Walter Kirn

Walter Kirn

A weeklong electronic journal.
Dec. 18 1996 3:30 AM

Walter Kirn

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       I have a problem, I'm realizing today, with herbs and vitamins. My whole bottom desk drawer is crammed with plastic bottles. Phosphatidyl Serine, Borage Oil, DHEA, sublingual Ginkgo extract, liquid oxygen, CoQ10, St. John's Wort.
       What is all this stuff? Beats me. I take it daily, though. The whole futuristic cocktail, down the hatch. I assembled the regimen over the past few years by consulting labels, reading magazines, and taking tips from friends. For all I know, I've made dangerous combinations--and yet, each substance has a special aura. I love the shapes and colors of the pills, their odors and tastes, their optimistic packages. Really, I guess, it's an amulet collection.
       When God died he broke into pieces and decomposed, and now all the things that weren't God in the old days are stained with Godly presence. That's my theory. God's radiance spread into presidents and televisions and drugs and computers and clothes and food and rock bands. Containing the God spill won't be possible; he's leaked into pretty much everything by now. My local health-food store is soaked with him, particularly the nutritional-supplements section. My favorite product line, Source Naturals, features on its labels a lunar eclipse backed by a shining infinity of stars. The shelves of organic produce are God-soaked, too, and so are the scented candles and massage tools. The place is like a wilderness of miracles.
       Will the tide someday reverse itself? I wonder. Will the God essence suck itself back up into heaven and leave us surrounded by herbs that are just plants, computers that are merely plastic boxes, movies that are nothing but strips of film?
       Next door to me they're plugging in the Tesla Coil for another session of New Age healing. A woman with lupus is taking off her mittens. A man with cancer is removing his hat. It snowed last night and the wind's still blowing this morning, howling down off the mountains like a wildcat, so everyone's bundled up tight, with red, red noses.
       For me, it's vitamin time. I swallow them slowly, following a mystical set order. As a kid in Minnesota I'd get sick each winter right around Christmastime, and I'd take medicine. My favorite was the cough syrup with codeine. The luminous spoonfuls had a festive cherry taste, and two of them made my limbs feel heavy, warm. I also loved orange-flavored Aspergum. I locked myself in a closet once and gobbled an entire box of it while my parents pounded on the door. They were in a true panic, I remember, screaming that I'd have to have my stomach pumped. I ignored them, chewing. My mouth was gum-packed. When I covered my ears to shut out all the fuss, I could hear my own jaws working deep inside my skull.

Walter Kirn is the author of My Hard Bargain, a collection of stories, and She Needed Me, a novel. He lives in Montana.