Joyland

San Francisco |

Orbiting

by Kim Addonizio

edited by Kara Levy

What you love about pills is how small they are, how much energy is in them, like they’re atoms with electrons zinging around inside. You take a tiny white one, a pill so light you can hardly feel it on your tongue, that floats in the middle of a swallow of water and shoots down your throat like a barrel down Niagara Falls. Half an hour later you’re flying. You’ve left your body on earth, a million miles below, and you’re a comet flaming through the blue and green neon of a club, moving through the gyrating bodies scattering chunks of ice behind you, the music expanding and contracting in your skull, and there's no need to think anymore about being pregnant with a baby you can never have because what kind of life would it have, anyway, with a mother like you, a fuck-up who got suspended from college after midterms and now has to live at home, who has no job, who is required to go to therapy as a condition of lifting your suspension but fuck that shit: no one is going to mess with

     your head. Mirrorball. Lights swarm across the walls like glowy sperm, circling. A drink in your hand, the glass all glowy too, the liquor a kind of radium that lights up your veins. You can see the veins in your ex-boyfriend's arms, veins in the leaves of trees when you walk outside, though you’re not sure how you got there, out in some dark park, and you can hear the sap when you put your ear against a thick trunk and it’s sad, so sad, because the tree is telling you it wants to be back in the forest with its brothers and sisters. The world is such a messed up place. A spider is sitting on your head, reeling out tough white sticky threads that wrap your brain in a gauzy paralysis, and your mom, 

     your mom was yelling at you about how she worked her ass off to pay for your education and all you did was party and collect Incompletes in all your classes and You never finish anything, and How could you sleep with your professor and What in God's name is wrong with you, You don't make any sense anymore when you talk, and Mom there are seven levels and I'm trying to find my way out of the expanding circles and he was an Achieved Being or that's what I thought but I'm sorry I'll look for a job; You're damn right you will, and I better not catch you drinking and How are we going to afford therapy and Sorry Mom Sorry and throwing up in the mornings in the bathroom down the hall quietly so she won't hear and your ex-boyfriend from high school is taking you to a clinic this week and you still have to figure out where you're going to get the money for what they called the procedure, no one said KILLING THE BABY but that's the phrase that keeps going through your head and just when

     you’re sobbing on the ground with your arms around the sad defeated tree, the tree that understands you more than anyone ever has or will, there’s another pill, a blue one, and you curl up among the roots that are breaking through the grass. Your limbs are heavy as tree roots. Your ex-boyfriend passes you a beer and you kind of miss the lip of the bottle and it pours down your face and his tongue follows where it spilled, and then he’s warm on top of you and inside you in the beautiful park where the trees mutter and you don’t care if they watch or not and everything is all right again as long as you feel him holding you down, his breath in your ear, someone you used to know but now you don't know him. He's a stranger. But so what because, because,

     there are reasons for things and he is making love to you where the baby is but there is not going to be a baby. The baby is dead already. Time is a Mobius and everything rushes away from everything else and you are KILLING THE BABY but you understand it was never alive, you yourself are dead matter orbiting and your ex-boyfriend is another bit of dead matter colliding with you in space which is also the park you used to come to with your mother to ride the merry-go-round and that was when you could still make her happy and she liked you.

     Then you ride home in the grainy daylight past the grim faces of everyone going to work in their power suits. You have dirt in your hair and your black stockings are torn and your mother has already gone to work and you crawl into bed and sleep, and that night another white pill goes sailing down. This time there's nobody you know but there is a face with glowing teeth that says I AM AN ACHIEVED BEING and you wonder how he knows about the levels and the other shit that happens in your head but, but, but then you lose some time

     which happens unless you are on one of the higher levels, which clearly you are not. Later you wake in a hotel room where the walls are so thin you can hear the junkie in the next room coughing, and you eat from a box of donuts, a powdered white donut with red oozing from inside of it and a chocolate one glazed with more chocolate like darkness covered by greater darkness; then this person, who is he anyway, cooks up some pills in boiling water in a spoon and injects them into your arm. There is something you like about needles, but mostly it's the pills you love because you can take them

     anywhere. They will always be with you, like the sweater you reach for when it’s cold, like the drink you reach for when you are thirsty; they are there when the fear starts, when you begin to surface through the levels into the gray air, when your head begins to throb and you think again about the baby expanding and contracting, possibly living, already dead—for that and for everything else there are the pills, the little atoms, the irreducible, indestructible particles that make up your life in this universe, and it's not the only universe, you know that, you try to hold on to that.