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Darcie Dennigan

The Pill vs the Springhill Mine Disaster

We walked into the pharmacy.
(Oh. I’m starting with “we.” Oh well.)

I bought the pill. It cost me 3.5 times the hourly wage of the clerk who unlocked the case and handled the transaction. I contemplated standing in the pharmacy for 3.5 hours, so as to better “earn” the pill.

He took my pointless contemplating, my body’s stance as it housed that pointlessness, for worry over the pill’s cost. He offered to split it.

Then I contemplated us standing in the feminine hygiene aisle for 1.75 hours. Would rather have spent double that time alone.

It was his whispering. He was whispering a word. It was one of “ours.” One that hadn’t seemed to exist: the word for children one might have had with one’s lover but did not.

He had coined a word for it. Well I’d asked him to. But I had never, ever requested that he say it aloud at an apropos time.

From the pharmacy, to a cafe–

I had bought the one pill. But I’m a nervous eater. Emotional eater.

I was NOT nervous about taking the pill. It was what was happening across from me that I felt…unable to bear.

At the cafe table across from me he was reciting a Richard Brautigan poem. The one that goes something like, When you take your pill I think of all those people lost inside you.

That was the poem he was reciting. To me. For me? It’s not a long poem. One sentence I think. And yet, the stress that this poem’s recitation by the man across from me was occasioning… I decided to chew the pill. A little mastication session, a small violent crush in the grooves of a molar. A commensurately small relief.

I brought my palm to my mouth to take in the pill. But it wasn’t a single dose. It was a handful. Like a whole bunch of tic tacs. Should I–

I had to. Off his loving look, I popped a good dozen into my mouth.

Down there in my sweaty palm a few remained, and so I chewed them too.

I definitely thought, needing at that point to align myself with anyone but him, of texting Kate: “i’m eating morning after pills like candy!”

He was still there, across the cafe table. How was it possible that the poem was still going on…What’s this poem called, dear. He was asking me as if I knew. I did know and he knew I knew. He was, therefore, asking me to be intimate with him. He smiled. Oh how we both loved poems.

–I gave the title to him sweetly, with chipped bits of pill stuck in one corner of my bottom lip. I hoped he would comment on how pale (powdery!) my lips looked.

Ahh yes. He smiled. Sadly. He was very happy to be this kind of sad. All rollicking in hypotheticalness.

He was not– he was. Repeating the poem.

I picked up the cookie on his plate. He loved sweets and sweetly sad things. I was going to let a bite of the cookie just sit in my mouth. Chocolate chip cafe cookie, rather gooey. Let it get stuck to the roof, let it take away all danger of smiling back.

I was going to nod all the way through this second recitation of the Brautigan poem. Mouth closed all over the cookie so as to better contain my despisement.

This despisement was a huge crisis and I needed to work it out quickly. Only hours ago, I’d–
felt so connected that i’d wanted to have with him a theoretical baby?
why had i been like, yeah sure come inside me?
did i want the male’s experience– the fun frisson of uh-oh?
really, no
why did i invite semen into an obstacleless… reticule
and enjoy
enjoy the idea it was roiling around in there
already had kids, already knew then… what?
something about space and time, how time was an annex to space but with kids there was no
…relationship? — between space and time…?
was it a youth-harkening thing
ugh maybe

One by one the chocolate chips in the cookie were turning into white pills.

It did not occur to me to not continue eating the cookie. Ate the whole thing. (the stress)
By now must have had what? 20? 25 pills?

The first noticeable effect was his head.

I could no longer see around it. It had grown larger. Had become sculptural, a bobblehead that accentuated certain of his features. The haunted sockets. The straight nose reminiscent of the cover drawing on my high school copy of A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

The mouth on this head had not been constructed to open. Still the poem blared.

It blared from the large head and yet came across as a murmur. He was a murmurer.

The third recitation of the poem may have only been an effect of the pills. The bobblehead began: First the title, then the poet’s name. Then he reached across the cafe table and took my hand, the skin of which was a demurely chalky dry.

When you take your pill…

Parade loudspeaker volume. Yet the delivery was bedroom.


Afraid to open my mouth lest I find out I was eating even more pills, I nodded along to the poem.

I nodded. My head now also huge. I could picture what my own benevolent smile looked like when stretched to bobblehead proportions.

Another natant mound of bitterness in my mouth. Somehow three more pills were there, melting.

Sweet love, I asked, can we return to the hotel?

Gigantic nodding all around.

After our nap I knew something might still be different. Nearly 30 pills, maybe more, all in a few moments… Perhaps my uterus itself would be languishing between my legs on the hotel sheets.

Or it would be the city’s landscape that had changed. The streets covered in a dusting of hormone, pedestrians’ gonadal activities declining as they waited for the walk signal… And the trees’ remaining leaves– it was November– would be the little foil peels from each pill’s mini blister pack…

But I could see out the window from the bed. The trees had dead chlorophylled matter, not foil. There was no pilldusting of the streets.

There he was, lips very close to my ears, murmuring, murmuring. My uterus was still inside. It was him between my legs. All was the same.

I keep thinking about the word “and.”
This and that.
He and I.
Space and time.
                   and                    are what he had wanted to name our hypothetical children.

Days and weeks. He was uncircumcised. His foreskin seemed to have a slot, as though for small coins. Doll coins. It was not a leap from there to pills. I pretended to fall back asleep until he actually did.

When a man recites a Richard Brautigan poem to a woman who is no longer a teenager, little progesterone pills pop up everywhere. Mushrooms after rain. A law of nature.

All I had to do was reach my hand beneath the pillow and feel for three more white pills.

There they were.

I put them one at a time into his coinslot. Like a little jukebox. One song, three pills. (inflation). Maybe his penis would grow as big as his head had. No matter which one I played he was going to say it was “our” song.



DARCIE DENNIGAN‘s manuscript Forever Valley was a finalist for the New Directions novel prize this year.

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