A Hundred and Forty Beats

pillsby Bryan Bowie

I was never good with real drugs. All that mess, the needles, powders and plants. I keep my mess on the inside where it belongs. And they all require tools, glassware, fire, things that need care and remembering, plus there’s the ritualistic measuring, pinching, filling, packing or cutting; everything is so inconvenient.

Mine are a quarter-inch of laboratory science developed by people in white coats, blue latex gloves. There are degrees required. I carry them in my shirt pocket, only need something liquid to wash one down. It’s simple and clean. Besides I don’t want to just let go, man. I don’t want to control clouds floating inside of a midnight sky. Someone I once loved told me she’d done that once while face up, flat on the beach and that I could too, if I wanted, just eat these and follow me up there. But I was never after a cosmic burn, I had shit to do.

I wanted to burrow deeper. I wanted the world around me to explode unnoticed. I needed crystalline, singular focus.

I have my appointments under a bridge now. I used to check in with a cute woman who sat behind greasy bulletproof glass so I could see a round doctor with an alcoholic’s mottled red nose who handed me a prescription sheet before I even sat down on the big, brown handmade leather couch. I was covered.

It’s the same game really but I have to look over my shoulder more. I still want to believe what ends up in my shirt pocket was made in a laboratory, but I try not to think about that. I keep my doors locked, stick my hand out of the window and never short-change. If I can help it, I make sure it’s dark when we meet and I’m never late.

I miss the bulletproof glass, the woman behind it, but I’m not allowed back there.

Before the accident I had a resting heart rate of a hundred and forty beats per minute, a rhythm I maintained right up until I saw stars filling the noontime sky. They were beautiful, bright white things that burned and crackled across my vision, I followed them up and they filled the sunroof, then it all went black and I woke up cold under warm sun and broken glass.

I pushed the door open and slid out, brushed myself clean and squinted into the sun.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen such a colorful playground, I don’t think they made them like that when I was a kid, we got steel. It was so beautiful in the light with neon swings and a thick, curling red slide. The bent parts shimmered and the shattered pieces were like gleaming plastic confetti.

I remember circling, looking for the blood. There should’ve been more blood. There were no voices, no concerned onlookers yelling into phones or with their hands above their heads or covering their mouths, pointing.

I could smell the ocean and nothing moved.

There were no knocks on the door, no missed calls; I practiced what I would say.

Sometimes I wonder while I’m waiting, if it really happened.

But I stop and roll down the window, stick my hand out.

I’m always on time.


Bryan lives on the coast of Virginia and only enjoys it in the winter. He writes stories that are mostly in a big brown box on the floor next to his bed. If he’s not writing them down he’s pushing a button on a camera or has a a carbon pencil in his hand working on a series of drawings. Anything to avoid a cubicle.
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