BLACK FLAG AT THE DISPENSARY • by Paul Hansen

I saw a man with a Black Flag tattoo at my dispensary. It was on his leg, nice and faded. I’ve got the same one on my wrist from when I turned eighteen – two decades ago, back when we swore we’d never turn forty. The man looked at my arm, sat next to me and said, “At least we gave them hell, huh.”

He must’ve been fifty years old, wearing khaki shorts. Everybody grows up. I looked at my shoes. Still the same chucks. I’ll never turn forty.

“Is that what we did?” I said.

“Sure as hell tried. I thought we were gonna change the world.”

The receptionist called my name. An armed man took me to the backroom. I went to the counter and the pot lady asked what’s it going to be this time?

“Something that helps with the anxiety. The pain hasn’t been too bad.”

“How crippling is it, the anxiety?”

I wanted to tell her it’s bad. That sometimes it feels like my lungs are supporting my shoulders and I’m breathing through a straw.

“Moderate,” I said.

The pot lady smiled. “I’m glad it’s not too bad.”

She gave me nine-pound hammer. Last week it was mimosa, 80% THC. I used to pound those things, Sunday morning with friends, nose caked from last night’s drugs, feeling sick. I’m not supposed to drink anymore. The doctor said it would exacerbate my condition — paralytic anxiety that stems from this degenerative disease I’ve got. I found out about it three months ago. I’d been having chest pain for awhile, just thought I was hungover. They gave me a year to live, two tops. I could try to fight it but that would require months of surgery and hospitalization and people coming from the woodwork. I haven’t told anybody yet.

“This strain will help you feel numb,” said the pot lady.

“Perfect.”

The only people I want to tell are dead or gone or grown up.

“Oh,” I said. “And some topical cream.” I showed her my wrist. “Something to bring this back to life.”

I couldn’t tell if she knew what the tattoo meant.

Then she looked at me and said, “Nice.”

On the way out, I had to go back through the waiting room.

The Black Flag man gave me a head nod. “Keep giving them hell, huh.”

“Hey man,” I said. “What’re you in for?”

He shrugged. “You know how it goes.”

I wanted to tell him everything.

“Give them hell,” I said. “It was a lot of fun.”

I walked out and tried not to count the number of days I had left.


Paul Hansen lives in Tallahassee, FL, where he is a PhD student at Florida State.


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