Last spring a student in my Creative Nonfiction class wrote an excruciatingly vivid account of his close encounter with poison ivy. By the time we had spent 30 minutes discussing his essay, the entire class was suffering sympathetic symptoms, scratching and squirming like the puppy that ran off to join the flea circus.
I know it was stupid, but at the time I found myself admitting--possibly even boasting--that I'm immune to poison ivy. After all, I've lived on poison-ivy-infested property for four years, during which time I have frequently walked through, fallen on, and brushed against poison ivy without any ill effects.
It happened last week when I went up the hill with the weed-eater to clear some hiking paths in preparation for the big family weekend. As I whacked my way through tall weeds on steep, rough terrain, the weed-eater kept flinging bits of debris my way, but I was prepared: long pants, long socks, hiking boots, eye and ear protection. My only error was wearing a V-neck T-shirt.
Now my neck has red, itchy blotches in the shape of a V neckline, and there are a few spots where plant matter apparently slid down my shirt. It didn't start itching until yesterday, but now it's making up for lost time. I'm thinking back to my student's essay and all the helpful information he shared about folk remedies for poison ivy: paint thinner, bleach, sandpaper, and more that I wish I could blot out of my memory.
If simply reading about poison ivy could make a room full of students itch, then I suppose anyone reading this might be feeling a tad uncomfortable right now. Don't blame me: I'm just trying to share the joy. And if you feel the need to boast of your immunity, just do me a favor and bite your tongue until the feeling passes, okay?