Night comes early now. A week on, Bonus Hour Day has taken away more than it gave: night creeps into the day with greater, inviolate speed. Glows from signs are occluded and withdrawn, not broadcasting welcome and ease like in summer night. That’s how it is around the 47th parallel. We convince ourselves this is what makes the summers so glorious and long, wriggle inside our coats, are glad it isn’t raining.
That it’s been an unremarkable week is something to notice. A cold hangs on, fading a little more every day, the cough I go to sleep and wake up with a reminder instead of a foreboding. I’m exhausted still, stumbling a little in my voice class, deciding traffic is too bad and my fatigue too great to make my writing group in person. I write every day, one day just ten minutes, but things are moving on. My goal of a chapter a month seems less pressing now, but I keep the habit if not the focus. The feeling of greatest accomplishment comes from fitting the last of a fallen tree inside our communal yard waste bin.
No panics, no urgent calls, no incessant texts to friends far and wide. I can sit in my house and write, read, shower, clean–live my middle-aged working life–without sense of the walls closing in. It feels like two years ago, everything a wonder. I didn’t celebrate the starting of the heat, but the heat works, and I am glad for its rumble. Soon, Roger the Cat will have been a yearlong resident. Soon, I will be in Texas for Thanksgiving again.
Yesterday is a low-key day, giving myself that day off from writing. The Vietnamese ladies give me a much needed haircut but are too preoccupied to welcome my return. Safeway has good coupons and I buy the rice bread suggested as the most palatable while on the latest purgative diet; the used computer store is closed by the time I get there, its dark cavernous with its signs and lights off, fates suggesting I am not in dire need of a computer, yet. (With the months’ plane tickets and gum graft surgery, things are expensive enough.) A friend texts he is grateful to be working again, and somehow that fits with not being tempted to buy something I can do without. Seattle streets are dark ponds, leaning walls, black power lines blocking streetlights: subterranean Saturday night.
Last on my list is a supplement store/nautropathic pharmacy. The last decade’s health trials have made me frequent these woo-woo palaces, their colorful bottles and vials promising everything and who knows what. There is no place requiring more critical thinking than the alternative to conventional medical dogma. The desperate want any kind of help; those who have seen the desperate or fear becoming them will risk some disposable income on the promise of protection. Are we any different from our old tribal hunter-gatherer selves, holding totems to the Sun and Moon and shouting runes into the wind? We are more sophisticated, but not different. Our magic words come from repeated observation, but just like then only a special class can pronounce them.
The latest cleanse requires berberine, which I have never heard of and have no idea where to find. The help I see looks to be about nineteen, hugely pregnant, wearing striped white-and-purple Pippi Longstocking leggings, and busy with someone. So I dart through the pleasant, neat, daylight-color-temperature retail space designed to make me feel comfortable and at ease with the retail pricing, knowing the thing I want is here hiding in plain sight.
This is the store that doubles as a real pharmacy: pick up your synthetic industrial anti-hippie meds along with your natural barefoot wonders (the latter not covered by insurance, of course). It’s the same pharmacy where I was jumping out of my electric-anxious skin, back in April, a million years ago. The good stuff is kept locked up, in full retail appeal, behind a glass and wood semicircle that looks down on us consumers like the a ship’s bridge. A narrow window opens between the worlds, behind all white coats and numbered carrels, down here colorful boxes with prices on them.
Tonight, in that narrow window, is the man who saved me months ago. He recognizes me first. Hey, man, how you doing?
It isn’t a long conversation, or detailed, or even particularly coherent–I’m running out of gas and long low on sleep. But the recognition is mutual and instantaneous.
Yeah, haven’t seen you in a couple months or so.
It was April when we talked. You helped me a lot that day.
April? Really? So glad to hear you doing so much better. You look good. Sound like you good.
You did a big save.
Hey, it’s no problem. We all need help. Hell, I need help. You just doing what you need to now as an interim thing, right? You life open up you find something better. But okay to need that for now.
I’m not prepared for the conversation and it repeats, trying to find a center. I feel a little shame that without a grasping, desperate crisis this kind man and I don’t have much to talk about. But then, we have already talked about it. We are in the interim, and it is all right.
Yeah, I’m here. They keep me in the back, so why haven’t seen you other times. But I’m here. Lemme get someone help you with that ok?
His voice falls out of the ceiling with no more force than the hazy music circling there. A woman, all business and wearing green rubber gloves, emerges, asks what I’m looking for, and beelines right to it. The bottle is halfway around the glass pharmacy bridge, at the very bottom. Twenty five bucks for a month’s worth. The man who saved me is talking to someone behind the shelves, and the green-gloved woman is long gone.
Inside, I grouse at the amount, the pregnant stockinged woman offering that it’s a three month supply. Outside in the dry West Seattle dark, I realize I am happy to pay it. I got a lot more for free a couple months ago, when I really needed it.