This week's assignment was to pick a stranger and assign them a phobia. Over the course of my regular Monday-night journey to my writing group, I encounter many souls to which I could easily assign one phobia or another. But one particular individual stands out.
My writer's group is in Marylebone, central London. For me, this necessitates the Tube to Baker Street, then a 10-minute walk down one of my most hated streets in London: Marylebone Road. I hate, hate, hate Marylebone Road. The wide lanes of speeding traffic, the few and far between crossings where you only have about five seconds to scuttle across the road, the dreaded tourist-swamped Madame Tussaud's... all conspire to make this one of most unpleasant locations in London.
Last night was one of the windiest nights I can remember, making the walk even more hideous. I picked up my pace, practically running down the road. I noticed a man lumbering down the sidewalk ahead of me. He jerked to the right, then the left, then back to the right again, as if he was dodging invisible bullets. I looked behind me. Nothing there. Was he crazy, or was I? Was there something for which I, too, should be pulling evasive maneuvers?
I rubbed my eye, trying to dislodge an errant piece of pollen the wind had smacked into me. Then, I looked up. With every gust, pollen streamed from the leaves above, hurtling through the air like miniature bombs. I looked back to Zig-Zag Man, still cavorting in front of me. With all the grace of an elephantine ballet dancer, he was trying to shield his body from the raining pollen. Nose streaming, eyes running -- for him, pollen was the enemy, representing long nights in the no-man's land of the sofa so his other half could sleep, the constant invasion of the cough into his throat. He would not give in to its insidious ways; he would fight against it at all costs.
Sadly, though, resistance was futile. He was felled by a sneeze, and with an anguished snort he succumbed.