“Prebiotics? Wait a second,” she says as she flips the carton around, squinting to read ingredients. “I thought it was supposed to be probiotics?” She turns to see if anyone heard her talking to herself in the dairy aisle of Whole Foods. Just the thirty-something man with long hair and those trendy sweatpants. He’s her age, and handsome, she notices, but then she thinks twice about whether she’d ever want to date a man who even knows what probiotics are. She’s not even sure she knows what probiotics are. Wait, prebiotics. Yes, that’s right. Prebiotics.
She returns the carton back to the fridge, closing the door. After pulling her hair up into a messy bun, she crosses to the vitamin section, holding up her handwritten list. “Glutathione,” she says, mispronouncing the word. Finding the bottle, her eyes widen. She gasps. “Ninety-four dollars!” Again, she looks around. Did anyone just hear her?
“It’s all bull, honey,” a voice says. Her eyes flicker to the elderly woman next to her. Long, silvery-black hair, watery green eyes, age spots over porcelain skin. “Don’t do it, Deirdre.”
Eyes wide, she brings her hand to her heart, astonished. “How do you know my name?” she asks the old woman, who looks freakishly familiar. Is she a distant relative? Looking at her is like looking in the mirror.
“I’m you. Fifty years from now.”
Deirdre laughs at the old woman, searching the aisle. Is someone filming this? Is this a ruse? A tic-tok? A meme? A whatever-you-call-it that’s all the rage?
“You worry too much. You make mountains out of molehills,” the old woman says. “And you’re too gullible.”
“I’m sorry, but, really — who are you?” Deirdre asks, incredulous.
“I’m your ghost of Health & Wellness Future. And let me tell you, you gotta stop with all this crap. It’s just marketing, honey. And you know it. You’re going to go broke if you keep believing everything you read on those damn websites. And forget Instagram. No self-respecting doctor has an Instagram account!” The old woman cackles. Like a witch. Does she really think this is funny?
“But, I mean, that can’t be true.”
“About what? Doctors having Instagram or it all being a load of horse sh — ”
“Both!” Now Deirdre’s feeling personally attacked.
Does this woman have any idea how much money Deirdre’s been shelling out on non-dairy creamer, gluten-free everything, whole food vitamins, super supplements, Chinese herbal tea, and ancient tinctures? Deirdre swallows at least fifteen pills a day, she chokes back a heavy metal detox smoothie every morning, and bathes in moonwater for goodness sake! The amount of time Deirdre’s spent on reading about her thyroid health could constitute a full time job. And don’t even get her started on the crystals! I mean, this old hag can’t be telling the truth… right?
“I know what you’re thinking — because I’m you — and yeah, I’m tellin’ the truth.” The old woman — old Deirdre from Health & Wellness Future — is starting to really get to Deirdre.
“But they’re doctors! They know what’s right. They wouldn’t just make this stuff up.”
“Oh, is that so?” There’s a glint in the old woman’s eyes. She places a hand on her hip. “And why not? You’ll buy whatever they sell, won’t ya?”
Pssh. “Not everything,” Deirdre rolls her eyes.
“What ever happened to good old fashioned common sense? Listening to your body? Eating regular food?” She shakes her head. “You know what else? You’re always thinking there’s something wrong with you. Every pain and twitch you think is some sign from your body that you’re dying.”
“You have to be hyper vigilant nowadays!” Deirdre snaps back. She can feel her blood pressure rising.
“You know what I think? I think you’re just looking for someone to tell you there’s something wrong with you. I think you’re looking for bad news. You’re trying to prove to yourself that you’re broken, instead of believing you’re whole just as you are. Well, I’m here to tell you there is something wrong with you: you trust other people more than you trust yourself!”
That does it. Deirdre’s eyes are aglow. “You know what? I think it’s all real. I think it all works. But I think you’re just a figment of my imagination!”
As soon as Deirdre says those words, the old woman vanishes right before her eyes.
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” Deirdre shakes her head, smiling to herself. She grabs the Glutathione, and a few other bags of powders, bottles of supplements, and a new reiki stick, marching to the cash register. Out of the corner of her eye, she spots a few health & wellness magazines.
“THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU!”
“YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!”
“DRINK THIS ONE THING AND FIX EVERYTHING!”
“ALMONDS BAD! WALNUTS GOOD!”
She stares at those headlines, the faces of attractive doctors in white lab coats, their arms crossed, staring back at her, commanding her attention. Surreptitiously, she scoops them up, placing the magazines on the conveyor belt.
It’s just so much easier to be a sheep.