Here is rejection number 2 from Brevity, the second in a making-lemons-from-lemonade blog series I'm apparently doing until I learn to write better. Trust me, I am gonna keep submitting. I know it doesn't pay; in fact, it costs $3 to submit, but if it kills me, I am going to crack this market. My pride is at stake here. And yes, it's a good opportunity to work on myself, work on my writing, improve, blah blah blah. I know that, but right now, I just want a yes. That is my truth; maybe I'll write about it in my shame essay (for a 2012 anthology I'm SO excited about, more on that, uhh...in 2012). Lately I've been so hellaciously slow and I need to step it way the hell up. That was my little don't-fuck-up pep talk to myself. 750 words: on it. Must brainstorm ASAP.
by Rachel Kramer Bussel
I open my brown suede purse and there, nestled amid the various items that add up to twenty pounds when I hoist it over my shoulder, is a baggie containing four pills. The baggie is clear, pills are white and orange, and, when they catch my eye right, seem to match my multicolor heart-covered iPhone case.
They look pristine, shiny, bright, like medicine, even. They are medicine, for my friend with the prescription, anyway. She had to stop taking them and offered me some and I took them, even though I promptly forgot what they are called (I texted her to ask: Vyvanse). They sound like just what I need: a way out of the hell that is a blank page, a blank mind, or worse, a scattered one, bouncing from website to website until I fear I’m testing my browser’s capacity to keep opening them.
The pills are so small, seemingly delicate, even though they feel like hard plastic. I can rotate them, unscrew the orange and the white to reveal a substance that looks like a cross between baking powder and sprinkles. They have writing on them, in this case, numbers and letters: S489 and 30 mg. But I wonder what else they might contain, where some mad scientist to personalize them just for me. “Courage,” perhaps. “FML.” “Get over yourself.” I imagine every self-help mantra I’ve ever wished upon inscribed in the tiniest of fonts with words that would dissolve on my tongue, work their way into my bloodstream.
I know, though, that words are limited. I have one, “open,” inked in purple on my back. It’s beautiful, my tattoo, and sometimes, when I slow down enough to reach behind me and stretch for it, I will walk my fingers along where I think its loops exist, let those four letters talk to me, tell me the message I thought so important I needed a permanent reminder. Yet that one word did not magically transform me from cynical to sunny in the half an hour it took to get it etched onto my body. I got it precisely because staying open-minded, privileging optimism over my innate pessimism, is the harder path to walk down.
As I contemplate whether I will take the first of the four pills, I know what I wish they could give me: freedom. Though I’ve never taken pills recreationally before, I know I’d take as many as I could acquire if they were guaranteed to give me what feels missing in this moment. Right now, it’s a plan--for my overdue novel, for my messy apartment, for having children. If I had instructions, guidelines, a map to follow like one does a recipe, I’d feel safer, saner. I’d know that even when a day or week or month or year is hard, there is a logical next step, a way out of here and into there. Obviously, that is a lot to ask of thirty milligrams of anything, and yet I want to ask. “It never hurts to ask”--isn’t that conventional wisdom, or perhaps just a cliché, right up there with “There are no stupid questions?”
I like the idea of talking to the pills; maybe if I were a different type of person, I’d be more into talking to G-d. I still spell those three letters like that, with the hyphen I learned in Hebrew school, even though that entity, whoever he/she is (or isn’t), is not on my top 5 list of non-humans I want to question. I also talk to my Hello Kitty pillow, ask her things that even if she did have a mouth she surely couldn’t answer. Sometimes, I’ve discovered, it’s truly better not to ask.
Ultimately, whether I swallow the pills or not, whether they help guide and focus me or not, there will still be questions, many of them so big and overwhelming I half wish for a pill to make me the kind of person who doesn’t have questions, ever, who’s accepting, accommodating, easy. Or maybe one that could talk back, respond, even if I didn’t like its answers. If that were ever invented, I’d be big pharma’s bitch in a heartbeat. Until then (or I find that personal mad scientist), I’ll have to write the words I want to swallow to make them part of me, make them real. That’s nowhere near as easy as simply opening my mouth, but maybe the long way out is the ultimate freedom, the mythical shortcut simply a mirage.