This post originally appeared on the previous Tequila and Ink Blogspot page on March 31, 2011
That’s what read across the top of my pill box.
My pill box looked similar to the one my grandmother owned, except mine was a lime green instead of chalk white.
I had asked Jessica for a green pill box and Jessica found me one. A blond, honey-colored daddy’s girl with plastic cash and free time, Jessica was the kind of person that could make things happen.
It was the summer of 2008, I’d just turned twenty years old, and I owned a pill box.
I didn’t have a terminal disease, or any ailments really, just some leftover teenage angst and a severe lack of motivation.
Jessica barely worked sixteen hours a week and I was attending summer classes, although “attending” probably isn’t the best word for it.
For me each letter didn’t signify a different day of the week, it was simply to label a different pill. The “R” was for Ritalin. The remaining letters stood for others, Darvocets and Xanax and Vicodins, but I can’t recall whatever method my brain was using to categorize the pills. Perhaps if I took a Klonopin I could…
Did I mention Jessica’s father worked in pharmaceutical sales? Did I mention the mansion with a medicine cabinet in every bathroom? It was the kind of house where the voices were amplified by echoes and chemicals, pills lost in couch cushions and thoughts scattered through empty hallways.
I started dating Jessica about a month after my break-up with an engineer named Paul. Both Paul and I had known he was moving away, but we chose to keep seeing each other until the day of the move. He cried as I hugged him good bye and I called him a pussy.
Everyone knows it’s better to wait to cry until you’re home and curled up in the fetal position in bed with a box of chicken fingers that you don’t even want to eat anymore.
I knew I’d be okay when I started dating Jessica. She was hot and ready to party and paid for everything with her dad’s plastic. I was immediately attracted to her carefree and privileged life. I’d spent the previous summer working ten hour night shifts in a hot box of a freezer factory six nights a week, so I was eager to dive into her lifestyle. She had a slender frame and smooth skin and a skewed but poisonously positive view of reality.
We enabled each other. I could be the boy at the overpriced restaurant with the sexy girlfriend, she could be the popular girl with a boyfriend who met the expectations of others. We made deals in irresponsibility. “I’ll skip class if you go into work late…”
We could share the same opinions about attractive men we passed by day and have inebriated sex in her dad’s swimming pool by night.
It was almost romantic. Maybe it would have been if we’d have taken a few more pills, changed the recipe so that our cerebral chemistry was properly in sync.
In August we went to a small concert at a hole-in-the-wall bar near my place. The guitarist was a thin, brown-skinned boy, legs wrapped in skinny jeans and a torso packaged in plaid.
I mentioned to Jessica that he was kind of hot.
She told me that he’d been staring at our table all night and that I should ask him out.
“But I’m dating you.”
“Bobby,” she said, then paused and tilted her head in that swan-like way of hers, “Just talk to him.”
There’s something special about that moment when you ask your girlfriend if she’s sure it’s okay for you to pick up the cute guitarist at the rock show you’re attending with her.
When the show came to a close she invited him to our table and we shared drinks. After everyone was settled and comfortable she rose and slid a piece of platinum plastic in my hand.
“Don’t let him pay for anything,” she whispered.
Jessica wasn’t the last girl I dated and the guitarist wasn’t the last boy. But just like the pills from my pill box, there are still traces of them and the others floating in my blood, pieces still dissolving under my tongue and leaking into my spine.
Every encounter, every date, every relationship, each one is a pill that, for better or worse, permanently alters my perception.
And even though I know each one will leave me feeling confused and hollow, I can’t help but soak in memories of the highs and be tempted by the possibilities of the next. What’s the harm in just one more?
Besides, Cole Porter says everyone is doing it.