I entered the excruciating white spotlight of the drugstore in the swirling delirium of my recent injury. Oh no; I had to appear normal again. As I self-consciously scanned my way through the bright aisles (monstrous, fluorescent shimmers) the products on the shelves made less and less sense. Feathers and claws. I was there for Advil (ibuprofen)to alleviate the rusted spike of pain in my fractured head. I always feel an acute yet slow-motion panic in public places, like I’m slipping into an electric tar pit. But this felt worse. My brain vibrated like a tuning fork. I touched the crusty, matted hair at the back of my head and looked at my fingers. They were clean; my poor battered head had finally stopped bleeding. My wound had been a blood-spitting blowhole only an hour before. Products, products. An old woman stood hunched like a vulture in the candy aisle. She was surrounded by a black, oil-slick aura and I watched the thin miasma of dark colors as they churned around her. I felt like saying something. I felt like screaming at her, warning her. She turned and noticed me noticing her and I quickly averted my gaze. I don’t need this. I made my way down the aisle to the Pain Medication. My vision was blurred, diplopic, making the boxes look like deep green undersea discard. I couldn’t read the words. I stood still and tried to focus. The horrifying thought of fainting occurred to me. I grabbed a box, the closest box, and then made my panicked way to the glaring exposed stage of the check-out. Do people still say egad? There was one person(?) ahead of me, a man with hands like eels. He glanced at me, his eyes pitted gray cinders in a crumpled paper face. Get me out of here, please, this was a bad idea. Forget the Advil, I should’ve just coped with the pain. Too late now. The box in my left hand felt like it contained mutilations (my own?). The man(?) ahead of me was buying ochre vials of syrupy pus. I wanted to scream again. I wanted to scream a blood-curling aboriginal screech of the universe exploding. The man paid for his pus with the smooth swipe of a card. That’s when I realized I had to pay too. How was I supposed to cope with the abrupt mystery of money? Did I have money? How much did this box in my hand cost? I felt separated from myself. My hands were loaves of bread dough. How would I get them to work when my time in the Sudden Singularity of the cash register fired at me like a hellish flare gun? Questions dribbled from the hole in my head and puddled on the floor behind me. I smelled orange juice. This was no good. Standing in line was an absurd rite. I felt a spiritual sickness, like black fluid spurting from an infected tooth. The guy(?) ahead of me winked something in code with his nictitating membranes. The sound he made went tic tic tic...
And then he was gone and it was my turn. I somehow maneuvered my way forward and placed the box (now a dried abstraction)on the counter. I felt like an intruder in a dead realm, a taste like muck in my mouth. The girl-thing behind the counter went, “Wuh wuh bluh wuh wuh bluh,” with a blubbery mouth and I nodded and think I answered, “Yes...”
She ran the box across a scanner with boundless horror. My mind was melting and the fear of fainting returned. I needed a sharp slap in the face. I needed a hard kick in the ass (for more reasons than one). It finally occurred to me to unfold my wallet. I handed the girl-thing (I think) a ten dollar bill. She said something. I think I said something in return. A verbal volley of twaddle. The girl-thing handed me my change and I buried it in my watery pocket.
“Wuh wuh bluh bluh...”
She lowered the box into the wrinkled jaws of a dead lizard. She handed me the lizard – now a crinkling bag – and I took it. I took it and I think I said, Thank you. And then I accidentally looked into her shining face of reflections; convex, fish-eyed mirrors of myself, glistening, bone-marrow skulls leaking the bloody seepage of my personality all over the floor. All over the floor, spattering like hot gore on the cement ground of a slaughterhouse. I pushed toward the doors, pushed myself outside where the cool air revived me a bit, bringing a measure of sanity to the tilt-a-whirl landscape.
It wasn’t until I returned to my lonely apartment that I realized I had bought Alka-Seltzer.