Blue Hour

by Alex Lanz

The sun was blazing over the Upper East Side, even though it was an October afternoon. I was neither an inpatient nor an outpatient so I stood outside the hospital building and acted like I was waiting for a friend to come out, which was technically true. “Hey, Alex!” a woman on the sidewalk said. She wore aviator sunglasses and carried some shopping bags in one hand and a frozen margarita in the other. “Oh, hey Melissa,” I said. “Did you check out early?” “The weather’s great but I want to go see a movie,” she said. “You got any pot on you?” “Yeah, of course,” I said. We went downtown and smoked a joint outside the movie theater and went in. The theater advertised our showing as a Four Dimensional experience, but since it was a matinee it didn’t cost so much. Melissa wanted a lot of salt on her popcorn after the hospital’s fare. The film opened with an explosive action sequence, and our seats rumbled and tickled our tailbones. The heroine escaped a skyscraper collapsing all around her, and a theater attendant clapped two classroom erasers together in our faces, covering us in chalk dust. On the screen, the heroine was beaten within an inch of her life by the heavy, then she woke up in a hospital room with an IV in her arm. At that moment a theater attendant wheeled over a medical pole with a bag of fluid, swabbed my left inner elbow and jabbed the needle into my vein. I leaned over and whispered, “Hey Melissa, I realize my purpose for going out today was to support you, but I think I need to escape from here as fast as I can.” “This is the first film with an extended BDSM sequence to receive wide distribution,” Melissa replied. She was hooked up to an IV as well. I got up and ran out into the hallway, the medical pole clattering behind me. There was a blonde woman in a mink coat and high heel boots waiting by a promo stand. When she saw me she started walking away. “Follow me if you’re not a coward,” she said over her shoulder. We went down the hallway and into the women’s restroom. She went to a sink and picked up a dinner spoon with a black powdery substance on it. “It’s peppercorn,” she said. I took the spoonful of pepper and washed it down with water from the sink. “That’s for your cannabis use, you filthy pothead,” she said. “I have no medical training, can you remove this thing?” I asked. She sighed and took out the needle and wheeled the medical pole into a bathroom stall. “Don’t worry about the drugs here, they don’t take effect until you crack your neck really loudly,” she said. “I used to love cracking my neck when I was a kid,” I said. “Let’s try it now,” she said, tilting her head from shoulder to shoulder. I put my chin in my right hand and held the back of my skull with my left hand and made some loud juicy cracks, amplified by the bathroom fixture. I felt the same euphoric rush I’d felt as a little boy. “Ew, that was nasty,” she said. “I’m going to sneak into a different theater, want to come?” “I need to meet up with my girlfriend at my house,” I said, which was a complete lie. Feeling numb and tipsy, I left the building and boarded the M train for my apartment, drifting out of consciousness a few times. When I entered my apartment a short brunette was standing by the kitchen prep table. “You said you’d be home a quarter hour ago,” she said. “We should get dressed for the under-the-sea restaurant.” “I didn’t plan on it, but I went to a 4D movie,” I said. “I hope you ate eggs first at least,” she said. “I’d be throwing up right now if I were you.” Just then I vomited all over my bookshelf. She helped me lie down on the sofa. “Aw, you poor sap,” she said. “I’ll get some hot soup from the grocery store.” “I’m sorry, I know you wanted to go to the under-the-sea restaurant tonight,” I said. “I feel like we’re under the sea right now,” she said. “Just look out the window. The twilight’s throwing her blue all over town.”


Alex Lanz lives and writes in Brooklyn. He has been a piano teacher and a state capitol tour guide, and worked on productions of reality shows that will never see the light of day. His stories and essays have appeared in Passages North, Full Stop, and other places.