Secrecy is addictive.
Valerie said that when we first picked up my medicine. She stroked my arm while the pharmacist droned about finding the correct dosage—she kept saying “we,” but she didn’t need to be medicated. I wasn’t listening when she nagged me the whole way home about following the instructions on the prescription label, either. I never am.
They started me on ten milligrams.
Valerie made my breakfast that first morning; taking my medicine on an empty stomach would make me nauseous, apparently. She served me eggs done over-easy because I wasn’t listening when she asked how I wanted them cooked. Runny yolk is gross.
My medicine needed an hour to kick in. It felt like God tightening my facial bolts with an invisible screwdriver, almost enough to pop my eyeballs out. I decided to work on my manuscript, and had somehow written two chapters by the time Valerie came home.
She smiled when I told her.
I wrote five smiles that first week.
On the following Monday, I woke up late and curious. I cooked my own eggs because Valerie had already gone to work. Solid yolk. While cleaning the frying pan, I realized I could take an extra pill without her knowing—how much could I write on two?
A whole novel in one sitting?
I had to find out. Valerie found out, too.
She confronted me before my monthly checkup, claiming I’d been spending too much time locked inside my office. I reminded her that I’d been working. She responded by shaking her head with my mother’s condescension until I confessed.
My pills had turned my life became a blissful routine—
(wake up eat breakfast pop a few pills write until the late-afternoon comedown)
—and helped me finish my manuscript in a month. Neither of us could believe that I’d written eighty-thousand words in thirty days. When I tried to defend myself by showing her what I’d accomplished, she just frowned at the stack of paper.
Then she frowned at me.
Typical Valerie. Typical of her (a know-it-all accountant) to judge me for how I chose to manage my life and my medicine. How could she understand the thinking or the planning or the writing or the deleting or the mistakes or the editing? Pills or no pills, I had earned every right to be proud of my finished manuscript. FUCK HER.
I called her a liar.
“You’re a fraud.”
I called her an accomplice.
We reached an impasse. I knew Valerie better than my fictional characters, so I stormed to the bathroom, expecting her to follow me. My pills were in the medicine cabinet. She watched me unscrew the bottle cap, then dump them all down the toilet.
We claimed to love each other.
After she went to sleep, I refilled my prescription.
Ben Wrixon is an emerging Canadian writer whose work was first recognized by the Stephen Leacock association. He studies psychology at Queen’s University. When Ben isn’t writing, he’s most likely playing guitar and cheering on his favourite Toronto-based sports teams.