Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Esplanade Pharmacy

Flashes back in my mind today. I am not sure where all this is coming from, but I think something is telling me I need to get started. I need to get this story of Katrina started. I need to get it all down while the smells of the Hurricane are still fresh in my mind.
Years later, it amazes me how Hurricane Katrina can stay so close to the surface. Some days I feel like I can smell her still. Other days sounds can trigger those memories, putting me right back in all that water. There are days when it seems like I have just emerged from the madness, and I am still watching the television two weeks later amazed at all the destruction.

Today I can smell the Hurricane. I can smell the city of New Orleans, and for some reason I can smell the Esplanade Pharmacy. All these smells are swirling around me here in North Carolina. I am miles and years away from it all, yet somehow I can still smell it.
My memory takes me back to the days living near the Esplanade Pharmacy. The Esplanade Pharmacy is a convenient store as well as a pharmacy. It is a one stop shop where you can fill your prescriptions, pick up smokes, and get a candy bar. It is a small little store, on Esplanade Avenue almost at Claiborne and the I-10.
When I lived a few doors down from the pharmacy, I went in there at least once a day. I stopped in for my soda in the morning. I stopped to get a snack, or sometimes I would buy feminine products. Whatever one may need, you could possibly find it in the Esplanade Pharmacy.
The pharmacy had a particular smell. It was the smell of something old and musty. The building that housed the pharmacy was probably built in the 1800s, and her wood underneath was probably rotting from years of humidity. A slight chemical smell lingered in the air, probably from housing medication for so long that the strange medicinal smell was residual. Then, there was the smell of food. All kinds of snacks, drinks, and groceries lined the shelves of the Esplanade Pharmacy.
I used to pass the pharmacy every day on my way to meet Shay, who was my dope dealer at the time. Shay has long since left this earth, I hear. I hear he was shot in the head and killed. Rest in Peace, sir. Shay served me well for years.
I used to wait for Shay at the bus stop just down from the Esplanade Pharmacy. I would often stop in the pharmacy for a soda on my way to meet Shay if I was not too sick. If I was too sick, I would stop on the way back. It is amazing how your dope sickness seems to fade as soon as you put the foil in your pocket.
I wonder if the pharmacy still stands. I can see the dilapidated and well used pay phone, just around the corner of the store. The poles in front of the store, holding up the balcony above were black and chipping. Her yellow wood outside the pharmacy in need of new paint, and sagging slightly with age.
The floors were old school tile, black and white if I remember correctly. Although, my judgement was often so clouded I cannot be trusted to remember all the details correctly. Inside, the rows were lined with all kinds of household items from food to cleaners. In the very back, the wooden wall rose up to separate the pharmacy. The pharmacy itself seemed to be very high up in the air, almost as if it were a separate place all together. I guess this was to keep the junkies around from venturing too close to the medications, if only to drool and salivate.
The window in front was always a beacon to me. The name of the pharmacy was painted in gold, and the emblem of the mortar and pestle rested under the name. I always loved that window, as it reminded me that drugs were in there. Like any junky, the sign of an old pharmacy could get my heart racing.
The Esplanade Pharmacy, like every other business in New Orleans was ransacked during the Hurricane. I know several dope sick junkies who were quick to throw a brick through the pharmacy window in search of something to ease the pain. Two nights after the storm, I entered the pharmacy as well.
I was passing by the pharmacy with a flashlight in my hand. After getting caught in the dark one night, I took a flashlight with me when I went wading through those waters. A young man, whose eyes are wide with terror stops me in front of the pharmacy. He needs his medication, and he fears the worst without it.
This young man was bipolar or schizophrenic, and he was taking a mood stabilizer called Lamictal. He feared that without his medication, he was going to go completely crazy. I could see it in his eyes, the insanity brewing behind them. I can understand his fear. I was feeling quite insane at the time as well, and I am not on any medications to keep me in check. Of course, I would help this young man.
We carefully entered the pharmacy, stepping over the threshold and into the darkness. The floor was covered in water, and our feet sloshed around on the old tiles. We waded past the front counter, and through all the crap that had fallen of the shelves towards the back of the store. This time the pharmacy did not seem so high up and inaccessible. One step up, and the wooden barrier swung open. We carefully walked behind the counter and were lost between huge shelves filled with medicine.
Carefully, I used the flashlight to scan through the medicine. The young man was jumpy and scared. He was in a hurry to get in and out of here. I am sure his mind was running away with fears of being caught. Scanning the shelves, they were still somewhat in alphabetical order. Alazopram, hydrocodone, lorazepam, diazapam, Tylenol with codiene, phenegran...I was in a junkies heaven. I was hungrily grabbing pill bottles that were left behind. All generic because most people had no idea what these were. I forgot about my companion momentarily.
He is freaking out behind me. Begging me to help him as quickly as I can. I scan the shelves looking for the 'L's. Ah-ha...Lamictal. I hand the guy two bottles, and put two more in my pocket because Liam also happens to be on Lamictal. The guy disappears into the night as quickly as he approached.
The pharmacy is an eerie quiet as I stand there all alone for a minute. God, it is dark in here. Anyone or anything could hide in these vast shelves. I can hear the water lapping the edges of the building from the inside. I shine my flasglight around. There are pills bottles all over the floor, and in the store I notice all kinds of trash floating in the water. The shelves are a mess, bottles knocked over everywhere, and papers fallen everywhere. The junkies dream fades into a nightmare as fear creeps up my spine. I quickly survey the shelves one last time, shoving whatever I can into my pockets. I turn and get the hell outta
I carefully emerge back onto the street, not wanting anyone to spot me coming out of the pharmacy. It is not as dark on the street. The moon illuminates the water world around. I look back at the broken window of the pharmacy. The sign I always loved shattered, and the whole store seems to be crying out to me. All I see is the destruction, and garbage spilling out of a place I visited every day at one time. The sagging building seems to be sceaming out to me for help. I turn and walk casually away, with my pockets full of treasure. My heart begins to lighten a little as I think of that treasure.
That was the last time I laid eyes on the Esplanade Pharmacy.

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