Back in the car, Jason was red-faced and sobbing while he drove. I shouldn’t have allowed him to drive, but I also couldn’t stop him. I was so shocked and scared I couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t any help. Wide lines of tears rolled down Jason’s cheeks, mixing with snot and spit. The car was so small, and everything was loud and vivid, my heart pounding hard.

“My legs feel like molten lava,” Jason muttered, his torso leaning towards the steering wheel, “like shards of lava.”

I was sitting on my hands, my knuckles under my hard sharp butt, leaning forward the way Jason was. I pressed the back of my tongue up against my palette, working my words up and out of my body, like a grit of sand caught in the lungs, a pearl.

“I can drive if you want…” I said, my voice soft and warbling, “I can drive you to the emergency room…”

Jason took a loud snotty breath in through his nose, “No!” he barked. He swerved the car to the right, and we pulled into the empty parking lot of the supermarket we had been at earlier. We stopped in the lot, the car diagonal on the grid of parking spaces, but Jason didn’t put the Nissan in park, just held his foot on the brake.

“I can’t go to the hospital,” he said, projecting his voice straight forward into the windshield, “it would mean a new doctor and a new prescription and anyway they would be just as suspicious if not worse than that guy back there. Honestly, that guy isn’t even close to worst I’ve dealt with. Hospitals hate junkies, as a rule. To them, we’re just in the way. They’d rather just see us all die and stop bothering them.”

He stopped talking and started coughing, gripping the steering wheel with both hands, his face pointed down at his lap, his body almost folded in half. I thought he might puke, he made that “hrrm,” noise and grit his teeth. Jason’s foot came off the brake for a second and the car rolled forward before he pressed down again.

Jason gasped for breath, his lungs snapping and cracking loud with phlegm. He took his hands off the wheel to smash them down again, his bright red face twisted, his palms smacking the foam of the wheel, the whole steering column rattling, which in turn shook the entire car. Jason screamed at the top of his lungs, “FUCK JEASUS! FUCK THAT UNDEAD GHOUL MOTHERFUCKER! IF I SAW THAT PIECE OF SHIT COME OUT OF THAT CAVE I’D SEND HIM BACK TO HELL WHERE HE BELONGS!”

He slipped his foot off the brake and mashed the gas pedal. Jason whipped the Nissan around and drove us away from my apartment again, heading towards that CVS for the 2nd time. I was scared Jason was going to go fight the guy, maybe try to steal the medication he needed. I was close to suggesting we drive to Holyoke and purchase junk off the street.

When we pulled back into the CVS, Jason jerked the car into park, rolled down his window, lit a cigarette, and then gave me some cash to buy a box a Benadryl. This was before they kept the antihistamines under lock and key.

I avoided the gaze of the pharmacy tech and bought the Benadryl no problem. Jason drove back to my apartment, and once inside, he took double the recommended dose of Benadryl, went into the downstairs bedroom, closed the door and went to sleep.

I was standing between the kitchen and living room, a little bit in front of the front door. My armpits and scalped itched. My heartbeat started to slow down from the long emergency of the car. My migraine was picking up greater mass and moved down to behind my eyes, and I had no coffee in the house.




Brian Stephen Ellis

Brian Stephen Ellis is the author of four collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Often Go Awry from University of Hell Press. He lives in Portland, Oregon. He recommends donating to the Warm Springs Community Action Team.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, October 20, 2022 - 22:10