the preceding year, blowing in on sleety hooligan winds that just hate unsuspecting human sinuses. Why do we have sinuses anyway? They're not good for anything, except harboring infection and kiboshing our romantic prospects. It's as if Mother Nature couldn't think of anything to fill that space, and so just left it there, like a small upstairs spare room used to stash odds and ends of broken furniture, and scrapbooks, and old bird cages, and outgrown clothes. Sinuses are just trouble waiting to happen, so why won't the doctors agree to fill them with concrete, or with some lightweight quick-drying epoxy that would evict the derelict squatter microbes and allergens and keep new ones from moving in? I don't know why they won't, but they won't. They won't even take the proposal under consideration. They won't even acknowledge that you've made such a proposal, laughing slightly and sending you on home with a vial of placebos that cost $17 apiece. If you persist, they'll refer you to a specialist, their way of telling you to go to hell. I've been through this January rigamarole many times, so I know all their evasive tricks. There's no way to avenge January's cruelties, its snotty indignities, to pay it back a little and clean one's palate of it for the coming seasons, and I've had to content myself with small furtive gestures of resentment. One of those has been to create an insulting calendar of events that occurred in January, or should have if they didn't. Here's the first page of that list: I also rostered up a January birthday list that included Tomas Torquemada, John N. Chivington, Mama Soprano, the Canadian guy who vectored AIDs, Daniel Quilp, Mike Tyson, Simon Legree, Samson's barber, Gerald L.K. Smith, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, John Ashcroft, Herod, Sejanus, Puzuzu, the Borg queen, Hannibal Lecter, Ty Cobb, Phyllis Schlafly, Brigham Young, Richard III, Grindl, Pedrarias Davila, Anthony Comstock, John Gotti, Roger Clinton, Slim Whitman, Pol Pot, Xerxes, Albert Speer, Joan Crawford, Judas, G. Gordon Liddy, Thalidomide's inventor, the fattest of the Donner party survivors, the horse hit-man who murdered Alydar, and the iceberg that sank the Titanic Against all this miserable precedent, 2004's January turned out to be a pure delight. Mild days and pellucid starry nights. Not a single sick day , nor a single fracture from an icy-sidewalk fall, sinuses dry and canyony as an Arizonan's. I almost hated to see it go. But don't let your guard down just yet. What's to say that February won't take up the burden to begloom and demoralize? It's already shown a suspicious amount of early January-like ugly. Better maintain that yellow alert.


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