The value of oxycodone has a different street value per each pharmaceutical company.
I took my generic brand to the corner of Broad and Snyder, near the Walgreen’s, to an unfamiliar face who seemingly did drugs, and said, “I broke my shoulder.”
“I fell down the stairs like Dustin Hoffman—when he’s walking down the stairs in Tootsie and reveals his male identity.”
“Do you have 50 cents?” the stranger asked me.
“Can you let me finish?” I continued discussing my almost demise. “I broke my shoulder in three places and now have oxycodone. What do you think the generic value is worth?”
“You don’t have 50 cents?”
“Do you know anyone who would be interested in buying this?” I pursued my unmitigated business transaction.
It’s not like I’ve never considered selling drugs. I dated an albino on the Upper West Side who suggested that I sell cocaine instead of being a secretary for the Engineering School at Columbia University.
The albino had an afro. She was the first and last woman and person in my life who suggested I sell cocaine.
I thought this over for five minutes and disputed that I could avoid jail, let alone not get killed by people who thrive in that culture and are infinitely more competitive than backstabbers in the corporate world.
“Hold on! Hold on! You don’t need to deliberate the price,” a neighboring Walgreen’s consumer, who had been eavesdropping on our conversation, added, “you can simply bury your oxycodone in coffee grinds.”
Once, when I had knee surgery, I asked someone to throw my Percocet pills in the garbage, though I originally wanted to throw them in the toilet, but the person who dumped them in the garbage said, “if you flush the pills, you will ruin the Philadelphia water system.” The same people, usually, who complain about Percocet in the water, purchase filtered water.
The eavesdropper, who aggressively entered our conversation near Walgreen’s, also felt that flushing Percocet would ruin the water supply.
“Don’t you have a conscience?” the interloper asked.
“The point is not that the water will be cleaner, but that Alice Cooper is an amazing golf player in Arizona,” the presiding homeless beggar, who I had inquired about oxycodone drug sales, replied to this intrusive individual.
“Huh?” I asked.
“Look, you may not like to listen to Alice screaming, right, on a 70s playlist on Spotify, but the motherfucker can play golf like no one else. That’s what all the retired Jewish senior citizens who have asthma problems in Phoenix, Arizona, say. He is their hero.”
It was also true that Alice Cooper’s dog, after imbibing some of his owner’s oxycodone, had eaten the family turtle.
“Crunch! Crunch! Crunch!” the homeless beggar announced. “You could hear him chewing it for miles.” He looked at me perplexed, “Didn’t you know about the Cooper turtle getting crunched by the drug-induced dog?”
“Well, have you ever had snapping turtle soup in South Jersey?”
“No, but my dad did before he died of renal carcinoma. I’m not sure which was more disturbing,” I replied.
I also had a true period of hell when I had knee surgery and oxycodone. It was just me and the oxycodone and the only thing that would get me to sleep was Carly Simon, which my friend Q, a marijuana grower in Taiwan, recommended for its soothing mediocrity.
For it was during the contemplative moments of independence from a complete lack of independence, that I felt like a prisoner in a cubicle on Riker’s Island. The oxycodone microbes inhabited my being, my moral status, and an inability to watch the TV show Breaking Bad—not because it was about crystal meth, no, in fact, I think that the use of oxycodone strengthened my moral hygiene to the point where I was a Seventh-Day Adventist with knee surgery playing Carly Simon.
The reason I couldn’t watch Breaking Bad or other disturbing TV shows about drugs or chaos was because my mind and body, in their Percocet rituals, were falling into a physical kaleidoscope of hell bent images dancing up a spiral staircase in my cerebrum and not permitting me to sleep. Serious system overload between the TV world and my world would have occurred.
The only one who considered this might be a problem was my brother Harold. While sitting in his orthopedic surgeon’s office—he had broken his toes during Halloween while behaving like a platypus—he saw several people who resembled William Burroughs popping oxycodone.
(Even my Aunt Willa, Harold noted, who was a beacon in the Zionist community of Mt. Laurel, NJ, had a Percocet addiction and needed Narcotics Anonymous to ameliorate this predicament.)
Thus, my bro Harold, upon seeing the William Burroughs clones in his orthopedic surgeon’s office, and realizing that they might spend an eternity resembling a bald eagle said, “You must get off that shit.”
“You will turn into a bald eagle popping Life Savers.”
This was a grueling situation, because I was staying at my friend’s apartment—lined with oil-painted vaginas that resembled bad Georgia O’Keeffe flowers—during my post-knee surgery days because she had an elevator (I had a flight of stairs in my apartment building). I had been so mesmerized by the oil-painted vaginas that I licked them. This was no good for me or her paintings, which I believe were worth about $4,000 each.
Thankfully, there was an atheistic lady who visited Buddhist shrines—a friend of a friend who also lived in this building and made me Vietnamese food fresh—she volunteered to take the Percocet to our apartment building garbage can.
“Do you mind?” I asked.
“Certainly not,” she smirked. After all, if she could teach at business school, which she did, and give instructions on how to get your MBA, a drug dumping was not an uneasy task.
Without much hesitancy, then, I gave her the pills.
I watched her.
They were leaving me.
I will not be William Burroughs with a gun shooting pigeons.
I would not be among those tragic beings at the local NA meeting who claim to have returned to the sewer after having been to Park Avenue.
I would not put a dent in the erotic art market, though that had not been my intention when I began to hallucinate and make physical contact with those wannabe Georgia O’Keeffe flowers.
This time around, however—that is, the broken shoulder period of my life—everyone was brimming with a green conscience and thought it quite possible that someone would, on Garbage Day in South Philly, break through the generic plastic of my garbage bag and steal the pills.
“Coffee grinds,” a young man, who resembled Richard Nixon in hairline structure only, interjected, “You must mix them with coffee grinds to prevent their illicit reuse.”
I am, in fact, a coffee connoisseur, though I put Trader Joe’s soymilk into my La Colombe brew, which some people consider sacrilegious—like the time I wore shorts to an Orthodox synagogue on the Upper West Side in New York on the Sabbath.
“You fat goy,” a guy with a Giants yarmulke who worked at Merrill Lynch yelled, “why are you degrading the entire congregation by displaying your thighs?” He was the same yarmulke guy who tried to kiss me while I escaped through the MTA turnstile.
It then became obvious to me who the homeless man in front of Walgreen’s—with this great knowledge about Alice Cooper’s golfing skills—was.
It was Annelise Soot, who had been a professional hockey player’s daughter in my hometown.
While she now resembled a blonde Abraham Lincoln, she had once been a petite girl who sometimes ate raw garlic in the high school cafeteria but complained about the olfactory dispositions of her fellow students.
She loathed me.
Annelise Soot never quite made “most popular” in high school though she did hang out with cheerleaders.
She was also a half-breed honors student who managed to be number 6 in a class of 300 because she took easy courses that were not in the college prep category.
When we were in freshman biology class together she exclaimed, in front of several others, “You stink.” My menstrual period perfume, I think it was.
When I attended our high school reunion and consumed beers at the no-cash reunion bar, leaving tips after they gave me free drinks, she also said, “you smell.”
She was the kind of girl who always recognized suspicious scents that were not in the category of formaldehyde or Burberry.
On Facebook she could be seen hiking up various mountains with her husband and six daughters, who took gymnastic lessons with a woman who resembled a Hobbit. Together they looked like they were auditioning for a New Jersey version of The Sound of Music.
“Annelise,” I confronted her, “Why are you panhandling at Walgreen’s?”
“I’m doing an undercover story for the Philadelphia Inquirer. We believe there is a correlation between homeless people and the theft of shopping carts from Walgreen’s. These shopping carts are very expensive, so we have volunteered to do an undercover story for Walgreen’s, and they, in turn, will take out a big advertisement in our Sunday paper, when we release the article.”
“Stolen shopping carts, what?”
“We’ll get to the bottom or the top of this. Crack addicts who steal them are not that subtle. What the fuck are you doing here?”
“I live in South Philly,” I replied, while she stared angrily through her Abe Lincoln blonde costume.
“I thought I left you in high school,” she murmured under her breath.
Annelise Soot detested every cell in my neglected physique, but she bent her head now and then to speak with me about her accomplishments.
“I’m in Honor Society, are you?” she shrieked over the high school cafeteria wooden table, where I had several weeks ago picked up a rubber, thinking it might be a broken balloon.
“My mother is a professional hockey player. Isn’t yours a bookkeeper at a company that imports anti-cellulite pills from North Korea?”
True, on most levels, she was indefatigably superior, except for her indulgence in garlic, which alienated her from the cheerleaders whom some of us suspected she had crushes on.
Annelise’s mother, who was a professional hockey player, had beaten her husband with a hockey stick and he had jumped out of the bathroom window. He left the family.
This incident left Annelise with an inferiority complex as well as a lingering desire to smell other people—to see if there was an unsubtle and demeaning insecurity about them that was not obvious.
Annelise was prying the homeless in front of Walgreen’s for information about crack addicts who might have stolen the carts.
“Have you seen a crack addict pushing a cart?” she asked a Muslim woman who didn’t appear to be homeless.
“Get the fuck out of my way,” the lady in a hijab screeched.
“Excuse me?” Annelise was not used to folks throwing epithets her way.
“I said get the fuck outta my way,” the woman led her children down the street like a momma bear and her cubs.
“Do you like your children hearing bad words?” Annelise countered.
“Fuck you,” the woman said. Her little darlings also screamed the “f” word in our direction.
“I tell you the world is going to shit,” she declared.
“Not like it was so great when we were in high school,” I answered.
“You were annoying then, and you are annoying now. Are you so desperate that you would panhandle oxycodone? What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I’m trying to purchase the complete collection of Primo Levi’s works.”
Annelise didn’t know who Primo Levi was.
She took off her Abraham Lincoln blonde attire and resembled an older version of the younger girl who told me I smelled.
“Do I still smell?” I asked her.
“You’ve often accused me of smelling.”
“Look, you are as peculiar now as you were then.”
She put her costume into a bag and waved down a cab.
There was no hint of garlic from her.
“Well, at least you don’t still live in Lakewood with your mother.”
“My mother is dead,” I replied. My shoulder was beginning to bother me and I considered not selling the oxycodone.
The cab stopped for Annelise. “It’s time for me to go. Good luck with your oxycodone sales.” It was like the time she remarked that I wasn’t in Honor Society.
That night I tried to use the oxycodone, but I had already mixed the pills with La Colombe coffee grinds. The Percocet was indistinguishable from the coffee debris and blurring in blue and no longer available for me to zig zag into a sphere of thought not my own.
Eleanor Levine's writing has appeared in more than 50 publications, including Fiction, Evergreen Review, Fiction Southeast, Dos Passos Review, Juked, Barely South Review, The Denver Quarterly, Pank, The Toronto Quarterly, SRPR (Spoon River Poetry Review), Wigleaf, Heavy Feather Review, and others. Levine’s poetry collection, Waitress at the Red Moon Pizzeria, was released in 2016 by Unsolicited Press (Davis, California).