by Oona Robertson
I take a small pill every day that does not sustain me. The point is nothing happens. All flesh remains stable, womb empty, hormones balanced, pain a heartbeat, base note of my body’s self-understanding. I could tell you why I take them; Pain, however, is no story in itself. 1 My pain is always there, rough and stalactite. It sandpapers.
The pills are a light yellow and come with the days of the week attached to them. At the end of the month there are seven white placebos, which I drop into a small glass jar. I screw on the lid. I don’t know why I’m saving them. I measure the periods I don’t get against my body, rarely at risk of pregnancy. I measure my good days against my bad days. I have no faith in the word prevention.
Sometimes I forget to take them long enough for a sharp remembering. I run back to the bedside table, the loud foil packaging, the dusky taste of the tiny disk on my tongue, the water from the bottom of the glass milky with sips taken. Another day of not forgetting.
After years, the jar is not nearly as full as I thought it would be. The pills are tiny and don’t add up to much. I want to make pedestals for each of them, carved on a lathe with the greatest dexterity. I miss having a tampon when asked for one. I miss the richness of what came out of me. Other than that, I feel at peace among women.
The pills are made of sugar. I could make a cake; dissolve them in morning coffee; ask someone to swallow them for me; place one against each cut underneath the band aid, check in each day until dissolution. Get rid of them, I’d say. I don’t want another collection.
I used to save all my pill bottles. That terrible orange reflector color, like nausea plasticized. The white labels saying my name, saying my name. White oval, imprint 5 300. Pink oval, imprint FP. I wanted to keep track of everything I was taking into my body. Prove its inability to fix itself, to equalize, self-actualize. I recycled them all at once and worried what the trash collectors would think of me.
I don’t know what it’s like to take a pill and feel better. Does this make me unAmerican? The options are get fixed or stay out of sight, and only one comes naturally. I often believe I should have been extinct. It’s not dangerous thinking if your death wish is evolutionary.
There is a book from the nineties of homes around the world. The people are made to stand next to their objects, everything taken out and displayed for the lens of the white photographer. The American family—man/woman couple, boy/girl children, unfortunate haircuts—have many televisions and a long winter’s worth of dry food. I want to see the pill version of this book, all of us standing next to what we have swallowed, the air above our heads a prescription pad of disease and recreation. Yes, I want to look through your medicine cabinet.
Each morning I swallow the pill with water. The stomach eats it like medicine. The body digests itself. Repent means ‘the pain again.’2 Another day begins with my mouth opening.
Author Bio: Oona Robertson is a writer and furniture maker based in Western Massachusetts.