Inevitably, while the pharmacist is stressed and rifling through her bin of exports as though insulin is a new drug only just this afternoon becoming available in New York, Los Angeles, and various territories across western Europe, and I am the first news-savvy customer to request such a drug, my eyes wander across the bleached countertops, away from the ominous red light of a recording security camera, and onto a Lazy Susan sporting Bibles, prayer collections, and "My Sympathy" cards.
The placement does not initially strike me as odd. Drugstores, after all, suffer the same lackadaisical approach to organization as supermarkets: Avocados next to the baby powder which is above the salmon which is next to the fudgsicles beneath the Organic avocados. One rotation around the store begets a second rotation during which you switch out your avocados for their Organic twins, fresh salmon for frozen chick'n (there's a sale!), and baby powder for peanut butter. All of this to discover, once home in the flickering shadow of your fridge-light, that you forgot the milk anyway, and a third rotation will have to take place tomorrow.
And anyway, drugstores in America vary greatly from the pharmacies of Europe. La pharmacie is a minimal collection of Z-packs and sunscreen, closed on Sundays. Rite-Aid is a 24/7 one-stop shop that beckons stoners and tired mothers alike with its apocalypse-ready collection of frozen meals, folding chairs, and cracked foot cream. It's sloppy, but hey, it's home, and it serves the increasingly sedentary culture we breed. Every processed, plastic-capped, overly-packaged, minimally promising item you could ever possibly need is only twenty steps down thataway. Come in at 3am for our shin-high sock sale.
And so my mind is on such things as I peruse the god-fearing pamphlets on the Lazy Susan. I overhear the pharmacist drop an elbowful and curse, so I try to make myself look genuinely interested in a pocket Bible to save her some embarrassment. I reckon I'll be standing here for awhile, and I may as well read the book that boasts the most positive reviews of all time.
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10
How strange it is to read about the Creator of all things and his admission to designing a destiny purposefully filled with such agony and detriment. It is easy, relatively, to ponder on the big ambiguous Suffering of Humanity and its apparently restorative qualities, quite another to wait in line for a drug that should cost nothing, but instead costs something, to inject, refrigerate, and inject again until the day it's all over. If suffering builds such character, and is in fact the only way to steadfastly improve our wandering spirit's station, I wonder why it isn't producing more universal results. After all, there are plenty of people who could do with some character-building and who appear to have never received as much as a spoonful of inconvenience. This isn't to negate a stranger's pain; Bob Iger might very well be unhappy in his sunchair on the dock of his $40 million superyacht. But he isn't in the insulin line at CVS.
And anyway, do those who are medicated need to serve as sirens for some mighty purpose? Is it not enough to wake up and choose, quite consciously, to give it another go? Whatever labor it costs to spend a little more time here, on God's beloved Earth, we'll surely pay -- and we do; our outstretched credit cards and Lipohypertrophy scars are brandishments of our loyalty. Or are we, too, tasked with cleansing the culture's self-involved palate, clearing their eyes to the things that really matter: Their legs, eyes, ears, heart and lungs? What is a cup of coffee on the porch with your love if you cannot breathe in the summer air, hold, and exhale without pain, recourse, without a machine?
I put the pocket Bible back, deciding all those rave reviews were delivered by either paid actors or those with ulterior motives (an insurance policy, perhaps). Someone behind me sighs with great dramatism. She's maybe seventeen, freckle-faced and hunched, cradling a tin of Pringles and acne lotion like a baby. Her eyeliner is smudged, and I assume she's here for birth control. I think about offering her the Bible as a joke, but decide against it.
The pharmacist returns and states that they, regretfully, have not yet received a shipment of insulin, and could I wait a couple more days. I don't answer. I figure I don't have to. Despite the unbuttoned coats and blasé turns of phrase, pharmacists attend medical school. We both know what days without insulin will do.
She rolls back her shoulders, and I half-expect her to reach for the pocket Bible, an offering, I suppose, of equal consequence.