The old man says, “Cancer’s like having termites in your house,” sitting there in his shitty bathrobe with his skinny legs. “I’ve been tented and fumigated twice and it’s no fuckin’ picnic.” He rattles a giant vial of Norcos and tilts two into his mouth. He squints at me with one eye while he chews them, then he takes a hit from a bottle of Tanqueray and breaks into a coughing fit.
Frank is the sickest of my five cancer clients, with stage-four lung cancer. He lives on Dilaudid patches, Norcos, and booze, but tells me that the weed I bring him is the only thing that quiets the pain. The rest he’s just stuck with ’cause it’s too hard to stop. Most of my clients are healthy: stockbrokers and gym trainers, a restaurant manager, some housewives, and a few teachers at the local community college.
He fires up a pin joint and takes a long hit. It crackles a bit, which is odd. When he hands it to me I say, “Is this mine?” He waits until he’s ready to let loose a billow of white smoke and then says, “Yeah, kind of,” which is also odd. I take a hit, even though it’s earlier in the day than I like to start.
Something strange happens right away. The room contracts and then stretches. I have tunnel vision and there’s a buzzing in my head, like hornets in an echo chamber. I look at Frank, who seems far away, and say, “What the fuck?” but I’m not sure if real words come out of my mouth or if I’m just beaming the thought. Frank is chuckling, chuckle chortle chuckawalla Chick-fil-A—Jesus! What the fuck is wrong with me?
For some reason there’s a gun in Frank’s hand. “What did you do?” I beam at him.
“DMT,” he says. “It’s good for you. Clears the mind.”
“What are you fucking talking about?” I manage to say.
“It’s been preparing me for the big event,” he says, “and now I’m ready.” He puts the gun barrel to his mouth for a second, then thrusts it out toward me.
“But why me? I thought you were my friend.” I try to get up, but it’s not happening. My heart sounds like a basketball pounding on a gym floor, but I can’t make my body do anything. The hole at the end of the gun looks big enough to shoot marbles. I imagine a tri-color cats-eye flying at me, and for some reason start cracking up. The world goes dark and I see a glowing cobalt sphere; I envelope it and perceive it from all angles at once and become the sphere and shoot out a ray, like a laser, and another and another. I am a glowing cobalt sea urchin whose spines shoot out like questions into the Universe and then retract, unanswered.
“I am your friend,” Frank says, and now he’s squinting at me again. He’s laughing like an idiot and pointing the gun at me. “Fact is,” he says, “I just don’t want to do this alone.”
For a brief second I see myself through Frank’s eyes and then the gun goes up and turns and Bang! Frank’s brains are on the wall. My mind is infinitely elastic; there is nothing it cannot accommodate. The questions go out and come back unanswered. The rays go out and retract like breathing. The breathing accelerates, it pulses, it oscillates, it hums, it harmonizes, orchestral now, and a voice—Frank’s—says, “Hey, fuck, Robert, come back, what the fuck?” He’s trying to hand me a black glass pipe, but I’m in love with the music.