My First Visit to The Trans-cultural Health Improvement Center
by Robert Guffey on October 21
My short story “My First Visit to The Trans-cultural Health Improvement Center” is in the most recent issue of PANORAMA (Vol. 4, Autumn 2017). Here’s how the story begins:
“A few hours ago, in the middle of doing the laundry, I get a call from my friend Damien. He’s on the edge of death again and needs help getting to a methadone clinic in Wilmington. Since I prefer not to have dead people on my conscience I decide to hop on a bus to his apartment in Long Beach and help him. Besides, I’m curious to see what a methadone clinic looks like.
“Imagine two white boys in the middle of Wilmington, CA trying to find a methadone clinic. The place is hard to track down. They certainly don’t advertise in the phone book. The clinic is a couple of blocks away from a sweat shop, a literal sweat shop, housed in a totally nondescript one-story building with barred windows and a huge intimidating door that’s as colorful as an all-expenses-paid vacation in Garden Grove. The door is gray, very gray. The clinic’s official name is ‘The Trans-cultural Health Improvement Center,’ which is the most clever bit of nonsensical newspeak I’ve ever heard. It means nothing, absolutely nothing. I guess they didn’t want to call it ‘The Wilmington Methadone Clinic’ to make it as difficult as possible for a junkie to get there. According to an almost unreadable sign outside it’s open from 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. How the hell can you expect a junkie to get up that early? If they could get up that early, they wouldn’t be junkies in the first place.
“Anyway, once you’ve passed the gigantic featureless door, you find yourself in the lobby. I take a seat in a black vinyl sofa. A few feet away from me is the front desk, directly above which hangs various signs that say things like ‘Information and Registration’ and ‘This Medical Clinic Utilizes Physician Extenders In Accordance With The Laws And Regulations Of This State’ and ‘No Checks/No Coins/No Credit Cards/We Do Not Give Change/We Give Credit Towards Your Next Dose.’ From my seat I watch an endless stream of junkies walk through the door, sign in at the front desk, then stroll over to a little window to get their allotted dose of methadone (a bright pink liquid that comes in a tiny plastic cup).”