art by Tais Teng
by Jacquelyn Bartel
The orange is for energy, the green for focus, and the midnight blue for sleep. They line the shelves, spells in handy bottles, flavored to taste. Berry and citrus on the left, chocolate and cake batter flavors on the right. I shoulder my way through the perpetual crowd to the pharmacy. The businessman standing by the bottles of cunning gives me a dirty look, like he's some sort of badass or something. Whatever. My new flavor isn't even available to the public.
The bored clerk reads my prescription. Once, twice, then she swallows her gum and runs to get her boss. He comes out, white lab coat still pressed from the cleaners, and takes out his reading glasses. He nods and goes into the back once more.
I tap my foot. I clean my fingernails. I run my tongue over my teeth to clean out the remnants of the salad I had for lunch. I count the ticks on the clock tower across town. Then my order is ready.
I sign the consent form without reading it, the disclosure of side effects, the release of liability. The clerk hands me a black bottle. Her eyes are wide and I notice her bottom lip trembles slightly. Is she sorry for me, I wonder? I smile, but it only makes her squirm. Guess not.
I don't even wait until I'm outside to take one. I go to the seldom-used gardening aisle and perch on a chipped stone fountain with sale stickers covering most of its surface. The pop of the bottle cap is like music to my ears. Maybe this medicine will work where the other fifty have failed. I dare to hope.
Red pills are for pain.