I went to high school and college in the 1960s and ‘70s but managed to avoid the drug scene. I was a farm boy to whom a Saturday night hayride was considered the best way to get high, so I’m certain I’m not hallucinating. Then I missed a trip to Vietnam by two numbers in the draft lottery, so I know I’m not having a flashback. But something strange is happening and it’s got me worried.
Her name is Amanda. Okay, I don’t really know her name, but she’s become so much a part of my life that like the bird who keeps pecking on your window, you decide to name her. I don’t know when she first came into my life. It was sort of a gradual thing. Perhaps she’s been there for years and I’m just now putting two and two together. Bottom line: Amanda is everywhere and she’s driving me crazy.
I saw her most recently in the hot food deli at County Market. It was Friday, my favorite County Market day, fish day. I’m Presbyterian, but still there’s something about CM’s fried fish that draws me in like a hungry shark when I catch the smell of fried fish as I enter the store. I may have other things to pick up that day, but I make a beeline toward the bins holding the steaming piles of catfish and walleye. Since I came from Pike County, catfish is always my first choice. Walleye are tasty, but they seem wimpy. A catfish is mean, has character and deserves to be eaten. My teenage hands were once riddled with the scars from their barbs.
So I round the corner of designer cheese and fresh lettuce, grab my foam to-go container, my salivary glands now bulging with anticipation and there she is … Amanda. She’s standing in front of the catfish (MY catfish), carefully and with painful slowness turning over each piece. It’s like she’s trying to decide between the Hope Diamond and the Star of India sapphire. She inspects each piece with a jeweler’s eye while my right leg starts to tremble uncontrollably. Just pick up a slab of the stupid fish, lady! Dear God in Heaven! They’re all fish! Just take one for Pete’s sake! I think that Amanda knows I’m there. She knows what this is doing to me.
Finally, after the woman has analyzed each piece, then placed the tongs back into the bin and opted for the meatloaf, I begin shoveling catfish into my container and head toward the checkout counter. Amanda is in her 80s, walks with a slight limp, but she still somehow manages to beat me to the cash register and ends up in front of me. She picks up each item and inspects it as if she’s never seen it before. I’m tempted to pick her up by her drawers and scan her, but I flashback to my Sunday school teacher mumbling something about, “ … the least of my brethren.” I grab my groceries and head toward home in a hurried attempt to eat the fish while still warm. When I come to the stoplight at Morton, Amanda sits in the car ahead of me, deciding whether to go right or left. The signal turns green, but instead of pulling out into traffic, she decides to sit and silently debate the various advantages of red, green or yellow lights.
How does she do this? How does she know where I live? How does Amanda know my schedule? Yesterday I had only a few minutes to stop in at the Shopko pharmacy to grab some nerve pills and there was Amanda, the only customer in line ahead of me. She’d already gotten her medicine, but she had about two dozen questions for the pharmacist including asking why the pills were two-toned instead of a solid color. The free blood pressure cuff was sitting within a few feet of us, but I was afraid I’d knock the machine over if I tried to use it as a gag.
When I drive around the Jacksonville square, I end up right behind Amanda swerving this way and that trying to decide which lane to choose. She’s tricky as she keeps changing vehicles and even hairstyles and sometimes faces. If I’m in line at the movie theatre and have only 30 seconds before the feature starts, Amanda will be there asking for just another shot of butter for her popcorn. She doesn’t need popcorn! She’s already full of meatloaf!
I mentioned Amanda to a friend of mine and asked if he too had seen this banshee of a lady. He suggested I check out some sort of therapy. This isn’t funny. Amanda is real and she’s out to drive me crazy. I need to run uptown now and get something at Andy Mitchell’s book emporium, but I know that Amanda is sitting in her car just down the street, waiting for me to pull out of my drive so she can slowly cruise by causing me to wait … and fume.