In a few moments the red timer will ring. It just did. It is exactly 4:00 p.m.

The red timer marks off the ten minutes for which I boil my eggs (which leaves the yolk just the tiny bit soft, but not liquid) the three minutes for which I steep my coca tea (which imparts to me the mental focus of many other stimulants without the jitteriness of caffiene or its chemical analogues, except for that one panic attack last year but I think that was because of an unfortunate falling away in my mind of the veil that usually softens my perception of time and death), and the eight minutes for which I boil ravioli. The timer came with a little sticker that said something like, “The design of this timer is distinctive and patented and replicating it is a federal offense.”

It’s true–the design of the red timer is distinctive. It’s brand name is Lux and it’s what I think of when I think of timers. Its bell is real and old-fashioned and its face is analog. I know it well.

When I was a child and so allergic to the world that I was sick every week of first grade, my mother took me to an allergist in Connecticut who cured me of all my allergies. He did this by testing me for every known allergen in the world and then vaccinating me against my own body. When went there for a number of days, and each day was partitioned by the ringing of the Lux timer.

During the testing phase, I received serums under my tongue every fifteen minutes. I’d set my timer and wait a few minutes to see if I went crazy or had a sneezing fit. I would then report my symptoms on mimeographed sheets. After a week, the doctor made up a series of serums to be injected into me. When I realized that these serums would enter subcutaneously instead of sublingually, I took off running down the halls of the allergy clinic, a team of nurses in hot pursuit. I was eventually tackled, subuded and injected. My mother, desperate to cure me of my allergies, promised me innumerable Hershey bars (to which, testing had determined, I had a “moderate” allergic reaction), upon completion of the course of injections. I relented, and set my timer for the sixty-minute intervals at which the injections were administered. They would ask, at first, which hand you wrote with, so you could get the most injections in your other arm. But after a while both arms were bruised and limp from injections. I refused to let them inject me in my thighs or buttocks, but I didn’t mind the ensuing dead arms. I amused myself all the way back to Queens from Connecticut by trying to pick up my bruised arms and struggling against their weakness. They felt, I kept thinking to myself, like metal. I couldn’t say exactly how they felt like metal, only that the pain in them, sometimes, dull, sometimes sharp, not entirely unpleasant, felt like metal.

The allergy center was named for the head doctor’s dead son. He had died of a drug overdose. His name was carved into the cement out front, and I touched it reverently with my sneaker each time we entered.

The treatments worked. My allergies went away and never came back. This past spring, I felt this strange burning sensation in my eyes and throat on the first spring afternoon I spent in the park. I called my mother. (Lately I have been amazed that I carry in my pocket at all times a device on which I can push a button that says “Mom” and be instantly connected to her voice. Isn’t that the fantasy of all children? That no matter where we are or what we’re doing, if we are in the least bit of distress we can push a button and call our mommies? I think the cell phones of children with living parents, particularly Jewish, formerly allergic children, should come with buttons that say, “MOMMY!” Because that’s what pressing the speed-dial or scrolling down to “Mom” in the Address Book and hitting “Send” really is, isn’t it?)

“Mom,” I said, “I feel so strange…my eyes are burning. I’m sneezing. But I’m not sick.” My mom pointed out that I was probably having an allergic reaction. It was a particularly bad season for hay fever, she said. Reassured by my mother for the millionth time since birth that I was probably not dying and whatever was going on was normal I left the park and found my allergies relieved by the mercifully inert concrete and steel of the city. It turned out I was not entirely immune to the intersection between myself and the world, only mostly so.

I consider it a psychological triumph that I’m willing and able to use this very same sort of timer that once rang hourly to summon me to be poked with needles to measure the innocuous chores of my kitchen. But why not? Time is the same whether its marching us toward stabbing pain or a cup of tea. You can pretend otherwise, but you know what the man said, the man now dead so very long–“never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

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