The Pharmacist


My pharmacist knows that I had lice last year. He knows that I currently have genital warts. He knows exactly how many pregnancy scares I’ve had. He knows about my recent surgery. He knows all my bodily secrets, and I know none of his.

This is unfair. The ratio of secrets given to secrets received is out-of-whack.

So one night, I follow him home. My not-so-covert following abilities come from TV detective shows; I make way too much noise and follow too close, but I don’t think he’s very observant.

I climb the fire escape and peer into the pharmacist’s efficiency apartment.

He undresses, and I see his diseases. In the artificial light, his boils and pustules glisten.

He grabs a knife and cheese grater from the counter. The pharmacist carves and grates his skin. He sculpts himself with the kitchen instruments, filing down diseased edges in a deluge of blood and pus. He wipes away the fluids with a dishtowel. He uses the wet instruments to fix dinner—mushroom risotto.

After dinner, he goes into the closet-sized bathroom and opens the medicine cabinet. He squirts toothpaste on a brush, works the paste around, and spits red. He pulls a black tooth from his mouth. He retrieves a comb. His hair comes out in clumps. Some of his scalp peels back. He rearranges the dangling flesh like it’s a toupee.

As he places the toothbrush and comb back into the medicine cabinet, I notice there is not a single pill bottle—not even ibuprofen. I realize that I might be the first person to ever uncover his bodily secrets, and all my past and present diseases flare in a burst of pain and cramps and bile. I descend the fire escape, hobble home, and know that I must find a new pharmacist, one who is not sick.  

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