A Chemically Sensitive Woman Asks Me For Help

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It’s amazing how quickly a day can change, and completely spin onto its head. We were lounging around, puttering on the computer and watching TV, and the land-line rang. This is only relevant because I almost never, ever answer that old thing. It’s just never for me, since people call me on my personal phone. I pick up the phone and hear a plaintive voice.

“I’m calling for Wendy S– she began, and I had to correct her pronunciation of the last name. It was a woman I knew when I went to boarding school, lo, some 38 years ago. But we never forget the names of our early teachers nor the names of the pioneering first girlfriends either. She continued. “She is here in Hawley. And she isn’t doing very well. She has a chemical intolerance for things like electricity and to fragrances, and she’s trying to find a place where she can avoid them.” I wondered what calling me had to do with it. “I’m outside now, on the phone, because Wendy can’t be around a phone, the electricity and the radio waves bother her too much.
She needs help, she isn’t doing well. She needs help finding a place to live”

I had made a plan for the day that wasn’t too busy, and realized that my plan included a visit with a friend who was making a fire in Williamsburg, sort of on the way to remote Hawley. So I volunteered to come see her, since it sounded like she can’t even use a phone or a computer. Scary.

So now I’ve got a mitzvah on my schedule, and perhaps a peek into a world that most people know nothing about. The worst part must be how people doubt you and in many cases believe that it’s all in your head. I have heard of chemical sensitivity before, and know it’s a lonely place to be. Especially on what feels like the coldest day of the year in lonely Hawley, Massachusetts.