Eumelanin Hysteria

January 27, 2013
By hannahc. SILVER, Sacramento, California
hannahc. SILVER, Sacramento, California
8 articles 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If I cannot swear in heaven I shall not go there." –Mark Twain

Please, I thought to myself. Please. Something. Anything. Fireworks? Wind? Customers?

It was day 27 of working for the small drugstore, and I had yet to see a single thing happen. There were asexual bacteria getting more action than this.

Maybe it was the time of the shift. Maybe it was the day of the week. Maybe it was just the horror of my personality wafting down the street like delectably fresh garbage. Whatever it was, eight dollars an hour wasn't worth it. I was two minutes away from losing my mind, and I wasn't even aware I had one in the first place.

I laid my head on my arms and moaned. "Oh, Gods of Sarcasm," I prayed. "Save my soul from being crushed from this boredom. Anything. Anything."

The words were barely out of my mouth when the telephone rang.

I literally jumped out of my seat and sprinted out of my little corner of the register, reaching for telephone. I pulled it off the hook and held it up to my ear. "Hello?" I said breathlessly, like a schoolgirl with a hopeless crush.

These metaphors are really not working for me.

"Hello, is this Knott's Pharmacy?"

"Yes! Yes, it is. How may I help you?"

"Well…I was looking online the other day for some sunscreen, and I happened to notice y'all carried something with an SPF 100+?"

"Yes, yes, what about it?"

"Well, I bought some of it, obviously, and I still got sunburned."

I nodded sympathetically, because I am just a genius when it comes to telecommunications.

"I find this highly disappointing for a sunscreen entitled 100+."

I continued to nod sympathetically for a moment. "Uh. Well. Do you want something?"

"Well, I was just wondering if y'all carry something any stronger? SPF 100 plus Ultimate? 100 Max? I don't speak marketing terms."

I blinked a few times, trying to summon my people skills. "You want me to Sharpie a bottle of sunscreen to say SPF Ultimate?"

My people skills summon like stoned sloths.

"I don't want a bottle that looks like SPF Ultimate; I want a bottle to be SPF Ultimate."

"I'm fairly sure that doesn't exist."

"Knott's Pharmacy, this is a matter of life and death."

"Have you tried…reapplying?"

"Do you think I'm crazy?"
Is this a trick question?
"I have my watch timed to remind me to apply every twenty-nine minutes and thirty seconds throughout the day and night! It's hopeless."

"Wow," I said. "That's kind of impressive, actually."

"I don't know how it happens! I burn through sunscreen. I burn through clothes. I burn in winter. I burn indoors! I burn wearing sunscreen underneath thick clothing indoors in January!"

"Are you…sure that's possible?"

"Well, you see, I have these special parabolic skin cells that concentrate sunlight into my body and cause me to burn at alarming rates. Do you have anything for that?"

"A mental health expert?"

She gave an indignant huff. "Are you mocking me, Knott's Pharmacy?"

"Me? Mocking? Never! I'm very serious. I've witnessed this phenomenon before."


"Are you by any chance a redhead?"

"What does that have to do with it?"

"Everything, my friend. Now, you quite clearly live in California. That's qualification two. Would you happen to associate with colleagues of a multiplicity of ethnicities?"

"I don't like your questions, Knott's Pharmacy."

"I'll take that as a yes. Yes, this is a clear-cut case of Class-A Eumelanin Hysteria."

I wonder if I should be alarmed how easily I come up with this stuff.

"What do hysterical melons have anything to do with my husband?"

"Eumelanin Hysteria, ma'am. It's a killer. Took my mother right away, off into the night."

As far as I knew, my mother was a semi-Italian at home doing watercolors with my little sister, but she didn't need to know that.

"What is it?"
There was a small gasp in her voice that I hoped for both of our sakes was sarcastic.

"It's a very dangerous psychological preoccupation. The subject becomes obsessed with the idea that they are constantly being sunburned even when light is not present. In time, they will avoid going outdoors, refuse to shower for fear of being uncovered by sunscreen, and eventually…well…" I faked a small sniffle.

"What? Oh god, what?"

"My poor, dear mother."

"What happened to her?"

"She tried to run away to the North Pole. Almost died of frostbite, poor thing."

"My goodness! But she's alright now?"

"She died the night they brought her home. She drank an entire bottle of sunscreen."

"Wait, does that work?"

"It works if you want to die."

"Oh." She paused. "That would be bad."

"Please, Valued Customer." Only Customer. "I cannot stress this point far enough. You must seek help before it is too late."

"Yes, yes. Yes, I must." She took in a few little gasps of air, then stopped. "Wait. Wait."
"Is there a problem?"
Her voice was a laser of hyper-focused suspicion. "Are you calling me crazy?"

I raised an eyebrow at my corded telephone. "Why don't you look up the word psychosis and get back to me on that?"

"I'm not crazy."

"The solution is very simple and cheap," I said. "It's a thing called…" I glanced around the store wildly, taking in the multiple displays and posters.
"Vitamin-D ice cream."

Sometimes advertisements are a little too effective.

"Ice cream?" she said skeptically.

"The cause of the psychosis is a lack of vitamin D from overuse of sunscreen," I said, frantically forcing my mind to recall every bit of junk science I could. "Our delicious vitamin-fortified ice cream restores the balance of minerals in the brain and reverses the damage."

"Vitamins aren't minerals."

"Vitamins, minerals…it all just gets to be this big old helpful soup of health up in there."

"Ice cream is not a soup of health."

How did I end up playing banana man to a woman who thinks her skin has parabolic rays? "Ours is."

She paused for a second. "Really?"

"Really really."

"Ice cream?"

"Chocolate ice cream."

She gave a thoughtful, "Huh."

"Like my dark skin."



"Does the ice cream make you tan?"

Oh, why not. "Yes."


"Why don't you go buy some and see for yourself?"

The author's comments:
I'm not sure who I identify with more, the hysterical ginger sunburning in January or the sarcastic teenager messing with her mind.

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