My friend Jill posted a picture of Steve Bannon on Facebook with his quote, “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy.” Jill’s comment was “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” My response was “hash tag medical marijuana.”
I was kidding when I wrote it. But on Tuesday afternoon at 4:30, as the sun skidded the sky with Caribbean color, I pulled into a strip mall in Wilmington, off Pacific Coast Highway, for an appointment to get my prescription. Five storefronts lined the parking lot. A liquor store and the medical clinic were the only two that weren’t vacant, and a guy with his hands in his pockets loitered in a shadowy corner. I thought about driving away, but I got out of the car, put my purse on my shoulder and walked to a door with white block lettering: PCH Medical Clinic.
The office was cold. The walls were ghost white. My boots clicked on the dark brown parquet floors.
“Hi,” I said to the twenty-something girl sitting at a desk in a small office behind a window. “I called earlier.”
She looked up at me and smiled. “I’ve never done this before,” I said. I’d googled medical marijuana doctors. This place had 5 1/2 stars on Yelp.
The girl gave me some forms to fill out. I checked off the symptoms anxiety, stress and insomnia, and ticked depression and back pain for good measure. I signed several waivers promising not to drive under the influence or operate heavy machinery, and not to sell, redistribute or share my marijuana.
When I gave her my completed paperwork, I noticed an ATM in the corner. “Do you take credit cards?”
“No,” she said. “The appointment is $50 cash, if you have the coupon. It’ll be $65 without it. You’ll need cash for the dispensary, too.” I got $200 from the machine.
I didn’t wait more than five minutes before she called for me. As I followed her into the back I heard the ring of a Skype call. She brought me into an office with an oak desk. On it sat a computer monitor and a mouse.
“He’s not here?” I said.
She wiggled the mouse, connected the call and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her. I sat down and smiled at myself in the small box at the bottom of the screen, pale in my black Equinox t-shirt. My mouth was dry. I put my purse on my lap and folded my hands over it.
“Hello,” said a face on the screen. He was bald, shiny and overexposed. He wore a white lab coat and looked up at me through gold wire-framed glasses. I took him to be in his early 70s. “Can you hear me?” he asked.
“So.” He looked down at the forms twenty-something girl must have faxed to him. “How long have you had insomnia?”
“On and off for a couple of months.” I lied.
“And you have some back pain?” He was writing.
“My lower back,” I said. That was true, I’d just come from the chiropractor.
“How long have you been depressed?”
One of the definitions for depression is low in spirits. Another is vertically flattened. I felt both. My anxiety was real. But I didn’t want him to think I needed a shrink and meds or I wouldn’t get my weed.
I made the decision to get the prescription after a white delivery truck barreled toward me in traffic that morning. I had to swerve and jump a lane to get out of its trajectory. That’s when I burst. I couldn’t stop crying. The level of the swamp out there is getting high and there’s a riptide pulling me out to sea. I didn’t want to cry here, in front of the Skype Doctor, let my guard down. I needed to be calm. Explain in a mature tone that I just needed a little soft focus.
“Here’s the thing,” I said. “I’m not officially depressed. It’s more like I’m stressed.” I paused. He kept writing. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I wanted to be cool. “It’s not like I want to be stoned all the time. I mean I heard that there’s this stuff that just takes the edge off, you know, without being super stoney.” My heart skipped and slipped into my stomach. I felt awkward. I looked at myself on the screen and took a breath. Tried to gather my thoughts. Stay calm.
“The truth is,” I said, “this election, well, the outcome and everything has me really freaked out.” Shit, I didn’t mean to say that. What if he voted for the guy? He could be one of those people that says, “Hey we put up with Obama for eight years and we survived.”
A penny lay on the desk by the monitor. If a penny lands heads up, its good luck. If it’s tails, I flip it over, give someone else a chance to find a little luck. I needed some luck. These days, everyone I care about, that I’m close to, can use a little luck. A little softness. A little kindness. A little ease. Luck that lets you know you’ll be fine. Everything will be okay. Gives solace. The kind of luck that’s light. Light like compassion, peace, hope. I reached for the penny. Tossed it. Tails. I flipped it over.
The doctor stopped writing and looked up at me. I hoped he’d give me my prescription and I could buy some liquid miracle and a vape pen. Some Acapulco gold, purple haze or amnesia. That’s what I needed.
“Tell me about it” he said. “These are some crazy times.” He smiled a soft smile. “You can pick up your prescription at the front desk.”
“Yes,” he said, and the call was disconnected. I took a deep breath and exhaled for what felt like the first time in weeks.*
* Previously Published in Writers Resist