Sick, and Longing for a Walgreen’s Bathroom

Call me Smith.

I’m a forty-year-old junky with no particular story to tell. Nevertheless, fate has passed the quill and ink to me now, so I suppose the one I have will have to do.

I was born and raised in our nation’s greatest cosmopolitan blunder. A city whose image has become so synonymous with that description it would be terribly redundant to call it by name.

For the last 30 years or so, it’s been run by a group of corporate swine known as SDP (Social Degenerate Police) but we just call ’em “DeGens” after the for-profit hatemongers who dreamed ’em up.

The sonsofbitches cruise the city 365, hoping to find low denizens to “rehabilitate” at the best facility taxpayers can afford.

A place of silence- hypothesized and wholly elusive- known only as The Pit, cuz once you’re in, you’re in.

Anyway, I cop in a dilapidated hole on the corner of fifty-second and third. A real shituva place — a derelict tower inappropriately sandwiched between mid-century ranches with bluegrass lawns, and the usual flash of consumer wealth.

The windows had been boarded decades ago and it’s large, weathered cuts of wood now bore tags of profanity mixed with religious propaganda; Jesus saves or, I’m proud to be amerrycunt and so on.

For years, the neighborhood made complaint after complaint to the city, DeGens, hell — Rupert Fucken Grint for all I know. It wasn’t necessarily the traffic, or even the tenants themselves, as it was the smell.

It defined the atmosphere for two or three lots in radius; sour like an old shoe used to carry fish after being passed between marathon runners who, for whatever reason, all had their period.

Everywhere you looked you saw filth. Old filth, some so old it would give an archeologist a terrible erection if they ever stepped inside. But because no one was ever there during a raid (absolutely-fucken-miraculous, I know!) the DeGens quit coming altogether.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, it was Saturday- the weekend. And the only person who worked the hole weekends was a short disheveled dark-skinned man known solely as “Half-Pint”.

Now Half-Pint was always dressed in the same faded tie-dye in the Jamaican colors. He wore torn bleached jeans and reeked of cheap shoe polish and stale generics.

His small face didn’t match the enormity of his balding head, and he knew this. Truth is it perturbed him greatly whenever someone stared too long- so he always greeted you with a deep and foreboding stare to discourage this.

Concluding his wise appearance was a mass of dreadlocks which themselves had long knotted together into three, maybe four clumps hanging in a horseshoe about the base of his skull. In truth, he looked more homeless American than Rastafarian, which he claimed descendance.

He loved to tell the story- always in a shit-rasta accent — of how his great, great grandfather stowed away on one of Columbus’s ships to spread the Rasta culture throughout the New World.

Physical appearance and harmless anecdotes aside, I liked Half-Pint — the man was a character for sure. Not so much because of the description I just gave you, but because he swore he never pinched a score, and yet his weight was never accurate.

He swore, with the utmost affinity, that he despised bomb and the very the site of a rig sends him into violent reminiscences of his time in Our Mother of the Hopelessly Insane– and yet he had no problem dealing it out all day, every weekend.

(Unlike the Pit, OMotHI is a nonpermanent, nonprofit solution for struggling schizophrenics, homosexuals, and all the junk addled wretches, like myself, but you gotta reach out before DeGens catch you).

In a tombstone summary: he was full of more shit that’s ever been shat in the history of god.

But like I said, it was a harmless, funny shit, an’ he was always good for a kick, always. So who cares?

“Muda’ fucka’s bring dat shit wit’ ’em askin’, ‘can we shoot ‘ere?’ I tells ‘em Smit-Bahee, e’very goddamn time, I tell da’ sonsofbitches, ‘Dar’s a Walgreens across da’ street. Piss off!’ but dey insist!”

He shook his head pouring a shaky teaspoon onto a little brass scale of a nude Lady Justice. “In ma house…”

It wasn’t his house of course. It was a derelict building allowed to exist because the city was too busy rounding up shit-birds, gays and strays instead of actually spending on what matters.

“One time, Junkay Bill wanted t’ use da’ baht’room, ‘member Bill?”

My eyes were glued to his shaky hand dumping another teaspoon onto the scale. I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. I didn’t care. I couldn’t concentrate between sick flashes and the site of all that junk. I started to rock while purposely inching my face closer to the scale to emphasize my disinterest.

This was the one thing I hated about copping from Half-Pint, he always rambled on about the dumbest, most inane shit. Just lonely I guess, but loneliness isn’t an excuse to send your clientele into a reeling fit of nausea.

“Anyway bahee,” he continued, “said he had a terrible run a’ shits. Who am I t’ deny a man his rights? Afta’ ten minutes, Smit, I kicked open da’ door and found dat dirty fucker sprawled in front udda’ toilet wit’ a goddamn syringe still hangin’ from his testicles. Ah wedgied his pants t’ his nipples in a rage, rig an’ all! No Shit! I dragged his ass to da neighbah’s porch. Ten minutes latah, mudafucken ‘DeGen wagon pulls up, trows da bastah’d inna’ back and den kicks inna’ neighbahs’ and drags de old fucka away in his baht’ robe an’ slip’pahs. Haven’t seen ei’dah since. I tink dat was… two- maybe tree monts, now?”

He finished blathering and handed me my weight, only by this time I was so sick I blurted, “Can I bang here?!”

­­­                                        _____________________________________

Walgreens is a shit of a place when you’re sick, which is great considering it is a store for sick people.

It’s bright, damn bright. And there’s always a repulsive tinge of medicine coated diapers in the air.

Mirrors line the top of the walls to discourage the very thought of crime. Of course, they can’t stop a herd, but it’s the thought that counts. Sometimes you’ll run across a screaming, snotty kid clenched in the grip of some unforgiving mother who hasn’t had a decent fuck in months. ‘We’re in it together, ya’ little bastard!’

When you want to use the bathroom in the Walgreens on 52nd, you must request the door be unlocked for you, usually by some zealous security dick ready to earn his keep.

So, after formalities I made my way to the back of the store, only to find a wall of muscle behind a pasty-faced man with a pencil thin sneer, and a terribly hunched back with clutched mantid arms. One hand was gloved in black latex and cupped inward to hide its contents, though I suspected.

This was his life. Long hours, no vacation and often seven days a week. Black coffee and cigarettes, and anything containing pseudo ephedrine had become his nutritional pyramid. It was shit work for shittier pay and he knew it, but somewhere in this meaninglessness he chose to displace all his natural carnality for pride, order and duty- everything you expect from a model manager at one of Americas most junk-ridden drug stores.

“I got you now, you sonofabitch!” just at that moment my stomach cramped, and my knees buckled like a drunkard.

I was getting sicker. Too damn sick to play “Gotcha” with a man who thinks he’s border patrol.

“I really gotta take a shit. Like, really! Could you please unlock the goddamn door?” the wall of muscle jabbed at each other, laughing and nodding with intrepid eyes.

Then the manager revealed his gloved hand and there, erected between his forefinger and thumb was my rig. Skinny diabetic syringe whose dose measurements had long since been rubbed away in a rage. I always kept it stashed in the black toilet paper container. It was the perfect spot seeing how the only patrons to use the bathroom were junkies looking to bang and none of them wiped their ass.

The toilet itself had been stopped up for as long as I had frequented the stall. Waste smeared its walls and pooled in rotting crevices. Urine-soaked paper dried around the toilet base and somehow, on the ceiling.

Naturally, I was surprised, no, shocked to hear: “A young child found this, syringe, when he pulled for some tissue-paper.”

I nodded impatiently. “And?” Bubbling and churning while every muscle in my body began to ache and shiver uncontrollably.

The man smiled, pushing back his shoulders to straighten his hump, and then asked matter-of-factly;

“Don’t you frequent this stall?”

“Every day about this time. Regularity’s next to godliness, or whatever.”

“So, I’ve seen. Can you tell me how such a device might end up in a tissue dispenser?”

I shrugged and leaned in. “This is a drugstore.”

Suddenly a corner overhead chimed above its usual whisper:

DeGen — Degenerating Degenerates One Generation At A Time!

The man pulled his shoulders back again in a proud display, lightly cocking his head.

“Very well. It is my responsibility to inform you that under article V-106i, the Social Degenerate Act of ’72, clearly states; ‘any person(s) suspected of lewd and immoral acts (whether of an intoxicant nature, or otherwise) must submit their self(selves) to a vigorous screening under threat-”

“This is bullshit! I’m not the only person who uses that fucking stall! In fact, you led this interrogation with ‘a child found this’, right? Why the fuck didn’t you screen that little bastard?” this whole time the manager struggled to talk over me, continuing to recite the article dash-what-the-fuck-ever and by my conclusion, I couldn’t stand his drivel any longer.

My stomach was on fire, so in midst of his triumphant recitation, I quickly pulled down my pants and sprayed shit all over the dry goods end cap. When I had finished, I pulled up my jeans and inadvertently stumbled forward, spewing half-digested eggs and black coffee all over the man, and his goons, proudly announcing– “Please, take all the screening that you need!”

—– Jonathan Renfield

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