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The Demise of Pandas

Memory foam. It might miraculously bow to your curves, but it makes my sinuses cry. I noticed this after I bought a memory foam mattress topper, and tried to sleep with its ulcerous stench breathing inside me. I lay on top of it all night, then concluded I paid $99.99 to be murdered from the inside out.

What does memory foam smell like to me? Imagine microscopic Vikings; an axe in each hand, they float into your nose and stab their way up your nasal cavity. Once in your brain, it’s an orgy of hack n’ slash, as they mince and mash it to pink juice. They funnel the juice back down your nasal cavity, ooze it out through your nose and eyes — just for kicks.

To the makers of memory foam: I apologize for my existence. But this foamy mouse pad, which “provides comfort and support for all types of mice” and “helps prevent repetitive stress disorders,” has to go. In the garbage. The smelly one in the kitchen. Beneath layers of onion peels and garlic cloves and whatever else my mother puts in there.

So I throw it out. Then I take May 3rd’s Time Magazine, the one about “THE PILL,” and toss it on my desk to rest my wrist on. I lie back in the chair, and proceed to browse Facebook, because this history paper on the Haudenosaunee is due in eight hours. Ah, a Coke would be perfect right now, I think, for the caffeine and sugary-wonderful taste.

That’s when I notice it. That smell, like the ghost of memory foam, remains in my head. Lodged inside my brain, dancing, mocking, as if to say, “We’ll never surrender!”

I rush to the bathroom, douse my face in lukewarm water. The dry skin over my eyes wants to peel. I take the Lysol, spray it all over. Inhale. “Early Morning Breeze” has surely killed the memory foam bacteria.

Sniff. No, it has only strengthened. It’s there, masked by the breeze, waiting for me to get comfortable. Stealthily, it readies to attack the way a virus hijacks your cells. But from where?

I look at the mouse. IntelliMouse Explorer –- a beautiful product, perhaps the only thing Microsoft makes well. But that mouse sat on memory foam for two whole days. It is contaminated. It needs decontamination.

I get alcohol wipes from the bathroom downstairs, and a kitchen towel roll. I think to myself, what a stupid combination. Alcohol wipes are tiny morsels, the towel roll is massive in comparison. I don’t care, I want the memory foam to die.

I rub the base of the mouse with an alcohol wipe. Like when you kill fungus infesting your foot, it releases its smell as it dies. I take it, because I know that after this hardship, will come ease.

Now onto the buttons. Though they didn’t have any contact with the memory foam, residual bits of foam could be floating on them, too small for the eye to see.

Click. Click. Click. Click. It can’t be helped when I wash the buttons. Click. Click. Click. Three alcohol wipes later, the buttons are severely purified.

Onto the part where my palm would rest. I rub counterclockwise, I see it shine, I see it freed of evil.

I bring the mouse to my nose. Sniff. Bueno. The hospital-clean scent of alcohol. I look at the towel roll, I frown at it. It wasn’t needed, so I return it to its den in the kitchen.

I get back with a Coke in hand, sit in the chair, and breathe a sigh of satisfaction.

The cartoon panda, now awoken, hovers over my head. “Do your Hedonsonne paper,” he tells me. “The Hedonasauna, in 1772, became known as the Six Nations, a union of Mohawk, Oneida, somethings, blah-”

I swat him away to shut him up. Back to Facebook. I look at the screen.

“Holy Mother of God,” I say. And I’m not even remotely Catholic. “Dear Lord Jesus Christ. F***.” I’m not any kind of Christian either.

I had “friended” Paula Castellanos.

What must have happened flashes through my mind. I was on her page, just checking out her pics. I think we have some similar “Favorite Books.” But then I smelled the memory foam, and when I scrubbed the mouse buttons, all that clicking must’ve sent a friend request to her! Oh hell.

She doesn’t even know who I am. She’ll think I’m a creep. I look like a jerk-off in my profile pic. Need to change that. And remove all the anime references.




Oh what the hell. FUCK.

“But wait.” Cartoon panda floats over and wiggles his pixilated finger at me. “Be yourself. Don’t bow to the whim of a woman. What would Chuck do?”

I close Facebook. This is a good thing. I’d wanted to friend her all along. But no, you can’t friend someone you haven’t spoken a word to. That’s creeperism right there.

“Life is short. You did the right thing.” His 2D form perches atop my monitor. “Live with no regrets.”

Where was all this wisdom coming from? And why does it matter what Chuck Norris would do? He would friend whomever he wants. In fact, when Chuck Norris friends you, he chooses whether you accept or not. Yeah, that’s right, I should do what I want, how I want.


It’s on my mind all night. While I key away at the paper, I pop up Facebook to see if she’s accepted. She hasn’t. I ponder: she’s probably up doing the same paper, procrastinating on the same Facebook. Kind of romantic. But maybe she’s one of those people with a long list of unaccepted friends — possible stalkers and certain creepers. Maybe I’m the latest addition to that list.

I’m done two hours before school. At 6 AM, I crawl into bed, filled with Coke. I know I’ll have to pee in five minutes, but I’m too tired to care. I drift away.

I’m in a class room. There are life-sized Hot Wheels racing on the ceiling. A physical impossibility.

Paula is the teacher. She got to be the teacher cuz she’s so smart. I check my bag for my paper. But cartoon panda pops out. “You forgot it at home,” he says.

I’m embarrassed, I don’t want to face Paula. I have to pee, I can’t control my legs. I may just pee in the corner, where cartoon panda’s deceased half-brother hops up and down, but I don’t want to pee on him.

Cell-phone alarm cries. PANG. PANG. PANG. It sounds like D-Day. I turn it off. Too afraid of falling back to sleep, I get up, go to the bathroom, do my business, wash up, brush my teeth, etc. I realize I need a haircut. Some gel will do for now. I partition it through the center and gel it down. I’m old school like that.

This is the longest drive to school in my life. The paper is tucked into a folder, which I carry in my hand. A nice, crisp, five-page essay. I should be happy enough. But Paula, when I walk in the room, what if she looks at me? What if I look at her? What will her eyes say? What will mine?

What if I make it to class before her? Not likely, I’m already about to be five minutes late. So it will be me, walking in. It will be my gaze, somewhere, maybe on the floor, or on the teacher. Where will her gaze be? All students look at those who walk in late. So she will look at me. What will she think? That’s the creep who tried to friend me last night?

This is the longest walk down a hall in my life. The class is seven doors down. I step slow, but I know I’ll get there soon. You can only slow your walk so much.

“You don’t want to be later than you are,” cartoon panda whispers in my ear. “You could be deducted two points on your-”

I punch him off my shoulder. I don’t want to think. I want to be in the moment and get it over with. I want to sit in my chair, stare up at the teacher, and forget that Paula is somewhere behind me, or off to the side, or way at the front.

The problem with late arrivals is you can’t pick your seat. I’m a back of the room person. Except in this class, because the teacher speaks all hushed, I take it from the front.

That has no bearing right now. I turn the corner, look into the room. The teacher lectures, I stare at the desks. I don’t move my legs. I shake on the inside. There is one seat left out of thirty.

And it is right next to Paula.

Why? Why couldn’t another guy sit next to her? Who wouldn’t want to? Why me? Why today? Why God?

I suavely glide into the room, open the folder, and hand the teacher my essay. She doesn’t care that I’m late. I turn in slow motion, the desk next to Paula a few yards away. I walk down the aisle, each step an infinity of consciousness.

“Do it.” Cartoon panda watches me from Paula’s desk. “A gift from God, graciously accept it.”

Since when did cartoon panda get so religious?

I plonk into the chair. Plonk is the right word, because that’s what it sounds like, for mysterious reasons. I take out my notebook and a pencil from my bag. Even though I never take notes, I look like I do out of respect for the teacher. I stare forward and absorb myself in the lecture.

“During the American Revolution, George Washington ordered General John Sullivan to wage war against the Haudenosaunee, in order to destroy the British-Indian alliance. This war had an irreversible effect on their livelihood, in particular, crops and cattle were badly affected when wahwahwah-”

A blurry form of Paula sits at the flank of my vision. I inhale. She’s wearing perfume, which probably has “Chanel” in the name. Her pheromones are in that scent, a conduit, an armada that steams toward me. Onto my hormone receptors, those pheromones disembark, and begin their invasion.

“Famine, plague and destruction – wrought upon them by our founding fathers. The Six Nations never recovered. But a treaty was formed by which the United States affirmed the sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee. The US still delivers cloth to them, one of the tenets of the treaty, and they even have their own passports.”

But how will my pheromones react? Will they go on the offensive, march to her receptors, tear down her cell walls, shout their sovereignty from the peaks of her glands?

I want to look at her. “Do it, look her right in the eyes,” whispers cartoon panda. I want to know beauty exists in the world. A blessing – the clock ticks just beyond where she sits. I could turn my head to check the time, and in the process, you know…

I begin to swivel my face. I see her. The metaphor would be: “like the earth rotates to see the sun.” She sees me. Eye contact! Glaciers melt down my spine. The clock. It’s 8:15. I turn back to face the teacher.

Oh God. What did those eyes say? Creeper? Disgusting lout? Just what went through her mind!?

Possibilities bounce around my head as the lecture drones on. I relive the moment a thousand times in forty minutes. I don’t dare check the clock again. Then she’d know it was a move made to sneak a glance.

“Relax. Don’t be so self-centered. Don’t think she’s so self-centered. The earth isn’t the center of the universe, there are seven other planets in the solar system.”

I am surprised to learn cartoon panda’s opinion on Pluto. Other than that, it makes a lot of sense.

Class ends. I grab my bag, get up off my seat. Shock and awe — I bump into Paula. It seems, I sat in a left-handed seat the whole time, she in a right-handed seat. They open the same way.

“Sorry,” she says.

Our eyes meet. She smiles at me.

“Sorry,” I say.

She walks away. I stand and stare. Out the door she goes. I won’t see her again till Thursday.


First thing I do when I arrive home is get that Coke can in the fridge. I take it out, and put in a warm one from storage. With only one Coke in the fridge at a time, I can’t drink them too fast.

At my computer, I pull the tab, take a sip. Particles of stress leave my body as the fluid streams down my throat. It hits the spot.

I google “Paula Castellanos.” 860,000 results. I put quotes around her name, google it again. 5600 results. I find one of those information repositories, providing the address, phone number, siblings, and all kinds of data on a “Paula Castellanos.” From the picture, I can tell it’s not her. Another young girl though – pretty too.

“We pandas are going extinct because we’re scared to fall in love.” He dances atop my monitor, like a delayed animation. “Don’t make the same mistake.”

I am such a stalker. I stop procrastinating. I open Facebook, check my notifications.

Paula Castellanos has accepted your friend request.

Like a Trojan horse, her pheromones awaken inside me. They rage through my blood. I hear them chant as they storm my vital organs.

Already, I feel ill.