My customized cocktail was simple: the coldest possible chardonnay and a fistful of blue plastic pills. No mixologist could ever trump this winning combination.
Chapter 4: FIORINAL 2008
It was hard to determine what Kevin knew about my increasing binging. He was starting to speak up, noting I can tell when you’re on them or Your personality changes. I chose not to pay attention to what he said. As long as he didn’t stand in Our way, I really didn’t care what Kevin thought, and as I pulled into the pharmacy’s parking lot, I was no longer thinking about my husband at all.
Flipping down the visor mirror, I slid on a generous layer of lipgloss. I always made an effort to look nice before I saw Her. My pupils were black, glinting with Her magnetic force, goading me towards a dark dance choreographed just for Us.
Clip, clip, clip. My heels echoed across the parking lot. Fiorinal empowered me. Around Her I soared, in spirit and stature, insecurities like my stunted growth from kidney disease dissolved. I had always felt awkward about my height, but in this moment, invincible—all legs and no regrets.
I entered my church. The antiseptic smells of witch hazel, hemorrhoid cream and Epsom salts comforted me like Roman Catholic incense swirling around the sanctified on their knees. Here I would drink the holy water. Here I would be saved.
Fiorinal and I had discovered something that made our relationship even stronger. In Vino Veritas. This was how we would really bond. We did not care for the subtleties of pear notes or a blackcurrant after taste. We were fans of what was cheap and cold. My customized cocktail was simple: the coldest possible chardonnay and a fistful of blue plastic pills. No mixologist could ever trump this winning combination. Hold the fruit, straws and tiny umbrellas. I took my absolution straight up.
I grabbed a sale-priced Mondavi and pretended to peruse the label. Really I was just fondling the nape to see if it was cold enough. Almost perfect. Nothing that a few ice cubes couldn’t cure. Then I marched towards the pharmacy.
STEP 2: The Purchasing of the Medication.
A BOTTLENECK of customers jammed the analgesic aisle. I joined the crooked, toe-tapping line, slumping my shoulders along with the others: the plaid-clad, blue-collared workers, the disheveled, scrunchied housewives and the hopped-up hipsters. My greatest fear was to approach the counter and have the pharmacist report they were out of stock.
An elderly man was rambling on about his medication regimen, then his insurance, then, could they check that his generic medication was the same as the brand name? Oh, my God. How can an old man talk so much? Shifting my weight from one foot to the next, I rested the bottle along the back of my neck. Nice and cool. I wanted to yank him by his shirt collar and hurl him into a display of One Direction singing toothbrushes. I tried to make eye contact with one of my fellow prisoners-of-wait, to commiserate in mutual irritation. Everyone was either dialed-out, heads up, scanning the water-stained ceiling tiles or dialed in, heads down, scrolling on their phones. We were nothing if not a motley crew of disconnected pill poppers.
I approached the counter. The backs of my knees quivered as the cashier retrieved Her from a hanging hook on the back wall. Thank you, God. Folding over the top of the bag, he stapled it shut. My mouth watered. She was so close now. I calmly placed the wine on the counter and offered my debit card. I smiled brightly. He ignored me.
“Have you ever taken this medication before?” I wanted to laugh in his face.
“Yes. Thank you.” I replied. He lifted the bag. Our eyes met. I watched as it dangled from his arm over the DMZ of the pharmacy counter. No longer his, but not quite mine. His eyes narrowed as my fingers curled around empty air. I grabbed the bag and pirouetted away, tucking the wine under my shoulder and charging through the front doors.
This was the feeling I wanted every moment of every day. Like fucking Christmas morning. Like fucking on Christmas morning. In this dance of anticipation, I was about to fall into my partner’s arms and succumb to every inch of Her charms; crossing over from Hen to Her, losing myself one delicious misstep at a time.
I slid into the car, tucking a damp tendril of hair around my ear. Organizing my bags on the passenger seat, I glanced up to make sure no one was around. Sometimes I wondered if anyone else was doing what I was doing. Taking their controlled medication before heading home, despite a prescription label that warned: Do not drive on this medication.
Mostly, I chose not to think moments like this through, never connecting the dots between my secretive adventures and how, a few days later, I would be dope sick and full of remorse. Just like alcoholics were men in trench coats who sat on park benches and drank from bottles concealed in paper bags, drug addicts were ne’er-do-wells who lived under bridges, jamming needles into their arms slamming heroin eight times a day. I did not know that addicts, like pills, came in all shapes and sizes.
The label also read, Avoid alcohol while on this medication. I chose to focus on the part that said Alcohol may intensify effect. Wasn’t that a good thing? I was prescribed this medication. It was medicine I needed.
My heart slowed as I lifted Her from the bag. Ker-thunk. Ker-thunk. Oh, there She was! Her sweet white mushroom cap topped Her peach-plastic shell. Palming the lid, it popped open with a satisfying crack. The acrid smell caressed the fine hairs of my nostrils, promising what I could not deliver for myself—freedom.
Excerpted from In Pillness and in Health: A Memoir by Henriette Ivanans. Available at Amazon and elsewhere.