As a salve to her depressed state of mind, a state Tanita often finds herself in after therapy with Dr. Merkel, she peruses the romance novel covers at Wal-Mart as she waits for the pharmacy to refill her anti-depressant prescription, a new brand with a higher recommended dose and an extremely vague origin of manufacture.
Tanita loves the romance covers. The one in her hand has a man with a broad, masculine jaw, but with lips so sensual they could only be made so with fat injections, and a long flowing mane of hair that would take hours to care for and style to look that good all of the time. Tanita has trouble suspending her sense of disbelief. She fears that if she does, the world around her of cinderblock warehouses with their greasy haired checkers and double coupon specials, will all melt away into unreality where nothing would make sense, a world filled with chimeras with unknown motivations where things happen without cause, where she would be the dog being beaten with a stick without understanding why.
She looks down at the cover in her hand, high on a castle turret above the peasants in the fields below, the romance hero embraces a woman in a passionate kiss. Well, Tanita’s not a dog being punished, and the romance hero is most likely a total prima donna about his hair every morning, hogging the castle bathroom for hours as he has his servants blow his hair dry, literally, and harping on about getting his bald spot combed over. And she can’t imagine what his breath would be like in the Dark Ages without an electric toothbrush and a tube of Crest Super White. Maybe there’s a reason no one ever shows their teeth on the covers of these novels.
A woman at the pharmacy counter calls out Tanita’s number and says her order is ready. Ah, time for my little pill, she says to herself and goes to retrieve her anti-depressants, wondering what color generics they’re going to be this time.
* * *
Out of Body Buck wanders aimlessly through the Wal-Mart parking lot, learning he still has a body of sorts. It seems to be an energy body, aetheric in nature, like what he imagines a ghost is made of, if he believed in ghosts. But he’s not a ghost. He saw his body, very much alive, drive off and leave him. He doesn’t know what he is, though he might as well be a ghost.
A muscular man gets out of a nearby pickup truck and heads toward the Wal-Mart entrance. Out of Body Buck gets swept up in his draft like a little Yugo behind a semi-trailer truck. It’s then that he realizes just how weightless he is that he can be swept up in the breeze of a passing person.
Halfway across the parking lot to the entrance, the aetheric face of a woman emerges from the back of the pickup driver’s head. She has big sunken eyes and a twisted mouth, heavy with red lipstick, giving her an almost clownish look. “Bugger off, this one’s taken. Go find your own.”
“My own what?”
“Don’t be coy, Nancy-boy. He may look big, but believe me, there isn’t room for the two of us in here.”
“But you have to help me,” he pleads. “Please tell me what’s going on. I don’t understand any of this.” He motions with his arms at the surroundings.
The woman’s face sneers. “Poor newbie wants his moomie. Well then, go possess one, you stupid prat.”
“Yes, go find your dream milf and climb inside.”
“That’s awful intimate, won’t I catch something?”
Her mouth becomes monstrously large as she cackles. “Like aetheric herpes? You’re a funny one, Now get lost,” she says and spits a ball of aetheric phlegm at him, which strikes his shoulder and knocks him off course into a parked car.
His upper body sticking out of where a non-existent sunroof would be, he says, “But I already am lost.”
The woman doesn’t care. She’s already submerged herself back into the man’s hair and is busy feeding on the muscular man’s excitement at picking up his first order of little blue pills.
Another large man passes by, so obese he uses an electric scooter, and an emaciated face of a man emerges from the side of his head and says, “Did I hear her call you a newbie? I can show you the ropes.”
The man’s sallow face gives Out of Body Buck the shivers, like the bogey man has appeared from his closet.
“There’s plenty of room in this one. He has an eating disorder with a penchant for cream filled pastries, if you’re into that, and so much self loathing it’s so stimulating I almost feel alive again. Christ, can he eat, and he hates himself for every bite he takes.”
Out of Body Buck doesn’t know what to say so he stays quiet.
“It’s your loss, pal,” the emaciated man says and slips back inside his fat ride.
Out of Body Buck watches the man roll inside the store, wondering about his keen passenger, and as they pass through the entrance into Wal-Mart, his wife, Tanita, emerges from the store, jauntily carrying a little white paper sack he recognizes from the pharmacy, and she’s walking straight toward him. It’s then that he recognizes the car he’s standing in. It’s hers and he’s square in the driver’s seat.
When she opens the car door and slides behind the wheel, she lands right on him, and before he knows what’s happening he’s inside her, feeling the pressure of the seat underneath her, the pinch of the seat belt across her breasts as she buckles up, and sees the dust on the dash, and feels her annoyance at the sight of it. She hates dust, nothing but people’s exfoliation and mite poop.
He settles in, he’s struck with a vague sense of unease not caused by anything in particular. It’s claustrophobic being inside Tanita. When she starts the car, he’s hit with her anxiety like a hot wind from a sewage treatment plant. She’s told him driving made her anxious, but he always made light of it. He never imagined it was like this.
She pops a couple of the new pills she just bought, and he’s hit with her depression. It’s a vast ocean held back by a crumbling seawall of pills. He thought he’d been bummed out when he went to Doc for something for his panic attack, but this is in a entirely different league. This is like bathing in a bathtub of feces. In comparison, an eating disorder and a dose of self-loathing sounds pretty good.
He wants out of her body and out of her head, but when he begins to pull his arm away from inside hers and step out of her body, he feels a tugging curiosity to remain inside her that is hard to resist, like when he used to fart in bed after eating too much fried chicken, he couldn’t help but lift the covers just a little bit to smell just how bad the gas from inside his body smelled.