It’s Purely Chemical

August 4, 2010

The bleating of the alarm clock was relentless, unappeasable. I cracked one eye open, gazing with bleary bafflement at the strange ceiling as the room lurched and blurred and the pounding in my head took on the rhythm of the clock’s incessant klaxon. I mashed at the buttons, one after another, until finally the infernal machine was silent.

There was nothing else on the nightstand.

No tepid glass of lifeless tap water, tasting of old pipes and disinfectant. No tiny plastic cup with its precious payload.

So many vibrant colours missing. The earthy yellow of flupenthixol dihydrochloride. No fat, chalky tabs of aripiprazole with their sharp scent of oranges as they dissolve on the tongue. No bright blue capsules of chlorpromazine to make the whole world and all its worries fly away.

Just wood, hard and worn under my palm, scratching painfully at skin that felt sanded away, raw as meat, every nerve laid bare.

No pills.

I sat up, swinging my feet over the edge of my bed. There was a pulse in my head, like my brain was free-floating, swinging about on its stalk and bumping awkwardly into the walls of my skull. Like an electric shock right through my brain.

The room was strange to me. The bed, its covers ripped and rumpled, did not know my frame. My back ached from sleeping in it, the taste of vomit was raw at the back of my throat and my stomach ached like a thousand periods come all at once.

There was blood on the bare matress. It looked old and brown. The phone was ringing.

I picked it up. “Hello?” My voice wandered down the volume spectrum, sounded too loud at first to my raw ears. I cranked it back up when I realised I was whispering. “Who is this?”

“You don’t have your pills, Priscilla. You’re going to need them very soon now.”

The doctor’s voice was clear, patient and patronising, as always. Like she would have me be a child again, as pliant and pliable as I was back then.

“How did you get this number? How do you know where to call me?”

“You called me, remember?”

I didn’t remember. I didn’t remember calling her. I didn’t remember coming here. A quick glance at the clock (a glance that became a stare, eyes clinging to the digital numbers while the room tipped to and fro) told me the last three days were completely lost. Or perhaps I’d simply misremembered the last day I knew. I stayed silent.

“You need to come back, Priscilla. You need your medication. Things are going to be very, very unpleasant for you without it. Why don’t you turn yourself in? Things can go back to the way they were. You can go back to getting better.”

“It’s been ten years… Either I already am better, or I never will be.”

I put the phone down and started pulling on my clothes. They smelled clean and felt soft and warm, comforting against my skin. I went through the pockets, pulling out a couple of grubby notes and a handful of small change.

Not enough. Not enough for a buy, and what drug dealer keeps Thorazine in his stocks? A crumpled softpack of something low tar surfaced next and I tapped one out, straightening it between my fingers before pressing it between my lips and lighting it.

I needed coffee. Coffee and time to think. Somewhere the room would stay still.

Lurching from side to side, I staggered downstairs, got in my car and drove with single-minded focus to the only place I knew in this whole, strange city.

“Give me a coffee…” I stared at the old man, groping in my memory for some kind of name. He had to have a name. It was important. “…Marty.” I shoved the handful of notes across the counter at him as the room blurred and withdrawl grasped the back of my head like an invisible hand, slamming me down violently into a chair.


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