Dear Man Who Accosted Me in an Attempt to Sell Me a Power Balance Bracelet in the Mall,
Maybe it was empathy that drove me to respond; I’ve worked my share of mall kiosks.
There was also that countenance I took for desperation in your sweaty, bloated face, as you nodded at me knowingly and waved me down, asking how I was “doing tonight.” That look, matched with your ill-fitting polo shirt and front-pleated khakis, evoked a sort of sublime pity in me. If only I’d known how misplaced my pity was! Whatever the reason, I took those tentative steps away from my wife and entered your world; a perfect maelstrom of Dadaistic thaumaturgy.
“Can I have a moment of your time?” you asked. I responded in the affirmative.
You held up a rubber-band bracelet with a little hologram sticker affixed to it, not unlike the one on my debit card.
“This Power Balance Bracelet,” you announced, “can help you with your balance.”
You went on to explain that the bracelet could do this because it was “made out of ions” and that the little sticker on it contained “minerals” that would “go into” my bloodstream. You then explained that all electronic devices emitted ions, and that these ions are what cause us to dodder about off-balanced like a pack of drunken mules.
“If that’s what I think it is,” you said tapping the plastic bag containing my purchase from the video game store, “then it’s giving off ions, too. As we speak.”
I had not suspected this second-hand copy of Harvest Moon for the Nintendo Gamecube of such sinister behavior. You opened up an previously unimagined world of possibilities. Humbled by your willingness to engage in such a Newtonian dialogue with me, I interrupted you to gain clarification. “What exactly is an ion?” I asked, abashedly.
I will never forget your baffling, measured reply.
Your single word apparently put my question to rest. Embarrassed by my ignorance, you endeavored to teach me. It was then that you proceeded, with outstretched arms, to lay your hands upon me. Like a man tenderly instructing his lover on the finer points of the bergamask, you ordered me to lift my right arm. This I did, keeping it at an angle perpendicular to my body.
You then told me to place my feet exactly together. All it took was a severe look from you to tell me that my feet were not aligned as precisely as they ought to be. I struggled to push them somehow closer together. For a moment I was afraid you’d collapsed in a fit of rage, but you had only thrown yourself on the floor in order to inspect my feet. When you arose you placed your hands on my outstretched arm with the whispered admonition, “Lift your left leg.”
This I did as you began to apply downward pressure upon my extended arm. Your furrowed brow and grunts of exertion, so animalistic in their kinetic force, at first frightened, then intrigued me. I knew you would probably cause me to topple like so many crumpled Sbarro wrappers placed atop the overflowing trash receptacle. And yet, I stood firm. I have never been known for my sense of balance but as I stood there on one foot with my arm outstretched, the people in line at Pretzel Maker occasionally witnessing our dance, I was a veritable Douglas fir of stability.
You sputtered a spent sigh and ceased pushing. As you let go of me I lowered my leg and arm, eagerly awaiting an explanation for what had just transpired between us. How had I stood firm without the talismanic bracelet to assist me? I received a solemn nod from you as you explained, “Sometimes the bracelet has an effect even if you’re not wearing it. Sometimes you just have to be near it.”
I didn’t purchase a bracelet that day, for money would only have cheapened the transcendental moment. Our encounter was brief; we were two ships passing in the night. But I left the mall that day questioning the very foundations of all I had learned before; science, religion, self-hood, ions.
I was, at last, awake.
Thank you for opening my eyes,