It’s Tuesday night and the table is full of weeping women, various stages of sex appeal, holding paperback books with the power of the universe coursing through their hands. The throbs of infinite emotion beating in their hearts. They are all on the same page. The same paragraph. Cindy reads every word aloud while everyone else follows along. Her satin blouse flashes skin and midriff from a button she missed.
I hear Diane sniffle to my left. She is not alone. Her friends, guessing all of which she made at church or the country club or by playing Mahjong at the community center, hold crumpled Kleenexes against their cheeks, dabbing them lightly against their skin.
“He reaches for her hand and leans in for one last enduring proclamation of his affection, of his love,” Cindy reads.
The table vibrates as the X-chromosomes metaphysically orgasm.
The same book is cradled in my hands. I flip it over and stare at the cover.
I want to feel something. A tinge of sentimentality or hope or even fucking sadness. But I feel nothing.
A greater impulse summons me and I head to the bathroom. The barista stares me down as I pass by the counter. He’s seen me do this before. Like last Tuesday. And the Tuesday before that. I ignore his bullets of judgment fired from the chamber of his eyes.
The door locks behind me.
My hand reaches inside the front right pocket of my jeans. A small zip lock baggy, half the size of a debit card lies perfectly still in the center of my palm. I shake free a small shard of glowing crystallized magic and smash it to powder against the metal toilet paper holder. It’s time to get down on my knees. It’s time to pray to the God of man-made drugs and processed endorphins. I hold one nostril closed and breath life in through the other. Dragon fire rips through my sinuses, behind my eyes. The burn lingers.
Now I feel something.
It’s Thursday night and the distortion crunches sound waves through the crowd, through the hands raised to the sky, bodies hopping up and down, heads bobbing side to side. Eyes closed. Mouths open. Everyone sings along with the lead singer on stage. A trio directly in front of me — man, woman, man — cluster tightly together and scream the chorus at the top of their lungs. Like if they scream loud enough, their souls will be caressed by God. Like they love everyone and everything at the concert. Like they’re humans knowing how to be human.
But I don’t feel like a human because I don’t feel anything.
I reach into my pocket. I reach into my small, perfectly located panic room and pull out a little red pill. The brand marking of a tortoise etched at the center. My mouth opens wide and I toss that bad boy to the back of my throat and swallow it down. Thank you, Molly. You’re an outstanding date.
It’s Friday night and the bar is full of smiling suits in search of happy hour. In search of promiscuity. They roar with each drink and each rehearsed joke stolen from cable TV. They slap backs and synchronize laughing fits. Nothing is making me laugh.
It’s Vicodin tonight.
It’s Saturday and brunch is in full service.
Again and again.
The wheel of apathy moves circular with eternal momentum. It’s Monday. Of some month. I don’t even care. I just left my niece’s graduation ceremony. The whole family dressed to the nines. Smiling while drooling small talk. On my way to my car, I pop three Oxycontin. The key in ignition, the engine barking. I push the speed up to 90 miles an hour on a two-way drag. The speedometer lets me know that my vehicle is moving through life.
Even if I’m not.
I see a small dot in the distance. Two hundred yards ahead. The dot grows to a figure. A woman. She’s pushing a stroller. I try to move my right foot to brake.
I feel something.
My face melts on its right side. Cold tingles. Numbness down my arm — shoulder to wrist — as my limp right hand falls off the steering wheel. My other hand reaches for the wheel, pushing and pulling, the car raging in swerves.
I beg my foot to move. It never answers my plea. I know the woman and her baby are a second away from being blasted by steel and irresponsibility. I jerk the wheel. The car, me, all my shitty life experiences, careen up into the air and down onto the soil of a small hill. I hear the sirens draw near. I close my eyes and wait.
It’s a month later. It’s Wednesday. A woman sits bedside bouncing the sun off her angelic gold curls. Her scrubs tell me she’s a nurse. She’s holding a book. She reads to me.
I want to reach out, grab the book, hold it on my own. I want to tell this woman, this strange nurse how much I appreciate her. I want to cradle the TV remote and turn it on. I want to go outside.
I want to visit my parents. My sister.
I want to play basketball with friends.
Go bowling after work.
But I can’t. There is no release date for someone recovering from a narcotic-induced stroke.
The woman continues her passage. “All human wisdom is contained in these two words: wait and hope.”
I feel something.
My meds are starting to kick in.