Relics

I had a lot of vicodin left over.  Unfortunately, it didn’t do much for me.  A shot of whiskey does me more good.  It’s just been sitting in the cabinet behind my shower, in a little sky-blue plastic basket that was left behind by the previous tenant.  I also had a lot of neurontin, the drug that made me ecstatic for a day and suicidal for a weekend.  I had a bottle of magnesium supplements, and another bottle of some magical mystery hybrid of vitamins.  I had muscle relaxants, and the final step: migraine preventative drugs.  My favorite was CoQ-1o, little red capsules, which I actually took all of, maybe just because I liked the name.

I poured all these out into a baggie.  It was a little scary.  Not like I was planning to take any of them again.  I haven’t had a migraine in seven months, and those drugs didn’t help when I had one.  Still, they were expensive.

And they were pretty.  Yellow, white, green.  The hippie ones are small, round, and brown.  Some are half green, half white capsules.  I love yellow.

This morning, I went to the Kemper Museum to participate in a workshop led by an installation artist.  She did a piece about 9/11 and showed us a movie about it.  We all tried not to cry.  We stood around her spread of broken mirrors illuminated by a slowly circling spotlight, which was in the adjoining gallery.

We brought jars to fill with stuff that represented memories.  I had my pills.  I had been wondering what to do with them.  Apparently you’re supposed to put them in cat litter so addicts won’t dig through and snag them.  I don’t think a little dirty cat litter would dissuade a drug addict, but it’s a nice idea.  You shouldn’t flush them and put them out in the water supply.  I wish I could hand them on to someone who actually needs them.  Most of the bottles, I only took a couple of pills, then realized they weren’t working.  Such a waste.

I’m so grateful I could afford them (well, that I had the credit), and I’m so sad none of them worked, agonizing disappointment, and I’m so happy I ended up on just one cheap drug that agrees with me.  That crazy headache finally went away about three days after I stopped all the drugs cold turkey.

At the Kemper, I wrote out statementsI remembered from the time that I was sick.  “They gave me an injection in my hip.”  “They put a drug in my IV that made me see my parents die.”   “They took my blood.”  “They were disappointed I already did yoga.”  I started with the painful ones, and then got to the soothing ones.  “She said, ‘You poor thing.'”  “He said, ‘I’ve gotten through it, and you will, too.'”  “She said, ‘You should come with us.'”  “She said, ‘I worry about you.'”

I filled up a glass jar with these slips of paper and poured in the pills.  The woman to my left at the table looked worried.  When I was done, she said, “Can I ask you what the pills were for?”

“Oh,” I said, “I had a month-long migraine.  I know.  You were afraid I had cancer or something.  It wasn’t that bad.”

“It sounds pretty bad to me,” she said.

“Well, yeah,” I said.

The artist arranged all our jars, the fifteen or so of us who had come.  One woman put some of her dead husband’s ashes in hers. Some had toys.  Some had little perfume bottles.

We had to put salt in our jars.  Salt, the artist explained, is a preservative.  I didn’t like that.  I have a more Buddhist feeling about it.  Forgetting is good.  Trying to hold onto memories is ego.  Memories will be gone.  Memories of the dead, and past events, will be completely gone with astonishing speed.  And that isn’t bad.  It hurts, but it makes room for more stuff.

I put the salt in mine, though, rationalizing that salt is a natural preservative, not as ugly as formaldehyde.  It retards decay.  It doesn’t stop it.  It keeps things a little longer.  Which sometimes you need to do.

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