Consumer Value Store by Mike Nagel

Consumer Value Store

For a long time, I aspired to be a person with whom nothing was wrong. I knew a lot of people who had things wrong with them and I could tell it wasn’t for me. Pass, I thought.

Sondra was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis the day after her wedding. Jason was born with part of his spine disconnected. Emily has the type of depression that prevents you from bringing in your mail. You look at your mail and think: Not today, mail. Eventually the mailbox fills up and the mailman has to say something about it. At some point it’s just too much mail, you know?

“All signs point to me losing my mind by age seventy,” J says after we get off the video call with her grandma, an Alzheimer’s patient in Ontario who informed me every couple of minutes that my hair was really getting out of control.

“How many people have something wrong with them?” I asked Google this morning.

And Google said: “What?”

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Back when I was a Christian, I used to hear people say this all the time: “God doesn’t make mistakes.” They usually said it after some really messed up thing had happened, something we couldn’t get our heads around. The implication (the accusation) being that it had been done on purpose.

And I’m only telling you all of this because there came a day last fall when the lab results came back and I went from being a person with whom nothing was wrong to being a person with whom seemingly everything was wrong.

Well, I thought. Shoot.

I started going to CVS, the one on Josey Lane. I would stand in line and wonder what was wrong with everyone.

“What’s wrong with all of you,” I would think.

They didn’t look good.

I got to know the pharmacist a little, a short woman of indeterminate age with a huge head and small glasses. She had a charming accent that I later found out was a speech impediment. I grew fond of her the way you grow fond of anyone who is providing you with life-saving medication at a rate exclusive to CVS CarePass members. I wondered if we were going to get married.

Here’s a person, I thought, who knows what’s wrong with everyone.

She seemed to be handling it well. For example: She wasn’t curled up in a little ball. She wasn’t totally freaking out. She was just standing there trying to keep her glasses from falling off her face.

What a pro, I thought.

“Date of birth?” she would say. And then her computer would show her all kinds of fucked up things about us, things we weren’t even allowed to know about ourselves, things we didn’t even want to know, although by then I was starting to suspect that we knew it all already.

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” a boss of mine used say.

Yeah, I thought. But sometimes you don’t know what you do know either.

I don’t think knowing things is the problem. I think the problem is figuring out what to do after you’ve gotten your head around everything and now your head is the size of a watermelon. The problem is what to do with your really weird-looking head, all stretched out and misshapen, totally throwing off your center of gravity.

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Mike Nagel’s essays have appeared in apt, Hobart, Salt Hill, DIAGRAM, and The Paris Review Daily. Find selected nonsense at michaelscottnagel.com.

more by Mike Nagel Blue Laws

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art homemade obvs

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