Stories of people my age forgetting which is the business end of a pencil make my blood run cold.

That wasn’t always the case. When the people who got the mental flutters were a lot older than me, I could relax. I was in the clear. Putting the car key in the cigarette lighter wouldn’t be a mistake I’d be making any time soon.

But when the stories start being about people my age, maybe even younger than me, I feel like a person with mountains of undetected cancer in my gut.

Tonight at dinner, I asked a friend if she ever wanted to ask people if they had any symptoms yet. She laughed but she didn’t ask symptoms of what. Because, of course, she knew. Every person over the age of 60 is afraid of the same thing.

Remember the Body Snatchers? One by one the residents of a nice little town just became ‘gone,’ alive but unreal. It happened while they’re sleeping. They were snatched and replaced by beings who looked just like them but were vacant. It’s more complex than this, don’t let my little quick synopsis here minimize the terror. Giant pods were involved. I’ll stop there.

Lately, I’ve developed an exceptional fear that I will drive the wrong way on a one way street. I’ve done this only twice in my life, once with a young man who was working for me, who lurched for the dashboard when I braked and made a hair-raising u-turn and then again last year when I motored the wrong way about half a block, only stopping when it finally occurred to me why other drivers were waving. Hello. Hello back.

So now I find that every time I make a turn from one city street to another, I check five times to make sure it’s a two-way street.

What is this about? Is it a symptom?

The whole notion of going the wrong way on a one way street is so emblematic to me – a metaphor that could fit practically every decision I’ve ever made – that I worry that this apparent leap that the metaphor is making into real life is a sign of big time trouble. Park the hyperbole, so to speak, she really is going the wrong way on a one way street.

Of course, nobody ever really talks about this except in a joking way. Every single person the Body Snatchers come for bobs and weaves and denies the existence of any symptoms until they are swimming in forgotten things. At least outwardly.

In their heads, they had to have known something was up. Is it like the lump in your breast that you touch a hundred times until you convince yourself that it’s always been there? The spot on your leg that could be a freckle but looks just like the melanoma picture on WebMD? I don’t know.

Does it all come without warning? One day you’re fine and the next day, there’s a pod with your name on it?

The people who know the answer to this aren’t telling. They didn’t know when they saw it and can’t remember looking back.

That’s some scary shit.

#56/100: 56th in a series of 100 in 100