To The Women in Line at the Walgreens Pharmacy

by Sean Lovelace Read author interview December 20, 2009

Does it provide answers (as it promises; as they all promise), or silence the questioning? There’s a difference.

Do the side effects come in blue?

I see that you wear black underwear. I see wing-tips of a red tattoo. Is it an angel or a gargoyle? I wish I knew you better. I wish we could hinge, then unhinge, and have photographs of ourselves along the river. We flow right now; I think we do, as we stand here, with this proud display of 43 Pringle cans. I wish we knew it.

Collected my… oh I forget. My slip of paper, or reverie or something.

Does the truth really set you free?

“Hey. Today’s your birthday! Your old man going to take you out?”
“Ha! He won’t even notice. We don’t do nothing.”
“What? No cake? Not even dinner? Your co-pay is ten dollars, honey.”
“Nothing.”
“Well… I’m sorry. When you take these you eat a cracker, OK? And I think all birthdays are important—you only get so many. You tell him, you tell him, that that there is a load of crap!”

A bottle of red wine cradled under your arm. I miss alcohol, the flutter, even the smoky bars. I always felt like someone coming home, embraced in a tight hug; and I guess sometimes it is that way: clutched. How you know you’ve gone too far is closing time—the night they lock you inside, with them.

Listen: I want to judge you by your internal significance, but I must also note you strongly resemble Priscilla Presley.

180 days since I have swam in the river. I have this thing for water, always have; it calms me. But the winters here lie big and low like a manhole cover over the sky, and the spring will bring floods, the water frothing and coughing and sucking any fool down, so I wait patiently for early summer.

214 days since I have eaten a Cadbury egg. I wonder do they have Cadbury eggs in heaven?

900 days since I have known love. It’s a positive I recall these things, I suppose.

The way you lean into a steady wind. Something inside? I suffer a ruptured spleen. You can doubt it, you can test it—but I feel it throbbing here like a summer storm. Windows rattling panes. There was a time when everywhere I moved a tornado would follow. I got so good at hiding in bathtubs, a mattress overhead. Once I locked myself in a dark closet, but then couldn’t get myself out. Three nights before somebody found me. Oh I know sirens and dog howls, hunger and awful loneliness, how it will rise up in your throat when an oak branch slams the roof. All of this will make you wonder. One year the tornadoes stopped following. Not sure why.

I see roadmaps on your wrists. So will share with you. Collected my Blue Footballs for a hibernation, but did-not-do-it. It was pride. To put it simply: I don’t want to fold like a fistful of unlucky cards. There is still beauty in this world. Even in this box where I don’t think they could blind us anymore with brightness.

What can I do for you, sir?
For me?

Hold my hand. Listen to the lights hum. Whisper like rainfall. So soft this floor. We could lie on this floor and drift away…

But no.

I would like a root beer, two big glops of it, and an impossible size bag of barbecue chips.

“This is not a happy pill,” the doctor explained. She was right, as usual. It was a beige, beige, beige pill, and I learned to subtly wedge it between cheek and gum, wait a few moments, and spit.

About the Author:

Sean Lovelace lives in Indiana, where he directs the creative writing program at Ball State University. His latest collection is about Velveeta and published by Bateau Press. He has won several national literary awards, including the Crazyhorse Prize for Fiction. He reviews flash fiction for Diagram Magazine. He likes to run, far.

About the Artist:

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.