Jeff’s binge

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

Here’s the revised text with UK spellings and grammar:

Jeff is on his computer, a man a tad bit older, judging by the grey that outlines his beard and the grey sprinkled in his hair, and is in his wheelchair by the window. Jeff looks over at the man. A pleasant-looking woman is looking concerned on the computer at Jeff. Claire asks in an alert way, “Are you paying attention? Jeff! We are going to do something about this?” Jeff is off somewhere, and it is far from the conversation, even the place where he is physically sitting.
Claire’s scream is so loud that Jeff’s roommate takes notice. Jeff checks back into the space he is not in, but his body is there,
“What can there be done?”

Claire takes a breath, unsure if she has a solution but gives an answer anyway and says, “Just wait; we will get more samples. Just have hope.” Jeff secures the weight of his mind from spending between reality and the realm of his aching insanity.
Jeff bellies out, “HOPE? I have been out for a week. I cannot keep thinking the stimulus cheque is coming. Unemployment barely covers the rent. “Jeff’s explanation explores what is known and cannot be solved as soon as he or Claire wants it.

“We have to start thinking about getting you on SSI, “Claire replies with support Jeff is still unable to find.

“Then that means I can only work but so much, or not at all. It is all a catch-22 with the government. I lose it all or not gain the little they are offering,” Jeff states this in a way that Claire finds it harder and harder to convince him or herself that everything will or will be all right.

Claire states a plea, “But you have your medications without a worry. You can focus on getting better.”

“I need my medications. Why are they doing this to me? Once I start taking them and feeling good, I go back to what is worse than I was when I was off them; I mean, I am there. I have nowhere to go without them.”
Jeff softly ends his announcement of his need. Jeff looks out the window which hides his outlook and his hope. Claire looks at not just a client but a friend she more than cares for.
“I have another meeting, but we will keep talking weekly. Keep your head up. You have support. We will work on filing the paperwork ASAP,” Claire explains.

“WAIT!! What am I supposed to do? “, Jeff shouts so loud that his roommate turns his wheelchair in his direction with a puzzled face.
Jeff closes the laptop. He stares out the window; he rushes to get his jacket. Claire withdraws from the same hope she had when she started working on behalf of Jeff’s situation, “There is not much we can do but have patience.”
Jack says, “Do you want anything? I am going out?”
“I am fine, be safe, Jeffrey,” the roommate says with a worried look, truly intense like he does not think he is going to see Jeff again. Jeff notices this. Wondering how can his roommate’s eyes say the words before they come out of his mouth?
“I will be; I will be right back,” Jeff says.
Jeff goes out with the last steps; he turns around and looks back at his roommate, who still has the same concern in his eyes so much his body is now speaking the same message of caution.

Jeff walks past a crowd of activists and supporters surrounding a statue; police are circling, waiting for the subsequent riot. Jeff sees a familiar face amid the political and cultural storm.

The man starts to smile with a wild grin.

Jeff, with excitement, says, “Ole Chris.” Chris gets up with a slow draw but is fast mentally.
” Youngblood and I’m not your grandpa, so I am not old,” Chris says.

Jeff comes closer to what is like a bomb shelter of things collected, things left behind, and things forever lost in Chris’s life. Chris was not just homeless. His mind had nowhere to go where there would be enough space to contain it, maybe his things, but not his brilliant burnt-out mind.

Jeff asks, “How are things, Chris?”

Ole Chris declares, “Fine, You’re going to walk by change and in the process of a transition of powers?”

Jeff loses his footing, he cannot find his moral compass, but he knows he is wrong but does not know how to be suitable to join the fight for change.

“No, I am going to.. the store,” Jeff proclaims

“To buy a new world order, it is right here. I was signed up and shipped off before I knew what Ali said was true; I knew it, but seeing the truth is another thing. I am fighting another man’s war, not ever and not after this, and you shouldn’t either. We are all still fighting even now.”

“What you are doing is truth, Chris,” says Jeff. Chris looks at his stuff like they represent each war he has fought, and each object is a medal of honour, stating he won the battle but was still at war.
“I was living and fought for your

truth; I just found out it could speak with all this, all around us,” Ole Chris says.
Ole Chris looks at Jeff and finds something in his eyes, a terror, a simple plan, and how he lost his peace long before Ole Chris ever met him.
Jeff turns and looks at the crowds getting bigger and cops not leaving but multiplying. “I have to go,” Jeff makes his exit and is brought back by the concern of Ole Chris.
“Are you ok?” Ole Chris asks with deep care, much more than of anyone who is just a friend.

“Trapped. I can’t get my ….,” Jeff says, words that are not enough to describe the pain he has gone through for so long.

Ole Chris urges his words to come up from through his throat and out his mouth. Ole Chris has a strong reply but holds it a little bit. Ole Chris looks around at the chaos with it on mute, focusing only on Jeff’s words of bondage.

Ole Chris says, “I served, but now I finally feel like I am serving, and my servings are coming up short. The government has us where they want us, Jeff.”

“What about change? You are always talking about change, change this, change that,” Jeff says with a scold but maybe not for Chris but the edge he is on for needing his medications.
“Has anything changed a young man like you walking by? Making that change. What would be an opportunity to make a difference? Look around you; this is CHANGE.”

Ole Chris has not lost his cool, but maybe any more ways to get through to Jeff.
Jeff looks around with fear and understanding, for it is what he is feeling.

“I have to get my medicine,” Jeff calmly tells Ole Chris.

“I am sorry, are you ok,? Ole Chris asks with empathy.

“I do not…. I am trying to get the pharmacy to get me some pills to get by,” Jeff states, something that alerts Ole Chris and triggers him into a reaction awkward to anyone in Jeff’s situation.
Ole Chris is laughing. “I do not mean to laugh; it is finally catching up to you and all of us. That is why you see this right here, all over the country,” Ole Chris says.

See what? Jeff asks.

“They do not even care about you guys or the future or that you are sick, I served, and they already had their back to me when I came home if I wanted any help,” Ole Chris replies.

Jeff states, like a jab from a seasoned boxer in the ring with his justification, “I am out of a job; I cannot pay my copay.”

“You are also out of place in their system. Come get a sign.” Ole Chris reaches for a sign that reads, “Stop medical tyranny.”

Jeff fumbles over his thoughts and says, “And that will change everything, even that I need medicine?”

Ole Chris says, “I never saw an instant solution, but this future seems bright. I feel a change.”

“I have to go.”

“What store are you going to?”

Before Jeff can answer, a protester whispers in Ole Chris’s ear, and they gather their stuff.

Ole Chris turns around to Jeff, “Be safe out there. It has not even begun.” Jeff watches as Ole Chris and the protest disappear into the crowd. Jeff absorbs the tension and the fight for various freedoms, with people expressing and protesting for their rights while realizing he should be fighting for his own. After a while, the crowd’s roar has fallen into the wind, and Jeff has found his destination. He looks up at the sign, worried but ready for maybe what he already knows what the outcome will be. Jeff’s unattended illnesses stalk the items on the shelves as he moves to the back to talk to the pharmacy.
A young woman, aged by the stress of her job and other factors, is busy at the computer. She notices Jeff but keeps at what she is doing. She then motions her hands like she is coming.
“Can I help you? The pharmacist tech asks.

“Yeah, I need to speak with the Pharmacist,” Jeff adds.
The pharmacist tech looks at the Pharmacist and looks back at Jeff, “They are busy at the moment. How can I help you?”

“I need to speak to the Pharmacist like right now,” Jeff explains with force in his voice now.

The Pharmacist looks at Jeff, but Jeff is focused on what he wants, what he needs, and what is in front of him, preventing him from getting just that.

“I can help you; just tell me what you need,” the pharmacist tech politely asks.

“Listen, it’s an emergency. I am not the first case where someone cannot get their medications due to money issues but have a prescription. I just need enough to get me through. You can even talk to my doctor. My information is on file,” Jeff has said such a plea that it takes the wind out of him to alert him his efforts are insufficient. The pharmacist tech looks at Jeff feeling very sorry; maybe more sorry she cannot help him and his situation, but not enough to lose her job.

I am sorry I cannot give them to you,” the Pharmacist tech explains with care. Jeff is now giving off heat from his disappointment that he may become uncontrollable, and he has no problem not hiding. He goes back into a space where he can calmly address his plea. He leans into the pharmacist Tech and says, “Please, I just need some until I get paid.”

The Pharmacist tech reveals that all he did was ask a question even though it was the same one, and she could not give the answer he wanted. The Pharmacist Tech gives Jeff a reply he will never become used to, “I cannot help you, sir.”

Jeff finds a footing in his stance that is off, but he is standing anyway, and he ROARS, “But I have the prescriptions!! Let me talk to the Pharmacist!!!?

“Do you have them with you?” the Pharmacist tech says meekly.

Jeff appears to cool off but not down and replies,” Yes, here.” Jeff pulls out crinkled pieces of paper and says, “I just need my medications.”

The Pharmacist looks at Jeff, and what appears like his life or mind is all over the counter or both, and goes to the counter. “Is there a problem,” the Pharmacist asks in a pleasant tone.

Jeff looks up in confused relief, “Are you the pharmacist?”

The Pharmacist declares, “I am.”

“Thank God, can you please let me have about two weeks of my medication? You can look at my last refill to see what I take, and I will be back to pay in two weeks. They match up with these prescriptions,” Jeff sounds off with another plea.

The Pharmacist draws back from the weight Jeff has given her in his plea, maybe more of a demand with no end. The pharmacist Tech is slightly behind the Pharmacist, taking both breaks and looking at the situation’s tension.

“That is not the problem. We simply can’t do that; we need a payment today if you are to get it today.”
The Pharmacist brings attention to an answer that Jeff does not need or want to hear, like the ones he has been hearing all day.

Jeff snaps back at the both of them but targets the Pharmacist, “You cannot help someone who is sick?”

“If you are that sick, go to a hospital, they can help you better than we can.”


starts to charge the counter like a bull, and his words are his horns, “When I am right here right now, where you can help?!!!!” Jeff proclaims

The Pharmacist is now on edge, maybe the same one as Jeff. Everyone in the store has stopped and taken more than a glance at the scene that has developed.

“You need the copay. You know that if you have been here before.”

Jeff is still charging. All he can see is red, “What if something happens? This is what you do to people in need.”

“There is also a need for rules and how we tend to them.”

Jeff puts his hand over his mouth, then he puts his hands on top of his head, “A rule to deny care?” Jeff asks in a way he knows nothing else is working and nothing else will.

“Just calm down.”
Jeff blows off some steam, but the midst of this heated conversation is still seen from his head; it is almost like smoke.

“I am talking to you and have been at a level voice.”
The way Jeff’s voice has carried with such a heavyweight, it is hard to believe there are no hard feelings or paths to cross a bridge to where there can be an understanding. The Pharmacist is both afraid and looking for control of the situation. With a reserved tone, the Pharmacist says, “I am going to have to ask you to leave.”

Jeff looks down, then smiles, “Gone, me and my unattended illness are gone,” Jeff declares.

Jeff walks out with his tail high rather than show the defeat of the dog with a tail between its legs. He is walking past the park full of rioting and police officers. They have decided to take down a Southern leader’s statue in the park. Jeff sees a man struggling with the cops. It’s Ole Chris he saw earlier getting into with cops. One cop punches Ole Chris with a blow that almost knocks him down. Jeff runs over and jumps on the cop. They struggle. Ole Chris grabs the officer, who seizes him. The officer has his gun now out. The sound is loud; everyone gets down. Ole Chris looks down at his stomach; blood is gushing like water from a broken faucet. Another cop starts beating Jeff, each fist thrusting like a hammer to a nail. Ole Chris falls to the ground. A young woman is shooting everything with her phone when she notices the reality for both men and the end of one.

The Young woman yells,” They shot him!! They killed a veteran!!!”

The cops start guarding their own and their actions no matter how wrong they are. One cop ushers everyone with his baton, screaming, “Everyone back up!!” The young woman is showing the whole end through her camera on her phone. While Jeff is still fighting with the cop, the cop puts him to the ground. Jeff is at eye level with Ole Chris. They lock eyes until the Vet closes his eyes. Jeff’s eyes are wide awake to the fact he is witnessing death. The cop pulls Jeff up. Looks at the Veteran, then looks at Jeff. Jeff is now sitting in the back of the cop car, watching the mayhem. He locks eyes with the spot where he and Ole Chris were as more feet cover it.

Jeff walks to a table and sits down. He is wearing a jumpsuit with writing on the back stating who he is now and where he was. He is now an inmate. Claire tries to smile but cannot crack any emotion out of Jeff.
Claire asks, “How are you”?

Jeff cannot bring himself to say, but his soul aches out, “They killed him.”

“Jeff, the system failed him and you. You did not fail the system. Understand that,” Claire speaks a truth that does not resolve anything for Jeff.
Jeff starts to shake; his hands begin to curl in sudden disbelief at what he has seen about himself and society.

“I don’t get medicine in here or out there, but really, the truth is they killed him; what kind of medicine is there for that the things you cannot unsee,” Jeff lowers his voice and head. He gets up from the table and leaves.

About uzomah Ugwu

Uzomah Ugwu is a poet/writer, curator, editor, and multi-disciplined artist. Her poetry, writing, and art have been featured internationally in various publications, galleries, art spaces, and museums. She is a political, social, and cultural activist. Her core focus is on human rights, mental health, animal rights, and the rights of LGBTQIA persons. She is also the managing editor and founder of Arte Realizzata.

Uzomah Ugwu is a poet/writer, curator, editor, and multi-disciplined artist. Her poetry, writing, and art have been featured internationally in various publications, galleries, art spaces, and museums. She is a political, social, and cultural activist. Her core focus is on human rights, mental health, animal rights, and the rights of LGBTQIA persons. She is also the managing editor and founder of Arte Realizzata.

Leave a Comment