Chronic Pain Management

Emily Laura Costa

Today the rheumatologist told me quinine water can ease my muscle spasms, the sensation of my hands being cupped then not, cupped then not, cupped then not, my calves blinking inside like fireflies, my toes moving like a player piano, but since the taste of quinine alone makes my back teeth ache, I assume she’s fine with me adding gin, because that’s what goes best, but I’m not sure if I can drink gin while also taking the CBD tincture my dad, who’s on his second cancer, tells me he’s used for pain, although now he’s far beyond that and is smoking blueberry weed, vaping the oil he got from some guy he knows, which is funny since only like a year ago he was complaining about his downstairs neighbor smoking, about the smell drifting through the vents into his apartment, and funny, too, because he smoked pot as a kid, before he switched to cigarettes, then Backwoods (no weed inside, just the sweet aromatics), then after he and my mom finally split up, back to cigarettes again, and then when he started online dating and had a son twenty years after he had me, back to nothing, but yesterday when I visited him at work he asked me if I wanted to smoke with him, which is kind and maybe wrong because I’m his kid, but I guess he just really cares if my body is aching and spasming and tingling and being numb, my joints and limbs and cold, corpse-like toes, and that all they’re coming up with for me is fibromyalgia, which part of me doesn’t even believe, that that can’t be right, can’t be the whole story, but also I feel bad about it—my dad caring about my pain, I mean—because here he is about to get a chemo port set up in his shoulder, which they’ll use to put all sorts of unnatural things into his body, since he already tried all the natural stuff, all the plants and teas and turmeric and apple cider vinegar, and I even gave him hen-of-the-woods I found in my yard, and my sister even lit healing candles she got from her witch shop—I saw them on her altar near all the fallen flower petals and tarot decks and incense packets, burned all the way down until their wicks shriveled like dried dead worms stuck on the driveway after a rainstorm—but who knows what will work; maybe it’s like my doctor said to me, fists on hips, eyes down: listen sweetheart, everyone’s tired and in pain, I don’t know what you want me to do for you, some people just hurt all their lives.

 


The Portrait of a Mourner in B&W From Above

Mark Budman

Anna checks herself in the full-length mirror, not sure what to wear since all white, like Ophelia, was the color of mourning back then, and all black, like Queen Victoria, is the color of mourning now, but whatever Anna chooses, the funeral director will direct his staff to change it anyway, so she leaves her house in her B&W checkered  robe and skinny slippers, strolls to the railroad, undresses down to her pink and goose-bumpy skin, to make the funeral staff’s job easier, and lies across the rails that are neither white nor black, like everything in life, and shivers, waiting for the wheels to turn over and move her toward the eternal fame. 

 

My Last Boyfriend

Hannah Melin

I let Jason kiss me at Amy’s party because I thought he looked like James Dean and it turns out he drives like him too.

 

Merry-go-round

Marcus Slease

She lived with two friends from Poland, on a shared double bed, in a house of Polish gypsies, the cheapest rent in London, & worked at the chip van, waiting for something better, a new life in another city, from Poland to NYC, working in a bakery and as a Polish nanny, and now here, in London, she was swollen, it’s the chips, I have to watch it, she said, no more chips, or salty sausages, at the chip van, not far from the South Bank, the customers thickened, especially on the weekends, and a man, ordering the usual, leaned in closer, what are you doing here luv, he said, & she looked over her shoulder, luv, he said, I can help you, he leaned in even closer, his wiry grey beard, slicked-back hair, & he held out his hand to her, it was older than his face, slightly speckled, the boss dumped a load and the chips sizzled, she couldn’t hear him, but his mouth was moving, when the chip sizzling levelled off there was silence, but something else moving, a soft smile on his face, a crease from his lips to the side of his eyes, something warming, slightly, inside her, & he pulled something from his pocket, leaned in even closer, I can help you, he said, his eyelashes curling like a camel, laying it out before her, the desert of her existence, close your eyes, he said, she made a curtain with her fingers, & when she opened them there was something there, in her hand, square and shining, a box, sweet velvets, no music, small gold horses, moving around & around. 

 

Shout Out to a Decade Gone

Kevin Sterne

Shout out to when you were nineteen and punched your college roommate and broke his nose and school kicked you out so you moved back in with your parents who were getting a divorce but your dad still lived there and he’d still live there for a year or so or more until he got served and your mom slept in the spare room and he spent days in the chair watching TV and you took a job at the sub shop because Chipotle never called back and you needed to get paid to pay the lawyer to reduce your three felonies to one misdemeanor and all’s you got was thirty hours community service editing battle of the bands at the community access channel, and shout out to that kid smacking himself in the face with his shoe in front of the stage because that fucker was more alive than you’d felt in a year because your parents thought the best thing for you was a psychiatrist and a prescription for way too much Adderall so you became just like every other white kid from the suburbs, over prescribed on amphetamines, wishing it was the summer before when you spent every day driving and high or high and working or high after class at community college when your parents slept in the same room but the fighting was louder than the silence of them in different rooms and always would be even louder than the hiss hum hiss hum of his oxygen generator ten years later or his wrist when he kissed your mom’s hand right before they wheeled him to surgery for the transplant, but never as loud as the TV in the waiting room while you waited and waited for him to get his new lung.