Memoirs on Ambien, gurl.
He looked up at me with an expression of exhaustion mixed with intrigue. A slightly crooked smile crept across the face of my doctor as he nervously clicked his pen. The medical assistant next to me was ready to write down my complaints. She had access to the chart that held all of the intimate details of my medical history that I had forgotten about, and for that I was jealous of her. I remembered the first time I met this doctor, and giggled out loud as I imagined the physicians note that read “23 year old seen today to receive a tetanus shot post cat bite.” Knowing me well, he takes a deep breath to remind me that the clock was ticking. “I know what you are thinking, but I am not here today to ask again for you to spay me. I need an air cast, some sleeping pills and a Hep A shot.” He put his pen down on the table and stared at me over his bifocals. After a full examination, he agreed with my request as he told me that I was “a piece of work”, that he “loved our little chats” and not to “get arrested in Bangkok”. With a swollen arm, a sprained ankle and a hot prescription for Ambien, I limped in my air cast to the nearest pharmacy.
For almost 20 years, I have struggled with chronic, severe insomnia. I tried everything from acupuncture to mystical healers, yet still sleep seemed to escape me. I was prepping for my trip to Asia and figured it was as good of a time as any to score some narcotics. My plan was to time my intake perfectly so I could wake up on Hong Kong time ready to go. This particular trip was a huge treat from my best friend Kendall, who at the time had been given two round trip tickets from her job as a flight attendant. We chose our destination the same way we choose all of our destinations…by random selection. We both had friends living in Hong Kong at the time and we chose Bangkok for our second destination while Kendall and I were eating some mediocre Pad Thai. Kendall looked at me as we paid our bill and whispered “I know where we can get the real deal. Also, elephants.” Our reservations were secured immediately.
During our layover in Detroit, we drank our traditional margaritas and drunk dialed my sister. My sister said she would meet us in Bangkok as we checked-in at our gate. I laughed off her plans to meet us, never believing that she would secure tickets for a next day flight across the world, which is exactly what she did. Kendall and I fought over the power outlet for a last minute iPhone charge as we hear our names called like Bingo winners. We had been upgraded to First Class, which prompted us to have a make-shift dance party. Immediately upon embarking the plane, I was assigned a pod one isle over from Kendall and was gifted a fantastic gay flight attendant who became my instant friend with benefits. The benefit, of course, was consistent flowing of champagne. The first half of my flight was amazingly luxe and I was able to catch up on movies I had been dying to watch. Halfway through Water For Elephants I took two Ambien and gave one to Kendall. Somewhere after my babbling to Kendall about wanting a baby elephant for a pet and my ruining the ending of her movie, Kendall and I fell asleep. Or so I thought. What actually happened was later revealed to me while waiting in line at China customs.
Kendall awoke to a vision of me crouching over her and stroking her legs. “Hey girrrrrrrl! Whatcha doin’?” I asked. It was dark in the cabin, but not dark enough for Kendall to observe the pair of sunglasses I was wearing. She flipped the question back to me to which I exclaimed “everyone on the plane is so nice!” and took off skipping towards the front of the plane. Kendall wiped the fog from her eyes and decided she needed to do damage control. Taking the opportunity to use the laboratory, she wondered how much trouble I could be in. Assuming the worst, she bravely exited the compact room only to be greeted by several uniformed faces and a round of laughter. “Your friend is so funny! She’s been in the galley for over an hour doing a stand up routine and messing with the jump seat! We had her do some announcements and everything!” Kendall initiated a well-rehearsed round of apologies while she tried in vain to get a visual on what trouble I was getting into at that current moment. “No,no, it’s ok. She’s really, really funny.” they said trying to comfort her. Kendall smiled and walked off only to find me sleeping soundly in my seat still wearing my sunglasses.
Hours later I woke up to a familiar flight attendant asking me gently to raise my seatback in preparation for landing. I felt slightly delirious, but miraculously well rested. Standing in the aisle, I shot a quick smile at Kendall across the plane. Looking back at me were several amused faces as a slight jab came at me from behind. “Girl, this is for you when you get to your hotel.” I looked down to see that I had been gifted a bottle of champagne from the crew. I only had seconds to thank my new best friend before we were herded off the plane. As I limped on my still swollen ankle towards Kendall, I proudly showed her my bubbly trophy. “I freaking love gay men! Look what he gave me!” This was when Kendall pointed to the line for customs and filled me in on my mile high performance while she looked around nervously for signs that I would be arrested.
Months later, it was the dead of an oppressive New York City summer back in the days when I would refuse the luxury of an air conditioner. The apartment I was living in at the time had a “backyard” that only could be accessed through the fire escape out of my bedroom window. In reality, this space was a concrete slab covered with overgrown ramshackle weeds, but it was outdoors and it was mine. Kendall was spending the night on one of her many layovers in New York. I took an ambien, said goodnight and went to bed. Kendall reports that a delirious version of myself came out of my room glossy eyed to ask if the backyard was “terra firma”. She laughed to herself and said she did in fact believe that the backyard was “firm earth”. I walked back to my bedroom while I mumbled under my breath “good, I just bought a pool.”
Hours went by that next morning until I checked my email. It was to my absolute horror that I discovered several receipts and shipping notifications from Amazon. Not only had I ordered a legit above ground pool, but also pool chemicals, pool covers, a ground cover and two inflatable mermaid floats. My sober mind was equally impressed and terrified of what this would do to my wallet. I called Kendall to ask her to fill in the blanks of my blackout. “I’m never taking Ambien again! Can you believe I bought a pool? Can you believe I know Latin?” The direction of our conversation quickly changed to all of our imagined future pool parties and what themes were possible.
A week later my pool was delivered and assembled. This did not happen without significant rigging on my part. There was not an outdoor water or power source. One trip to the hardware store bought me a coiled hose and a faucet converter. Refusing the help of my roommate, I fed the hose to my kitchen faucet and around my building. As the water filled very slowly, I blew with all my might to fill the outer layer of this pool with air. As I grew increasingly dizzy, I was distracted by visions of my future backyard. I envisioned the fire pit and my inevitable new hobbies of fire dancing and most likely hoola hooping. I saw the lounges that would be strategically placed to get just the right amount of sun. I saw where I would become sporty and do yoga everyday. Over in the corner would be my zen garden and herbs. I thought of the envy on my friends faces when I invited them to come over to go swimming. When the pool was half way full, I impatiently sat inside of it with my mermaids. I visually placed that at least 6 of my friends could sit in it at once and one floating cooler. My summer was gonna be awesome!
Two days after that, I woke up to see that someone had unplugged my pool and let it drain. A subsequent text from my landlord simply read: “No pools. There are laws about this, Armstrong.” Packing up my pool, I found my dreams deflating with each mermaid lost to a shallow Tupperware grave. Inside, I sat with my prescription bottle in my hand as I declared myself as unfit to take any more pills. As I flushed my meds, I thought about the text from my landlord as if his words echoed into my skull as a message from the beyond. “There are laws about this, Armstrong” became my previously missing True North for my weak moral compass. My North was pointing my ass back to the doctor for a script of something that is not likely to get me in trouble with the Coast Guard or a Federal Air Marshall. My doctor shook his head as he wrote “bought a pool on Ambien” in my chart and referred me to a “specialist”. As I was walking out of his office, I looked at my new prescriptions. One read “Melatonin” in small print. The other, in all caps, read “WRITE A BOOK”, which would mark the first time I have followed doctor’s orders.