“Pharmacopious” (Part 3) by Jenell Kesler
Wouldn’t want to speculate, but there must have been something in the wind that reached out, turned up my collar and set me here peering in through Gram’s rusted screen-door that afternoon, my date waiting in the car at the curb, with a license, but no receipt, and knowing nothing of my demons.
Grams sat me down and we both smiled. “This is no time for smiling child,” she said. I wiped that smile away rubbing my mouth with both hands, and we leaned back shaking our heads with contained giggles, and in unison, like some Sunday morning church revelation repeated, “Girl, you’re gonna be the death of me,” one hand over our hearts, the other raised to the sky in a holy hallelujah. I knew I was gonna hear words I didn’t wanna hear, I was already seeing sentences float out and settle over me one letter at a time, like some lumbering alphabet train, for the first time in my life, and from probably the only person who mattered. “You and me’ve gotta part ways, amiga, it’s been a splendid ride.” Grams pulled one of those cigarettes she was forever dipping in a blue glass bottle, then lining them up on the kitchen windowsill to dry, from that silver clamshell case she kept in the pocket of her flowered house-apron, and I set it to flame with the lighter she’d given me on the way back from one of our memorable trips to nowhere. Sinking deeper into the couch as she inhaled, I watched the smoke swirl from her mouth and gray the whites of her eyes. This was the best part of the day for Grams, she was setting out on one of her journeys, and I considered traveling with her, even opened the bottle, got momentarily lost watching those demons racing in circles at the bottom and falling all over each other, then felt Grams slide an invisible hand across my knee and exhaled not just blue smoke, but her very being. It spiraled up, hung there momentarily like a white cloud, got caught in a cross-breeze and was gone. I walked down the hall to Gram’s bathroom feeling the textured wallpaper with dancing fingers, creaking every floorboard that had something to say, opened her medicine chest and helped myself, knowing then and there that I’d never ride shotgun again.
The rain pouring off of the green canvas awning of the hotel gave the effect of sitting behind a waterfall, safe and dry with our feet on leather ottomans, our backs resting comfortably with more than an array of exotic, choice, and memorable narcotics spread across the coffee table in front of us. Of course we had sampled, mixed and exploited our natures, leaving balls of finger hash to smolder in carved wooden pipes, and powders so intermingled by now that telling one from the other without taste was an impossibility. I wrestled my lighter from my jacket pocket, and finished rolling a joint I had no intentions of lighting, while beginning my story. “You know, I liked to travel, I still do, I find myself in Paris every few years, a week is never enough, and ten days is usually all I can scramble together. The sky’s not the same there as it is out here in the desert, in Europe the night hangs like heavy velvet drapes. I constantly have this feeling that I’m under a sheltering sky, even when I’m outdoors. I love Paris, reminds me of Vietnam, and why shouldn’t it, the French spent so much time in IndoChina trying to refashion it as some sort of Paris of the east.”
“Have you ever been to Pere Lachaise Cemetery? I usually stay at the Hotel Liberte just down from the Musee d’Orsay, where for the right price, the doorman will materialize for you, anything desirable. You’ve gotta take the underground, and then a series of streetcars, but it’s a lovely ride, and strolling through the cemetery in early June is nearly a religious experience. The place really is a City to the Dead. It’s not like anything found in America … first of all one’s family or estate must forever rent the burial space, and second, there are thousands of little mausoleums, many fenced in with sculptured iron gates, stained glass windows, while other memorials might as well be major works of art, composed of bronze, and immaculate stone.”
I like to grab a sandwich, roam around there, have lunch, get really stoned and then sketch for a few hours, soaking in as much as I can. So there I am, back against a tree, just finished a tiny bit of opium, feeling a bit like Alice in Wonderland, watching everything merge together and then flow apart, as if nothing solid existed. It was just then that a man in a groundskeeper’s uniform picked up my sketch book, flipped through its pages, looked deeply into my dilated eyes and bowed graciously from the waist saying, “The spirit has consumed you today, my lady.” I remember smiling through my half closed eyes thinking, “How sweet.” I watched him turn, walk over to the nearest mausoleum and begin to scrub the wall with a wire brush. It was such an effort, but I managed to get out the words, “You wash the mausoleums here?”
“No,” he said, “Not really, the kids come here and write the directions to Morrison’s grave site. Kind of disrespectful, not just to private property, but to Mr. Morrison as well. One day they’ll kick his sorry bones right out of here.” “But he’s their hero,” I mumbled. “Heroes will always let you down,” said the groundskeeper. “Besides, people become bigger in death, ‘specially with an early death, than they were in real life.” This notion of life, real life and dream life had begun to confuse me of late, and this man mentioning real life had me feeling that I’d let myself slip through a keyhole unnoticed, I’d needed to make a note to be more attuned to my altitude, then tried to write on a yellowed piece of paper, but my fingers failed me. It suddenly seeped into my brain that this skinny weathered man was speaking to me in perfect English. “Your English is wonderful,” I mustered. “I talk to the Americans like you. Especially those like you. You know, drugs wash the mind clean, but cloud the soul, while alcohol makes you stupid, but … ” and he poured a small amount from a bottle onto the ground and lit it with a wooden match, “… alcohol sets the soul on fire, and then consumes it.”
It was nearly 6 o’clock when I ‘woke, with the long orange fingers of the setting sun filtering their way through my closed eyelids. I found myself sitting in front of the grave of Jim Morrison, one hand on the bronze inscription “ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟΥ,” the other holding a charred wooden match with a rather badly burned finger, and my protective Citation, on which someone had written the word “altitude.”
Back in the hotel there was a group of people on the TV who were talking directly to me, they said as much, and I was answering right back. They went on to say that they knew me, that they loved me, and if I could just see my way clear to send them ten dollars, my life would be forever empowered, which made me feel kind of vulnerable as I disrobed for my shower, then opted for a bath, figuring that I could drop my towel and lay back watching the steam fantasies without missing a word. I was beginning to wonder if I even had ten dollars when there was a knock at the door, and the words “Housekeeping” filtered through. I was up and robed so fast that I actually turned around to see if I was still in the tub, worried that the me standing there was perhaps just a visualization from the tub me. A wave of water like some giant soapy tsunami topped the rim and crested across the bathroom floor, I’m sure wiping out countless species of life I’ve yet to be aware of. Regardless, I stood at the door in catlike readiness, thinking right out loud, “If I look through the peephole she’ll see me, perhaps she’s already seen my shadow from the space at the bottom of the door,” and I quickly turned out the light and waited. “I know you’re in there,” said the disembodied voice, “I can hear you talking to yourself.” “You can?” I thought, wondering what other sinister powers hotel maids had, and then slowly slid the DO NOT DISTURB hanger under the door. A long muffled sigh came from the other side, and then, “It’s 11:30, time for you to have checked out and me to be changing the room.” “But I just checked in,” I said, cracking the door and peering into the the blinding light of the hallway … “and I’m a bit curious, what will you be changing the room into?” “You checked in at 11 last night,” she said impatiently. “It’s time to check out. You really should send those people on the TV ten dollars and get your life straight.” She obviously knew too much, she had to be in league with the Innerzone Police, or worse, the Customs Officers. I closed the door and put my lips to the back of it and spoke, knowing that whatever I said would come out garbled and incomprehensible. My plan was flawless, she turned and moved her cart down the hall to the next objective.
Standing there toweling off I realized that there was far too much in this tiny flooded room for my single bag, wondering where that bag had gotten to, and if I’d really been here a mere twelve and a half hours. First the bottled demons filled the pockets of my clothes that lay on the bed like some flat person who’d run out of air. Then there were the assorted other things which I scooped into a drawer, leaving only a small pile of blue powder, which with soaking wet hands, I had no idea what to do with, then figured that since the room was being changed into something else anyway, it didn’t really matter, so I reluctantly left it right where it was. It’s at times like these that I love the interplay with my mind, putting 2 and 2 together, removing the now full drawer from the dresser, peeled off an affixed Customs receipt from the bottom of the trashcan, and then with caution moved on down and into the blinding light of the hall with the perception of protection for all things possible … and coming up with 3 as an answer, every time.
Sitting out back by the pool of the Topanga Canyon Court Motel with my consumption drawer slid beneath a lime-green lounge chair, the moon rising between the remains of some tattered starving billboard and a grouping of backlighted weathered concrete Sonora cactus’, fingers fidgeting within a new pair of brown calfskin driving gloves, I was feeling like the Duchess of Coolsville waiting on a character from a Damon Runyon story to pull up in a cloud of dust, driving a huge blue sedan with fins so tall they could scratch the sky. But by 12:30, all that had showed was a stray cat who mystically appeared at the end of the diving board, then sauntered over as I imparted the name Sheba, and took to sorting through my drawer with a purr so steady and loud it rivaled anything Detroit had ever unleashed on the road. Happy for company, I began explaining the contents of my drawer in detail, when my new found friend selected my very favorite bottle to swat into the crystal waters of the pool. It was one step in slow motion as I cleared fifteen feet of slate patio, caught my vial, and didn’t so much plunge into the waters, as they accepted me. I sank to the bottom, the aquatic lights making me feel as if I were on stage floating through the air with bubbles rising all around me. I felt balanced between worlds, between the floral painted bottom of the pool and the surface full of shimmering stars, between a world of liquefaction and the air above. In this present embryonic state I didn’t feel wet and I didn’t feel dry, I just was, I was in the moment, though instead of relishing the fact, my feet instinctively pushed off the pool floor, my vial-free hand latching onto the pool’s ladder. Sheba’s face peered at me from between the railings as I broke the surface, saying, “That bottle’s empty. You’re due for a refill,” turned and trotted off through the tall ornamental grasses.
Pulling myself from the waters of purification, I found I’d nearly everything I needed in that drawer except a towel. Sitting at the end of the lounger, dripping in the light of the moon, I began sorting though my vials and glassine bags. Sheba was right, all of them were indeed empty, all of them were in need of a refill, not a single demon to be found anywhere. What I needed was a twenty-four hour pharmacy with comfort lighting, and a towel. I slipped out of my blazer and fished through the pockets with care, found my wet yellowed citation, unfolded, smoothed and flattened it on one of the still warm slate tiles, where in the morning I’d remember to write the word “towel.”
There are few places left like Wallingford Pharmacy, it’s been sitting comfortably at the corner of Wallingford and Providence Roads since the dawn of time … only place I know that still has a phone booth out front. There are no electronic doors to instantly reveal all that’s held within, it’s a private place, more like a social club … why the place isn’t even handicapped accessible. And when a romantic like me starts telling you the truth, you can believe it as if it were written fact. There’s the curb, and a single step before one pushes open a heavy oak and plate-glass door. To your right, on a cluttered windowsill rests a pile of newspapers covered with loose change from anonymous hands reaching in for the latest edition. It’s considered polite, if not a rite of passage, to scoop up that change and deposit it on the counter while making an animated greeting. Doc’s the pharmacist, and after all these years I’ve never even heard his real name, it’s been rumored that he flunked out of medical school, but who knows. His assistant’s Paul, he’s always quick with a smile, and one of those off-colour jokes that requires, even in a place like this, that one shift their eyes and look around to see who might be listening. They’re both decked in these heavy cotton smocks, the kind that have the knotted cloth buttons across one shoulder, and two pockets on the front that are bulging with notes I’m sure they’ve long forgotten. Now I’m not saying the place is outdated, but people don’t tread these worn wooden floors for hair care needs, they come in for comfort items, cigarettes, gum, condoms, band-aids, and what’s dispensed from those stunning bottles displayed along the back wall of this narrow shoppe. Just looking at them lined up on their glass shelves makes me feel giddy, humble and small.
Like I said, it’s a friendly enough place, they’ll give you a line of credit, bill you at the end of each and every month, and if you happen to be honest enough to deposit all of the newspaper change, and you’ve perhaps forgotten your prescription, they’re trustworthy and happy to work with you. Why once I didn’t even have a prescription, I simply relayed my symptoms, what was needed to relieve them, and Doc, with a touch to the side of his nose goes and gives me a ride on someone else’s prescription … though in a case like that it’s a cash transaction only, not that he doesn’t trust you, it’s just that people have a way of wandering, and permanent addresses may or may not always exist past 11:30PM.
I sincerely doubt there’s anyone walking the planet who hasn’t considered pocketing that change, or at least a portion of it, especially if they’ve just been told by a talking cat that they’re walking around with a drawer full of empty narcotic bottles. But at times like this, one must measure the weight of one’s needs against honesty, realizing that gambling isn’t always the wisest option. Self preservation prevailed as I handed over a fistful of dimes, and then slid my drawer across the counter. Paul rummaged through the bottles, and handed me my Ray Charles’, which I donned while Doc was reading the labels to no one in particular. Finally he pushed his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose asking, “Are you coming from or headed into the Innerzone?” “Hard to say, it’s been a rather confusing couple of days” I said, slipping my hands into my pockets, rocking back on the heels of my cowgirl boots, my fingers stumbling with my Citation. Pulling it out and unfolding it in one easy motion was no easy task, though I think I gave myself away when I asked if they had a towel. Paul said, “Sorry. But no,” and I finally got around to jotting down “Towel.” “You really shouldn’t be writing on that you know,” said Paul, “Those people have some strict rules.” “Really?” I questioned, and penciled down the word “Rules” as well. “This is gonna take a bit,” said Doc touching the side of his nose again, “Why don’t you sit yourself over there on the bench while we get this ready for you.” I’d been sitting on that bench for a couple of minutes when Paul walked over with a paper cup full of water, reached into his pocket, and handed me two blue and red coloured delights saying, “It’ll be longer than I thought, Doc’s using that manual typewriter of his again. Sorry we don’t have a lounge chair, it disappeared sometime last week, but these will certainly make the wait seem more comfortable.” I sat there with my head resting on my shoulder, and through dreamy eyes saw Sheba pawing the outside of the door, and against my better judgement, wandered on out into the night after her.
What I first took to be thunder off in the distance was storming down the road directly toward me, I had the sensation that I should be running for cover, running for my life, but I was transfixed by a shower of sparks from what could only be Roman Candles, raining down from the sky. What I’d taken to be thunder wasn’t, it was 500 cubic inches of modified perfectly tuned Detroit muscle and octane rich gasoline fumes fanning out from a dual glass-pack exhaust system. A big blue Plymouth with fins so high they were actually scraping the sky had stopped right beside me. As the engine revved I simultaneously caught my own reflection in the polished chrome baby moon hubcaps of the front and rear wheels, though by the time the octane hit my brain those images where stretched out, curling and dancing all on their own. The passenger window edged down in silence, then the door swung out. I could see Sheba knocking about a pair of fuzzy dice that were hanging from the rearview mirror, and a tiny lime-green two transistor radio, the kind I used to tuck into my denim jacket pocket, run the earphone cord up under my long hair, listening to Top 40 AM hits while in study hall, showing from within a folded and outdated copy of the Racing Form. “You can stand there all night lacing your noggin with those fumes, or you can climb in here and help me run a couple of red lights, pineapple a tollbooth, blast our way back into the Innerzone and spend the best week of your life, girlie,” and all that from a voice shrouded in a thick haze of blue smoke. I took that seat, I was facing forward, committed to the ride, and when my mystery man trumped that accelerator, it not only jettisoned Sheba from the dash to my lap, but cleared that plume of smoke. A bigger than life hand with the purpose of a surgeon moved across the seat, in it were my brown calfskin gloves, “I believe these are yours. At least this cat says they are. There’s stuff on the backseat too. Name’s Danny Utah, and no, I’ve never been there.” As I turned peering into the darkness of the backseat, Mr. Utah flipped on the overhead dome illuminating a dozen full and neatly packaged white pharmacy bags. “I believe those are yours as well. That little kitten wouldn’t go anywhere ‘til we picked ‘em up … not even for pancakes.”
Danny hurtled through a series of red lights like they applied to anyone but us with Joe Henderson on the radio, cutting the night like a shiv. I stuck my noggin, as Danny had referred to it, out the widow, the cool breeze was intoxicating. After pulling one of the bags from the backseat, I checked the contents saying, “I was under the impression that this was the Innerzone.” “Oh no baby-cakes, this ain’t the Innerzone, this all’s just the outer edges” he said with sweeping gestures, no hand on the wheel. “Lots of folks step out here from time to time,” he went on, “some even set up housekeeping, others get lost here, but this is by no means the Innerzone. Hell, you ever wonder why you’re still dealing with Customs Officials? ‘Cause this is just the border, wider in some places than others, but the border all the same.” We were bearing down on a series of small cubicles and picking up speed. “Tollbooths,” said Danny, “they’ll rob you for all you’ve got.” He reached under his seat and came up with what appeared to be a baseball, though when he pulled a pin from the top I realized it was a hand-grenade, instinctively turning in my seat to view the coming spectacle from the rear window, thinking Grams and I had never taken a trip like this, when BAM, the booth we’d just rushed by lit up like an orange ball of flames caught in a whirlwind. “Now that’s a shame,” said Danny, “that booth was probably full of nothing but top shelf.” I was watching the orange ball turn into yellow flames, with shadow people running about when I asked, “Won’t they call ahead, won’t they be expecting us further up the road?” “Not a chance little one,” said Danny, “That’s a frontier station, we came in the backdoor, nothin’ from here to there but a whole lot more of nothin’.” I watched the flames through the side-view mirror ‘til there was nothing else to see but a big smiling full Creole moon, then slipped into unconsciousness.
I was suddenly comfortably awake, awake as if in the deep recesses of my mind there was a telephone I needed to answer to remind me of the erotic dream I was having. I was no longer in that blue Plymouth, but rather a very late model Mercedes Benz with aged deep leather seats, fine wood appointments, and windows lacking any tinting. I yawned deeply but for no apparent reason. Danny Utah was still behind the wheel, and looked over knowingly while sorting through my bags saying, “The first time’s always like that, you’ll never feel it that way again, you’ll remember this very second, you’ll be guiltily wishin’ for it every time you cross.” “Cross what?” I said rubbing my arms. “Cross into the Innerzone of course,” he said. It was then that I became aware that we were on a ferry, almost ready to slide between the wooden pilings of the dock, “Where’s the Plymouth?” I asked. Danny placed my bags on the floor between us looking a bit exhausted, saying, “You didn’t need it anymore. Where exactly are you?” I looked around as if both sure and unsure of my present situation. My pharmacy bags were still there, Sheba was asleep on the ledge of the rear window, the Racing Form was there on the seat with a .45 now folded between its pages, “In a Mercedes, on a ferry about to pull into the dock.” “See,” said Danny turning the engine over, “that’s the Innerzone for ya. There are some basic truths, they can be nudged, but ya don’t wanna bend ‘em too far. Being in the Innerzone’s all about the comfort of being.” We waited our turn, following a line of cars off the ferry and onto the dock. “Girl,” said Danny, “just look around, this is the best place on the planet, but it’s no fun if you can’t come back.” “What’s that mean?” I questioned while looking out the window. Then answered my own question with a question, “Does that imply I’ve gotta leave from time to time?” “You’re a natural,” said Danny, “that’s just what it means, and never forget that. Lots of people have.” We pulled into a parking space, Danny got out immediately, fed the parking meter and got back in the car. “Feeding the meter’s the most important thing you can remember to do, gives you a sense of time, tickets here are a bitch, and having your automobile towed, well let’s just say that ain’t an option.” “What’ll I feed the meter with, I don’t have any money?” I asked. Danny looked at me smiling, “What’d you do, send those people on the television your last ten bucks? Don’t worry about it, between you and me and what you’ve got in those bags we’ll be just fine.” “But those are … ,” I attempted to explain. Danny waved both of his his hands in front of his face finishing my sentence, “Your demons? You won’t need ‘em here, there’s much better stuff on the loose, though there are folks who like those sort of things out there. Better to keep ‘em as trade. I’m off, you’re on your own now, that’s just the way it works … that little pussy will find you when it’s time to go, or find me if you decide to.” I watched Danny Utah ease his way down the street thinking I should make a note about “Parking Meters,” then I must’ve blinked, cause he was just gone.
There was something festive in the air, or perhaps it was just electrical excitement I was feeling, finally setting foot to pavement in the Innerzone. I must’ve passed three rather nice hotels before deciding on The Rex, which was a step down from the others, but a step up in atmosphere. I was standing at the desk, no attendant in sight, dueling with myself, trying to decide whether to ring the service bell or not … there was one of those plastic inscribed signs that invited ringing for service, but ringing a bell seems somewhat uncomfortable for me. Standing there sparring as I was, I scanned the lobby filled with comfortable furniture, a darkened bar off to the left with nondescript jazz ebbing from the door. With my hand hovering over the bell, a man stepped from the shadow of a very vintage phone booth, catching my palm in his, causing mine to thump on the counter completely missing my mark. He rubbed both of his eyebrows with the thumb and forefinger of one hand, giving him the impression of shading his eyes from the sun … but there was no sun, just subdued lighting from the gooseneck lamp by the registration book. “I couldn’t help noticing your packages,” he said dropping both his hand and his tone, “are you talent or just here on holiday?” “Talent?” I questioned feeling there was something I was missing, but reluctant to admit. He was leading me by the arm matter-of-factly, putting a slight distance between me, the desk, and my white pharmaceutical bags just as the desk clerk appeared, swatted the guy on the back of his neck with a rolled newspaper, nearly springing him to a spot over by the window where he stood for a moment, one hand thrust into his pocket, the other having a private discussion in the air with no one, before stepping through the door, both hands raised in animation.
“Ah,” said the desk clerk stepping behind the counter, looking at me as if he could see his life going by in my shaded eyes, “I see you’ve brought luggage. One, two, three, four, five bags. Madam’s traveling rather heavily, and we do so appreciate luggage of such exquisite quality. May I ask how long you plan to be with us?” “I’m not sure,” I answered, “why don’t we feel our way through this, see how it goes. Who was that character?” He spun the registration book, handed me a pen, and as I was signing leaned in for a whisper saying, “There are a lot of those types here, they give the Innerzone a bad name. Most of ‘em would like to go back, but’ve no place to return to, and nothing to offer by staying here.” While considering the possibilities of his answer said, “I’ve a car out front, a cat somewhere, and was told that being ticketed isn’t an option. How do I take care of the meter?” “May I?” queried the clerk, and opened two of my bags. “Now,” he exclaimed with exuberance, “five of these little beauties in the hands of that gentleman sitting on the step across the street will more than assure your car remains ticketless right where it is. And for two of these, I shall personally keep an eye out for your little pussy … allow her to come and go at will. All will be as you’d wish. Now, here’s your key, top of the stairs, end of the hall, a lovely corner suite. I suggest that you carry your own luggage, the hotel can’t be held responsible for any damage, or missing articles. Maid service is at 2 P.M., most of our residents like to sleep late, as I’m sure you will as well. Good day madam, enjoy your stay.” As I climbed the stairs I caught the clerk swallowing one of my demons before disappearing though the vinyl padded door behind the desk. I was about to turn when Sheba appeared on the counter, rang the bell with her paw, then scampered to my side for safety. She trotted down the deeply carpeted hallway in front of me falling against my door, all four feet in the air, sizing up the whole situation from her upside-down vantage point.
With the door open Sheba perched herself on the sill of a screen-less window, the drapes barely moving in the breeze. I sat on the edge of my bed, poured myself a drink from the ice filled pitcher that stood in the center of the bureau dresser while trying to figure out the pattern of the chintz spread, then began unpacking my bags, flattening each and tucking them into a drawer for later use. I lined up the amber coloured plastic bottles by height, then in alphabetical order, and finally according to delight before pulling a chair to the window just as my little kitten stepped out onto the ledge and disappeared around the corner, off no doubt to investigate the comings and goings of another room.
Standing there taking it all in from my corner windows, the Innerzone was like a modern day Spaghetti Western if it were shot in Florida, perhaps in one of those off the map, off the inner-state no name towns, where Tom Waits had once been the Mayor … though since he’d gotten himself a record deal some forty years back-when, things have remained pretty much the same. So much the same that broken traffic-lights slumber through the day, the guys sunning themselves at the bus stop will still be sittin’ there as a big ol’ orange moon rises over the glades, where palmetto bugs tease giant swamp frogs, and yellowing newspapers pile up on doorsteps, unread and unattended. I was finally able to put a finger on that festive feeling I’d had hour or so ago, everyone looked as if they’d attended a Halloween party and were still more or less in costume … then said “No,” right out loud, standing with my arms braced on the windowsill, “they all look like they’ve just been to a concert,” and felt my face smiling, and not of it’s own accord. Turning with the feeling that all of the air in the room was being sucked right into me, I craned my neck watching the grain of the wooden headboard flow like water while the walls began to texture. I had the odd notion that I was completely aware of everything, that everything was part of me, yet I was no longer me, I was deconstructing, dropping pieces of my conscious to the floor where they were instantly absorbed by pieces of my subconscious, disappearing into the carpeting, and as I knelt to gather myself, to hold myself in check, the silver moon rolled by my window like a giant fifty cent piece rolling down the street, with a big ol’ smiling face and one winking eye.
I fell back on the bed attempting to assess what was happening to me, and that’s when the string broke. I was out there on my own, my head realized its last clear thought, I could actually see the words float out of my mouth and dance through the air over to the window, where that smiling moon gobbled them up. “I’m tripping. I’m walking out here all alone, no I’m not, everything is out here with me,” then pulled the spread, whose pattern was now making way too much sense, over me as the ceiling began to matrix, wondering if the last things I’d thought had been said out loud. I vaguely remember looking at myself from above and saying, “Yep! You said that out loud.” My body felt perfect, satisfied, though where it began and I ended I have no idea. Everything was better than it had ever been before, the carpeting was like a topographical map. I couldn’t decide if I should keep my eyes open or closed … when they were open I was afraid that I was missing something, but when they were closed it was almost too much to stand. Coloured trails swept by me at the speed of sound yet seemed to take forever to pass, only to have another, and another wash in together and explode on the irises of my eyes. I felt like my body was humming, vibrating, and full of life … yet one look at my cat asleep on my chest assured me that I wasn’t in motion at all. I heard myself think, “What an odd sensation.” I needed my dark shades, the light was zapping my brain, and there wasn’t a straight angle in the room to be found. I knew I was spinning out of control, and it didn’t matter. Hours passed within the blink of an eye, and then, and then it seemed as if a switch had been thrown. I felt like a gyroscope that was still spinning, yet had stumbled off its stand, still in motion, but winding its way down, skipping across the table with no discernible direction. I was about to get myself a drink when it occurred to me that the pitcher, now full of melted ice, had been the genesis of this whole adventure. I removed my fingers from the handle by sheer force of will, and crawled into bed with the oddest notion that my face was hurting from smiling too much. I let the notion pass, took thirty milligrams of valium, laid back relishing in the comfort of warm sheets, and walls that no longer moved.
I was stumbling in slow motion from my bed half asleep to answer the knocking … it was the house-maid looking quite surprised to see that she’d wakened me, apologized saying she’d be back later, then fetched a small envelope from her pocket and pressed it into my hand just as the door was closing, saying that it should’ve been delivered with the pitcher of iced water yesterday. I read the card wishing what I knew now, I’d known yesterday, “Hope you enjoy the coolness! Love, Danny.” I drew a smiley face in the frosted moisture of the pitcher wondering if a dose of lysergic acid diethylamide was a standard greeting for the Innerzone, or if I’d been singled out for some mind altering adventure that would forever change the way I looked at everything, then tossed myself back on the bed, forearm across my eyes feeling like some Hollywood starlet from a bygone era, stoked to the gills, hoping to avoid the paparazzi on the way out, then laughed, realizing the LSD was still dancing behind my eyes.
By eight o’clock, with my head cleared, I stood at the top of the stairs looking out over what appeared to be a party. Before I’d the chance to take even one step, an arm interlocked with mine, and a man dressed as a ghost said, “Do glide down these stairs with me. Without ample support I’ll be nothing but rags lying in a heap at the bottom of these steps, people endlessly toeing me with their pointed shoes filled with ridiculous thoughts I’ll never understand.” Once down the stairs he disappeared into the crowd, or perhaps just disappeared into the haze of sweet smoke that rose up from the floor, got caught in the ceiling fan, and dispersed to parts unknown. “And what brings you to the Innerzone?” asked a woman in purple, but she too was gone before I could answer. Then a drink was in front of my face, and from behind the glass came the repeated question, “Well, what did bring you here?” “A thunderstorm I suppose,” I heard myself say. “Ah,” said the gent, “so you ducked inside to avoid the rain and watch your life begin.” “In a manner of speaking,” I replied, “though once off the ferry, I knew there was no turning back.” “Well, come this way,” said my newfound friend, “there are so many people you’ll be wanting to meet.” I tried following his gaze, but along with the others, he was soon lost in the patter of laughter and a sea of shoulders, like waves, constantly in motion. And that drink, it hung there in the air momentarily, then crashed to the floor splintering like diamonds, and the room went quiet.
I felt like I was back in high school and I’d just dropped my a la carte lunch tray with extra mashed potatoes and gravy. The ghost drifted back over, as did the lady in purple, who stood at my sides having a conversation regarding my sea-legs, or lack thereof, as if I wasn’t even there, causing me to actually touch myself in case I was still tossed across my bed dreaming. “Darling,” said the ghost, “please don’t leave yourself hanging by a thread with no one to pull it,” and dipped his hand down my pants, making me very much aware that I wasn’t up on my bed dreaming. The room began to buzz again, though I let it trail off after me, finding my way back to the lobby and out the revolving doors onto the street. I breathed deeply, the air bringing me back to the land of the living, slipped on my shades and into character with the feeling that it would never be this good again. What I didn’t know, was that in the Innerzone it was always this good for people like me, and that, like anywhere else, had a way of making some people nervous.