I didn’t hear him the first time he said it. I passed him daily on my way in and out of the office, so his sales pitch was city noise that barely registered when I hopped out at the Gallery Place metro stop, but that day was different. Four words caught my ear, so I stopped to give his sales pitch my full attention. I examined his table— trying to decipher the smorgasbord of self-care supplies that, at an angle, resembled a city skyline.
“What did you say?” I asked with the tissue pressed against my nostrils. 
“I can fix that,” he said, pointing at my face. I was unnerved because he made a finger gun-like gesture that was aimed between my eyes.
“What are you talking about?” 
“Allergies, bro,” he replied after inhaling through his nose, exhaling while saying, “I used to be just like you.”
Just like me, I thought to myself. That’s not possible. 
When I first engaged the man who called himself The Rapper S.O.S. I thought he was a joke—another slick salesman who hawked incense and oils in DC with dreams of fame and fortune. I know the type because I’m just like him. 
I was born after a winter rain. My dad said the weatherman and the traffic reporter warned the viewers about black ice; when he told the story, I’d imagine him white-knuckling the steering wheel as he fishtailed down Georgia Avenue. Point is, I’m a winter baby; I prefer the cold. I don’t mind the summer much, but I hate the spring because it was two months of torment for me. I was the snotty nose boy in school who had incalculable amounts of allergy meds in his system. Every spring, my momma would tell me that I’m just like a butterfly— I just need to stay in the cocoon during the spring so I can fly in the summer. It worked for the most part. I’d rush home after school because I could feel the pollen sliding into my nostrils, hidden between the scent of honeysuckles and April showers drying on asphalt. I’d get home, sit by the eucalyptus-fueled humidifier, and watch Johnny Bravo on Cartoon Network. 
Man, I forgot about that old humidifier. I’m sure it was pearl white in its day, but I remember it being sandy brown, likely from all the years of service. That machine was more work than it needed to be, and it was loud. I remember the hum it made because the metro escalator made the same sound, and when I heard it, I smelled a hint of Eucalyptus. 
The humidifier, Johnny Bravo, and a handful of allergy meds became a huge part of the fabric of my childhood and the twenty subsequent seasons that followed. At the very least, the post-nasal drip would make my throat itch and nose run for days on end; at its worst, my face would be a swollen reservoir of mucus and tears. 
Bottom line, I was miserable in the spring, and as a real estate agent, it made for bad business and reflected in my productivity. So, hearing this street vendor tell me that he could “fix” me caught my attention because I didn’t have much to lose.
“Here, man,” he said while handing me a small vial, “I don’t like to see brothers struggle with allergies cause we ain’t even s’pose to be here. Know what I’m sayin’?”
“What is it?” 
“Essential oils and a lil’ somethin’ extra to get rid of that shit you got for a day. “
I opened the vial and took a whiff. It was a pungent metallic smell masked by a familiar scent. It took me a moment to realize that I was able to smell it.
“Huh, is that eucalyptus?” I inquired, waving the vial above my lip like a pendulum.
“And tea tree oil,” he said as he shook hands with a man passing by, “rub that on your chest after taking a sip, then play track four on my mixtape on repeat as you sleep.”
He paused for a second and scrunched his face as if he had a revelation. Then he nodded to a beat that only he could hear. “Woooo! Bars. I gotta write that down,” he pulled his jacket sleeve back to reveal illegible writing on his arm, then recited rhythmically, “‘sip-sip-on-repeat/while-you-sleep. Why you sleep. While…luh. Luh.’”
“Your mixtape?” I asked, interrupting what I assumed was his creative process.
“Scales of Justice, my new joint with three bangers and a secret track produced by God. That’s track four. That’s the one you got to play as you sleep.” He was serious. 
I chuckled because, at that point, I heard enough. I placed the vial between the candles and what looked like sticks on the table, then said, “I’m not buying your mixtape, and I’m not taking the oil. Thanks.” 
I pivoted to walk away when I heard his voice say in a hushed, sober tone.
“Behind your eyes, right?”

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