The Chemist

September 25, 2010

The meeting place was not what I was expecting, not a dingy, square room in a cheap apartment complex; instead, I met “The Chemist”, or TC, in a university lab, down a flight of concrete stairs in the basement of the old science building. TC was not what I was expecting either, he looked like every other bleary-eyed graduate student who had TA’d my undergraduate science lectures. After accepting my money, TC double-checked the list of chemicals I had requested and unlocked the door to the storage closet.

“One chemical lobotomy coming right up” he joked.

He soon returned with a small manila envelope with my name penciled on it, he had everything ready for me. I tipped the contents of the envelope out into the palm of my hand and a large capsule full of blue liquid fell out followed by a small square of white paper.

“That pill’s a serious piece of work, it’ll knock you perpendicular.”

I pointed to the small square of paper in my hand.

“Lysergic acid diethylamide. Just enough to get you started wherever you’re trying to go. Hold the pill in your mouth and when you find what you’re looking for, bite down.”

I zipped the manila envelope into the front pocket of my backpack after carefully replacing the pill and scrap of blotting paper.

“One more thing. I’m sure you know what you’re doing; if you didn’t you wouldn’t have come to me–however–I don’t know what that pill is going to do to you but I suspect the effects will be permanent.” He emphasized each syllable of the word.

I was counting on it.

I checked into the Clover Motel at dusk; the host gave me a gap-toothed grin when I asked if there was a non-smoking room available. After removing the envelope I dropped the backpack on the floor and plopped onto the bed. I placed the tab under my tongue and waited; when the ceiling began undulating I popped the pill into my mouth, gripped the capsule gently between my back molars, and concentrated on sleep, and…

Dreams.

I was in an improbably large, blinding white loft apartment the ceiling receding into the distance far above me. It seemed to be the site of a party and the DJ, in a white down vest and shades, played ten seconds of “Blacking out the Friction” repeatedly–stopping immediately after the guitar came in–pausing between each repetition. I was wearing skinny jeans and a Texas checkered shirt with mother of pearl snaps and was holding a tall can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I took a sip and bit down hard on my cheek but felt no pain. The modern white furniture that decorated the space was unoccupied; the only other person in the room was a woman in a fitted white cocktail dress dancing across from me. She took no notice of me, or indeed of the music, continuing to dance even as it stopped and resumed. She reminded me of you with a long neck and nicely shaped legs but her long straight black hair fell in front of her face in such a way that I couldn’t see from any angle no matter how hard I looked. My jeans were too tight and the seams on the polyester shirt irritated my skin. I realized I don’t even like PBR.

You wouldn’t be here.

I searched for an exit and found a white doorknob attached to a featureless section of wall; it opened inward silently.

As the door closed behind me I was surrounded by darkness and walked blindly onward until I tripped over something heavy. I felt with my fingertips and found a vinyl case, about three feet long and rectangular; I struggled to lift it and, once I was standing, found myself in a richly apportioned boardroom paneled in dark walnut. A pair of photographers smiled at me and I held up the valise so they could photograph me with it. The magnesium filament flashbulbs ignited with a pop and sizzle. Businessmen and women in dark colored suits surrounded a glossy black boardroom table. I carefully placed the case at the head of the table and flipped opened the latches. The machine within clicked and whirred as I opened the lid, it looked like the exceptionally wide neck of an electric guitar with exposed clockwork gears turning on either end. The nickle wound strings traveled the length of the neck spooling and unspooling from plastic reels on each end; the device made quiet sounds like AC/DC run backwards. There was a woman in a charcoal suit who looked like you and I tried to catch her eye but every time the flash bulbs went off I found her in a different seat; first the third chair from the end, then the second seat on my right. There was a black dry-erase board behind me covered with equations in white marker; I knew every person in the room was waiting for my proof but when I turned to write it the Greek letters swam in front of my eyes. There was nervous laughter from around the room and I realized that my heels were hanging over the edge of a pit, I tried standing still but the moving letters made me dizzy, I turned and…

Fell.

I landed in a posh hotel room bed beside floor to ceiling windows full of city lights. I was wearing suit pants, no shoes, and a fancy collared shirt open at the front. In the bed next to me a woman covered completely by sheets rolled over. I pulled layer after layer of crisp white cotton sheets aside until the feminine form dissolved into a pile of wrinkled linens as I revealed the empty bed beneath. When I entered the hallway a security camera pivoted in my direction. I could see through the lens, down the cable, and out of the CCTV monitor, and reflected in the eyes of the security guard I could see you, in the monitor above mine, at the lobby desk asking for me. Barefoot, I ran down the hall to the bank of elevators but the glass doors closed in front of me and their occupants stared stone-faced and fell out of sight. I ran to the stairs, taking two steps at a time, bouncing off landing walls at every turn; when I threw open the fire door I saw you hailing a cab at the curb. I ran to stop you but the red carpet stretched out far in front of me and by the time the front doors slid open at my approach, your taxi had pulled away. You were going…

Home.

I knew I would find you here, in our bed, wrapped in your coral quilt and wearing a blue wrist-brace. You didn’t wake up when I gently shook your shoulder and I couldn’t speak because there was something in my mouth. I spit it out so I could tell you.

“I love you.”

Someone is shaking me awake and my face is wet. It is morning.

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