Check the expiration date of the epipen on the side of the case and replace it if the date is passed; pick up a practice epipen and use it this month; make sure you remember how it feels; make sure you avoid problems by planning the dinner for next Friday ahead of time; make sure nothing says ‘May contain: Milk” and be sure to also check for lactic acid; make sure you have vegan butter; make sure you start cleaning the house today, Saturday; make certain all surfaces are scrubbed on Sunday, that all cookware is dairy free; make sure the restaurant for Tuesday has a dairy or—at least—a gluten free menu; make sure you smile on your Tuesday date night; make sure he has multiple epipens on his person before entering any restaurant; make sure you don’t belittle him, let him tell the waitress he has a severe allergy; make sure you mimic his laughter at the waitress’s apparent angst; make sure you subtly scan the salads for cheese, the breadsticks for garlic butter, and the pasta for accidental alfredo assassins; make sure you smile; make sure you actually relax, forget his allergy like he does; make sure to refuse foods where the ingredients are unknown; next time make sure your purse always has an extra toothbrush, extra toothpaste, and hand sanitizer because being 99.9% sure is better than the alternative; make sure he had a good time when you drop him off at his apartment; make sure you avoid the kiss as you’re unsure you’re safe; make sure he understands why so he can avoid the hurt; make sure his comments about ‘not feeling like brushing’ don’t bother you; don’t start a fight again; don’t listen to his “living-in-the-moment” speech; make sure you drive safe through the rage; make sure you count to ten before calling him; make sure you tell him sorry and try to mean it; make sure he knows it doesn’t really bother you. Make sure Friday that you wipe down the counters; make sure you scrub your hands before handling all food for dinner; make sure you don’t set food on countertops unless you have to; make sure you scrub your hands; make sure you don’t ruin anything; make sure you scrub your hands again, hum happily in time to the raw throbbing; make sure you have a dessert; but I don’t eat foods he can’t eat; make sure he’s aware that all the dinner items are dairy free; make sure he knows that you checked the ingredients multiple times; make sure he acknowledges that you missed nothing; make sure you notice when his eyes go wide with doubt; check to make sure he spat most if not all of it out; impatiently wait an hour after ingestion; worriedly wait to check if his lungs are beyond breathing, his throat beyond swallowing; willingly wait to check if hives have popped up on his stomach and lymphatic areas; reluctantly wait to check if his eyes are puffy; watch horrified as he turns blue. Don’t panic; follow proper epipen procedure: yank off the blue safety cap, swing the orange tip viciously into his thigh until it clicks and hold it, shaking, for ten seconds, and then brutally massage the injection site to force the medicine to make him breathe; you only have thirty minutes; don’t panic; don’t call 9-1-1, don’t follow traffic laws, don’t bother with seatbelts; tell him you love him and everything will be okay; lie if you have to; ignore the flood of guilt because one of you already can’t breathe; use another epipen because it’s necessary; rush him into ER; do not panic; don’t ever leave his side; make sure you call all the important people; make sure you leave a voicemail and send texts; watch as the doctors pump him with adrenaline; cover your ears as he codes and turn away when he starts to flat line; make sure you don’t cry as you answer his phone; I promise I don’t know when it happened!; look around as his heart monitor grows louder with steady beeps, see white coats and an IV in his white left wrist. Spend the night in the hospital curled up and playing with the drawstrings of his large blue sweatshirt; listen to the unsteady gait of his breathing and try to match the rhythm. Try to be comfortable on that stiff, cramped, hospital couch. Don’t look at his puffy face, mucus is leaking out and you aren’t allowed to touch him. Tomorrow, make sure you go down to the front desk and ask for a bottle of wet wipes for the room—you never know what the nurses and doctors have touched; make sure you memorize the menu because he will be surrounded by loved ones. Make sure you go down to the waiting room and look for his family. See that familiar white haired head and watercolor blue eyes framed by strict glasses striding toward you. Look down at your pale, nervous hands and try to breathe. Look up and stop thinking—you know what to do—just brace for his family and resolve to never let this happen again.



—after Jamaica Kincaid