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“Pharmacopious” (Part 6) by Jenell Kesler

October 29, 2017

“Pharmacopious” (Part 6) by Jenell Kesler

I looked at my watch, and even
though it didn’t say so, it was time to leave. 
Packing didn’t take long, and as I peered into the top drawer with more
caution than trepidation, I was keenly aware that my demons had multiplied
during our stay.  Not only that, as I
watched, they lined themselves up, slipped into their assigned bags, and were
somehow not only aware, but ready to go. 

A formal checkout was something I didn’t want to be bothered with, the
rent’s been paid a month in advance, so I figured I’d just slide the useless
room key across the counter and step into the street.  My car, Danny’s car, sat baking in the
morning sun with a rather large crack running vertically up the middle of the
windshield, a crack that hadn’t been there when Danny’d parked it … whenever
that was.  As I started the engine I
picked at the crack with my fingernail, though I’ve no idea why, it just seemed
the thing to do.  Just then Mr. Brodsky
tapped on the side-view mirror with his flashlight saying, “Your window’s
cracked, it’s gonna affect your view.  I’ll
take a look, but there really nothing that I can do about it.” At that same
moment, the hotel clerk came running from across the street saying he’d have
been pleased to carry my luggage, that my bags were the finest they’d had the
opportunity to attend to, that they and I would be missed, then questioned
where I was going,  when I’d be back,
what was the point of packing everything if I’d be returning, and if I wasn’t,
that it wasn’t policy to issue refunds. 
He was panting and out of breath, both his shirt tail and hand were out,
as if I were supposed to tip him for his concern.  Rolling my eyes I reached into the glovebox
and handed him a small amber vial filled with a blueish green liquid.  He eyed it with wonder, and spirited it into
his breast pocket saying, “This afternoon will be the most memorable cocktail
hour ever,” and thanked me again, turned and headed back, but not before
calling over his shoulder, “No refunds mind you.  No refunds.” 
Then he tapped his shirt pocket with his right hand, as if relaying some
secret salute, and disappeared into the lobby. 
I could see that Mr. Brodsky was feeling rather left out in all of this,
so I handed him a key from my keyring and smiled.  He held it between his thumb and forefinger
pondering out loud, “And what does it unlock?” 
“I don’t know,” I replied, “You’re gonna have to figure that one out on
your own.”  He looked at me, and then
directly at the key with concern, “I will you know, I’ll figure this out, I’ll
let you know when I do.”
✐✐✐
✐✐✐✐✐ ✐✐✐
I hadn’t made it past the
first traffic light when colours, varied as a giant 64 pack of Crayola’s, began
oozing through the crack in the windshield. 
They oozed in like a tube of glue that’d been slit with a razor,
cascading, dripping, folding, filled with bubbles, building up on the air
conditioning vents, and slowly dropping to the floor.  This couldn’t be good, I’d no intention of
getting stuck in the Innerzone, even if I had off-handedly wished that … no,
I needed to put some space between me and this town, if anything was gonna get
stuck it was the accelerator.  I flipped
through one light after another, the more speed I built up the more intriguing
and intoxicating the colours became. 
Sheba had moved to the rear window by now, I knew it wouldn’t be long ‘til
I was knee deep in the ooze, so I did the only thing that Danny Utah would have
done, I flicked my Zippo and set the colours afire, driving blind into the
swirling flames, and out of the Innerzone.
With the sun setting behind
me, an outer territorial tollbooth came into view.  I’d been barreling down the the highway like
a comet just hitting the earth’s atmosphere, plumes of flames trailing after
me.  Fishing through my pockets, I was
hoping to come up with the exact change, lacking that, perhaps a Customs
receipt, anything to give me an edge, anything to draw attention away from
these flames.  Rolling up to the booth I
rolled down my window, I could see the orange flames reflected on the chrome
walls, and just as I’d given up the ghost, fearing the loss all of all hope, I
found a Customs receipt.  Smiling, trying
to look calm, sure he’d notice these flames dancing around the interior of my
car, handed him the receipt along with the necessary paperwork.  “Been out here long?” he asked while stamping
my Passport. “Long enough,” I replied, watching the flames dance across the
lenses of his glasses.  Removing his
glasses he ran his fingers over the split in my windshield, which was funny,
not ha-ha, because as he did the colours stopped oozing in, causing the flames
to sputtered and die out.  “You’re gonna
need to get that attended to promptly,” he said taking out a brown binder, “In
the meantime I’m gonna have to give you a ticket.”  “But I’ve got a ticket right here,” I said,
showing him the pink citation that this morning had been attached to Sheba’s
collar.  “Indeed, it seems you do,” he replied,
taking it from my fingers.  “And a very
impressive citation at that.  I haven’t
see one of these in a very long time. 
Listen … you best be on your way, wouldn’t want you getting in trouble
out here, stuck in the mud, or mired in consequences.”  With that, he tipped his hat and I was
gone.  I turned up the radio while
watching the tollbooth melt into the orange ball of the setting sun in my
rearview mirror, then caught myself breathing a sigh of relief that was so
profound I gave it due consideration.  I
reached over, about to pick at the crack, but decided better to leave well
enough alone just as Sheba stretched out against my leg, and for a moment felt
a distant memory of sparks raining down from the night sky, with Danny Utah at
the wheel, headed in the opposite direction.
☎︎☎︎☎︎ ☎︎☎︎☎︎☎︎☎︎ ☎︎☎︎☎︎
While coming in is pretty
much the matter of decoding, and then a straight ride … coming out of the Innerzone
is a drifting spiral affair of unwinding and circumnavigation.  Seriously, at the next two tollbooths they
hadn’t even bothered to check my passport, they just waved me on through, seems
I posed no danger, even if I did look a bit worse for wear and tear.  So I parked my car, Danny’s car, left the
keys dangling in the ignition, and set off walking … moving like a memory,
but whose, while hoping not to be recognized. 
I caught my reflection looking back at me from a store window, seems I’d
been recognized after all.  There I
stood, tan as a new penny, and after a few lost moments, found it necessary for
certainty, to reach out and touch the glass. 
Finally I smiled, laughingly pointing at my twin with relief saying, “The
reflected words are backwards,” and felt safe thinking I knew who was real
after all.  But half a block later in a
moment of imagined enlightenment, realized that reflected words would’ve been
backwards no matter which side of the glass I was on.  Running back, placing my hands and face to
the glass, I found my reflection no longer staring back at me, but deep inside
the shoppe, engaged in conversation with a man in a weathered trench coat, a
man who was handing me a small white paper bag. 
The street around me was littered with yellow receipts, and the
afternoon crowd parted around me like I was out’a step, like there was a secret
I didn’t know, and then felt myself tumble through the looking glass, so to
speak, as the gentleman in the weathered trench coat put his hand on my shoulder
asking, “You all right?”  “Yeah, sure, I
think so,” I replied, feeling a bit lost. 
“It’s just that I had this feeling,” and turned around, sure that I’d
catch myself, “that I was standing there watching myself from the other side of
the window.  Crazy, isn’t it?”  The bag never exchanged hands, he just held
onto it asking, “Are you just coming out of the IZ?”  “Been on the road for a couple of days now,” I
shot back eyeing the bag hanging at the end of his arm.  “I don’t know who you are,” he said, straightening
himself up.  “That’s alright, I do,” I
whispered, “I’m lots of things.  I’m the
culmination of all my father feared, the denial of his success and the order of
his universe.  To my mother I was an
angel, and to the folks down the street … well to them I don’t exist, ‘cause
they’ve never met me.”  “Now,” I said,
dusting myself off, “who’d you like me to be for you?”   His next question floated in like A4’s
version of ‘Losing Touch With My Mind’ … “And how long were you out there?”  “Not sure,” I said looking around for a clue,
“years, months, days.  What’s it matter?”  “It doesn’t,” he said, finally placing the
bag in my hands.  “It’s just that this
world out here will never be what you want it to be.  Better that you turn around, go back in.  People out here, they’ll be afraid of you …
well, more of what you know.  You’re
about as close to being out as anyone I’ve ever seen, you shouldn’t give
up.  Living here in the outer rings of
the IZ is about living with regret.  I
bet you’re one of those people who was born just left of center, fancy stepper,
head in the clouds, more aware of everything than you’d like to be.  Probably torn that no one’s got a line on you
like you’ve on them.”  “Listen,” he went on, pausing for
emphasis, “stay here, leave, or go back and live happily ever-after.  I know it sounds cliché, but you won’t find your
answers in that bag.  Even the demons ain’t
what they used to be anymore, and besides, they just make living out here more
tolerable is all.  Everything has its price.”  Taking a step toward the door he handed me a
blank business card saying, “Don’t
call, I’ve no answers, don’t want to be involved.  And as they say, you can’t talk to those who
don’t know, and you don’t need to with those who do.”  
I sat down considering his
words, but more, I was considering what I already knew, and turned his card
over and over between my fingers thinking of all the people I’d left behind in
one way or another, wishing for all the world that a magic cab would pull up to
the curb and take me exactly where I wanted to go.  But where I wanted to go wasn’t a place, it
was a feeling.  Grams was long gone, she
was about as close to comfort as I’ve ever been, and then I realized that it
wasn’t about the things that Grams and I had done, or even the places we’d
been, Grams was the comfort.  Someone was
cleaning up the broken glass as I stepped through the revolving door and onto
the street, I didn’t want to make eye contact, but I did, I couldn’t help
myself.   I knew the answer, but I didn’t
want to admit it, admitting it might mean I had to respond, and I didn’t want
to respond, yet alone confront myself with a truth I already knew.  But I couldn’t help it.  I heard the words tumble out of my mouth,
words that in some abstract convoluted manner suggested that the comfort I was
lookin’ for was to be found in being Grams. 
Well, not actually being Grams, but me being a Grams, and passing these
things on.  But that was silly to say the
least, and certainly bestowed a sense of maturity I was currently unwilling to
shoulder.  But I’d made eye contact, and
sometimes that’s all it takes.
With the streets empty, the
long fingers of buildings were reaching for the last rays of the sun, the buses
weren’t running, or perhaps they were just late, lord knows I’ve been running
late most of my life, and there I stood at the bus stop wondering if I’d the
correct change.  The engine of a car was
rumbling to my left, it sat low in the shadows, filled with power, it’s door
open, the driver busily removing a poster that’d been tacked to the wall.  “I know that band,” I said, barely out loud,
almost to no one, but I had said it, and he was the only no one around.  “Yeah, they’re great,” he shot back holding
the poster with great care.  “You know,” I
rambled on, “You can never really meet your heroes.”  “I know,” he said, “that’s why I use
pharmaceuticals …”  I interrupted with
a spark of recognition saying, “Because you know just what you’re getting every
time, you know just where they’ll take you, they’ve been developed and
compounded with care and great expense to give exacting long lasting and
repeated effects.”  “Do I know you?” he
questioned, laughing.  “I don’t think so,”
I said, “Are you headed in or out?”  “Me?”
he responded in a hushed voice, looking over his shoulder, “I’m headed back
in.  Unfinished business of sorts, if you
get my drift.”  I stood there knowing
that it was at this juncture that I should be saying “Goodnight,” and walking
off in the other direction, but I didn’t. 
I shoved my hands deep into my pockets and looked him straight in the
eyes, “You want company?  I know the way,
the backroads, the tollbooths, and the diners with the good food, the ones that’ll
pack you a sandwich for the road out’a complete kindness.  Matter of fact, I’ve got a citation here that
should be good for something along the way, and a ticket that’s just dying to
be paid.”
♠︎♠︎♠︎
♠︎♠︎♠︎♠︎♠︎ ♠︎♠︎♠︎
The city slipped into night
as we crossed the bridge, and the bridged slipped into darkness as we stepped
onto the inner-state, throttled down and headed west, like that orange ball
hanging low on the horizon was an attainable destination, a spot marked on the
map, a place where we might stop and look up in wonder as that sun hovered
there as some sort of natural wonder, and around us would be restaurants, vista
view telescopes that operated for quarters, a miniature themed golf course, and
of course a gift shoppe burdened with cards and solar oriented chotskies.  But first we had to throw twenty dollars into
pump number five, watch the kid behind the counter hold that bill up to the
ceiling light, look at us, look back at that twenty dollar bill, and then swipe
it with a counterfeit marker as dozens of others had done along the way, making
that piece of paper less readable, but securing its value.  “You know,” said that kid behind the counter
as we were walking out, “If I’d a dollar I’d make it rain.”  Just the thought of that made me smile, so I
spun on my heels, fished a dollar out of my jeans, tossed it down on the
counter saying, “Give us ten minutes before you open the heavens please.”  I was headed back in alright, a full blown
whizz-kid, seeing both sides of everything, remembering that the gate swings
both ways, and working out life’s stumbles in mid-stride.  I slapped two Quaaludes on the dash as Danny
turned over the engine.  “Where’d you get
those?” he smiled.  “And how long were
you gonna pretend you didn’t know me?” I shot back.  Though what I was really considering was that
I’d called those white tabs Quaaludes and not demons.  “They just turned up,” I said.  “And so did I,” said Danny grinning, “Glad to
have you riding shotgun.”
There were  no streetlights out where we were, the four
lanes had turned into two lanes an hour ago, it was like flying, wrapped in
darkness, with only the headlights bouncing out in front of us.  The radio was delivering sublime obscure
classics, one brilliant song after another, and somewhere in the middle of “Lemonade
Kid” I reached
over, turned down the volume and asked Danny about the drugs.  He laughed again, I could tell the Ludes were
working their way through him, they certainly were me, his voice was thick but
clear, and his eyes never left the road as he began.  “You know those commercials where the person
says ‘No one pictures themselves as a junkie when they’re twelve?’  Well I did.  No, not
really a junkie, but yes a junkie, but not because I actually knew what a
junkie was, I just knew what the junkie standing in front of me was
getting.  It was 6th grade, late 1950’s,
a police officer with a display board filled with every pill you could imagine
affixed to it, and there’s this guy, and he’s like trying to be cool, maybe he
was, I don’t know, what does anyone know at that age, but the point is that he’s
telling us how he used to be a junkie, that he still was, just that he wasn’t
using any longer, and how the drugs had ruined his life, separated him from his
family, got him arrested, and on and on. 
And then he got clean, and how much better that was, how he got back the
love from his family, and was living a great sober life, and that he’d made a
promise to help other kids stay off drugs, which struck me as pretty funny, ‘cause
I hadn’t even used any yet, didn’t even know what they did or really were.  Not like you and your Grams, man, you grew up
in the middle of the wanderlust and didn’t even know it.  So I began making these illogical connections
in my head, except that they weren’t illogical then, and all the while this guy
seems to be getting farther and farther away, and I can’t really hear him, ‘cause
my own thoughts are just getting louder and louder.  Back then, in 6th grade I was making the
connection that if I became a junkie and got clean, then I’d get the love from
my parents I’d never gotten, hell, they might even know I actually existed on a
physical level, and that people would like and respect me for who I’d become,
and not who I was, that I’d be having lunch at the big table in the middle of
the cafeteria with all the other teachers, talking to them, but more, having
them listen to me, ‘cause I knew something they didn’t, and what I knew was
important, which in effect meant that I was important, and worth
consideration.  But that was all a
million years ago, I’d a pretty fucked up childhood, low self-esteem and all
that goes with it.  You know I used to
set fires?  I did, but not just randomly,
I had this cardboard box filled with old programs from our church that were
left on the pews after the service, and I’d stash them with a lighter I’d
lifted from my aunt, a box of strike anywhere wooden matches, and a half can of
lighter fluid.  I was always overfilling
that lighter, had a permanent chemical burn on my thigh from that Zippo leaking
in my pocket.  Not that it’s important
and all, but in the scope of things, they say that kids who start fires have
some serious, or noteworthy familiar and social issues.” 
Danny went quiet for a bit,
wiped his hands on his jeans and turned the radio up.  “I don’t think I could become a junkie,” I
said breaking the silence, “I like getting stoned too much, I couldn’t imagine
not being able to get high.  It’s like
goin’ to the circus, a fun place to visit, but not somewhere I wanna live.”  “You and me darlin’,” said Danny looking
rather exhausted, “Both of us on the upper end of social use, never stepping
over the line, doors open that we’ll never close, watching everything that we
adore being taken off the market because of misuse ‘til there’s nothing but
those tiny cellophane bags left, an I’m not sure I wanna be traveling there at
my age.”  Danny pulled off the road, and
behind an abandoned gas station he shut the engine down.  It was quiet, I climbed into the backseat,
and as I lay there I tried to focus on the ceiling, but was failing miserably.  Music was filtering low from the stereo, the
blue lights of the dash were wavy and barely visible between the armrests of
the front seat.  I knew Danny was already
asleep, I was watching my dreams being dealt out in the air in front of me,
like some strange came of cards with deuces wild.  I picked my hand, tossed back the Jack of
Hearts, and let things play out.  I ‘woke
with the vague feeling of having witnessed, or missed a materialization.  The front and rear windows were covered with
cat footprints, as was the hood of the car and the trunk, while the gas station
that was so deserted and abandoned last night was more than alive this morning,
proving the adage, that looks can be deceiving.
I stood there taking it all
in, as if reality had invaded my sleepy space, floating back memories of
childhood fever-dreams, closet doors that opened in the night, closed windows
with curtains that danced in the half light of the moon, a bed that rode on an
ocean of misunderstood monsters, sure of Oriental truths, and the magic of
carpets.  Then from behind me a voice
trilled, “So you couldn’t kick the Innerzone after all?”  “Hardly,” I said, without turning
around.  But I did, and took a step back
in disbelief, ‘cause there was Tonto & The Lone Ranger wrestling in the
dust, while Elvis was taking aim, shooting at fifteen TV’s he’d lined up, Howdy Doody had
his strings all tangled trying to fish down a wishing well, Warhol was
stenciling polkadots on Dylan’s shirt, and right next to me, making
individually wrapped peanut-butter crackers, stood the cafeteria lady from high
school saying, “I’ve kicked it many times, it’s just that for all it is and isn’t,
it’s still better than what’s on the other side.”  Sheba rubbed the back of my leg, and then
walked across the toes of my boots.  A
man in a paisley shirt and white lab coat went spinning by on a bicycle and
whispered in my ear, “The IZ Police still have your photo over the Precinct
door, and the Customs people, who knows what they’ve got planned.”  I laughed, “Perhaps.  Not much I
can do about that, and not much they can do about it either.  After all, they’re Innerzone Officers for a
reason.”  I was remembering a line from a
book I’d read about Gram Parsons that went, “Never start an adventure that
required new clothes.”
  I looked down
at what I was wearing, thinking that I like these clothes just fine, I don’t
want to wear anything else, so until then, it seems this is where I’m destined
to stay.
☕︎☕︎☕︎ ☕︎☕︎☕︎☕︎☕︎
☕︎☕︎☕︎
I’ve managed to find a couple
of outdated stamps, this card’s just a greeting from the other side, pass it
on, real estate values are low, and it’s a good place to live.  Oh, and if you stumble on a garage sale, and
find any of those house-aprons, the kind Grams used to wear, please grab me a
couple.
The Notes:
Truth, Hallucinations,
Mosquito Netting, Demons, Service, Home, Receipts, Further, Altitude, Towels,
and Rules, along with the numbers 36, 18 and 24 …
  
22 Sheba Place, Los Lunas,
New Mexico 87031-7021
PHARMACOPIOUS
Grams always suggested that a
girl traveling under the influence, legal or otherwise, should consider the
details of hallucinations, telepathic cats, expansive hotel rooms, and the
virtue of talking to strangers.  Now,
riding on a current of chemical dreams, a series of surrealistic postcards from
deep within the Innerzone unveils the shimmering adventures of a hallucinatory
life lived under the influence … without regret.
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