I Thought Laughter Was the Best Medicine. Then I Tried Fentanyl.

Justin Courter
The Junction
Published in
3 min readMar 25, 2021

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Photo by christian buehner on Unsplash

One time I broke my leg playing a game of pickup football. I was tackled by three people, and when I hit the ground I remember hearing my femur snap. When I got up and tried to walk, my left leg kind of swiveled around and made me stagger like I was drunk. I said, “Hey, we haven’t even had the first post-game beer yet!” Boy, did we laugh and laugh. Then one of the guys pulled a gun and shot me right through the shoulder. What cracked me up was that he’d clearly been aiming for my heart, but he missed it from only about six feet away. My balance was off, due to the broken leg, and when I fell down I landed funny (and broke my wrist) which started all of us laughing again. It made me feel a lot better, even though I couldn’t get up. I was laughing so hard. Plus I only really had use of one limb. So my efforts to rise from the ground looked like some kind of goofy break-dancing routine, which brought more levity to an already hilarious situation. Just for laughs, someone called an ambulance, and I was still chuckling on the stretcher when the medics loaded me into it.

But that was about 20 years ago; I was young and resilient, I guess. Things are a lot different now. About two years ago, on a day when I was already feeling crummy because I’d recently lost my job, I stubbed my toe on the leg of the coffee table. It hurt pretty bad, and I might have said “Golly!” or something to that effect. I knew that my wife was just trying to help when she burst into laughter, offering me the only medicine we had on hand. But I was already feeling sorry for myself, so I kind of took it the wrong way — through the eyes rather than the ears. (This is definitely the wrong way to take medicine, unless it comes with an eyedropper.) And then, because I wanted to make an issue of it, I went to the hospital and got a prescription for Fentanyl.

Now, far be it from me to dismiss the wonderful benefits of a hearty laugh. But I have to say, this stuff is much better. It cured all the usual physical pain that comes with age, as well as all psychological pain. I’d started seeing a psychiatrist after I lost my job, but after my first dose of Fentanyl, I realized that therapy was no longer necessary. I felt so good, in fact, so at peace with the world, that I didn’t see a reason to get a new job. I was perfectly happy on this new plane of existence from which I could contemplate the subtle changes of a shaft of sunlight streaming so gorgeously through the living room window. I learned the sublime comfort of meditation, remaining in a seated position, appreciating the experience of being. I felt very deeply my connection to the universe, which made me disinclined to get up from the couch.

It took a while for me to realize that my wife must have moved. And I hardly minded when I was removed, along with the furniture, and left sitting on the street. It was a bit of a marvel, the efficiency with which the workers went about it, and the change of scenery was so absorbing that I couldn’t answer what sounded like questions people were asking me. Since relocating, I’ve often wondered why more people don’t take this medicine and forgo the negligible benefits of homes and jobs to live in Zen tranquility. Plants, I believe, are the keepers of a higher wisdom that the majority of people fail to fathom. There is a dandelion, wise beyond his years, with whom I commune. He is growing from a crack in the concrete of my new floor. Here, beneath the bridge, with my Fentanyl and the kindness of strangers who give alms in the form of an occasional half-eaten meal, I have all I need.

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Justin Courter
The Junction

More humor pieces at McSweeney’s, Little Old Lady Comedy, Points in Case. Books include the novel The Heart of It All.