The Costs of Good Medicine

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man, drowning drugs and poverty, must come to terms with his past.

Submitted: February 04, 2015

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Submitted: February 04, 2015



The blue pills stare at me from their place on the tray; they taunt me. If I take them, I will live a bit longer, but another piece of my soul will die and fade into a black abyss. If I swallow them, I can pretend that I am not crazy, that I have no need for them, but I will lose my mind even more.

Oh decisions, decisions. Am I still sane enough to make my own choices? According to the nurses, no. They try to force the pills down my throat again. I resist them. I need more time to think! Instead, I earn a slap across my face.

Things were so much nicer when they asked me if I wanted them or not, even if they did force me to take them in the end. Some semblance of a choice is comforting; with a choice, one feels like he can control the situation. The spiraling madness is simply hidden, however, and, as others take control, the patient slowly loses any hope of escape.

Oh, the other nurse is talking to me. I usually try to pay attention, but the drugs cloud my mind. She is saying something about a murderer.

Oh, right, that's me. I'm a murderer, at least, that is what I told them. I almost forgot. My mind is constantly slipping to the past, to the before time. I sometimes forget, but they always remind me, even if the demons in my head are lulled to sleep by the medications. Those nurses are always there and do a much better job than my demons. They take my mumbled words and throw them at me to keep me behaved. They'll make sure that I do not forget her.

Her name was Wendy. We were inseparable from the age of two. Her mother was a maid who rented a flat from my father and my mother would watch Wendy and I while her mother worked. My dear Wendy. She was my first friend, my first love, and my first mistake.

Well, she was not my first mistake; she suffered from my errors, but my first mistake was never letting her go.

Wendy. Her blue eyes used to sparkle like the stars at night as she dreamed of an escape, a deliverance from the meager portions and the same two books of our childhood. She was determined to pack her bags and, as an adult, travel the world, discover thousands of unheard stories, and find a rich man to help her escape poverty. We were not completely impoverished; many nights were spent with bread and watered-down stew for dinner.

These aspirations plagued her from a very small age, and my duty became to ensure her happiness. As an imaginative child, I entertained her with stories of far-away lands, princesses, love, and adventure. With my stories, we escaped our lives and, with her encouragement, I wanted to create a life with them.

As we grew, however, society forced us to conform to its plans. I was sent to a factory, and she was given embroidery piece-work. With our time limited, we grew to cherish each other and we, two mere children, decided that we felt love, a feeling that I think Wendy forced herself to believe. I loved her regardless of reciprocation, and she felt compelled to return some affection. Or maybe, she wanted to be swept into a whirlwind romance by a mere pauper who would take her to distant lands. Whatever the reason, we fell in love, married, and, soon rented a one-room flat in London's East End.

I tried to pursue a career in writing, but I was met with rejection after rejection. My dreams dwindled, and I relied solely on factory work that made train parts for an income.

One fateful day brought our downfall. The London rains made work difficult and surfaces slippery. I was firing the iron stakes when a spark hit my clothes and caught fire. I immediately ran outside to extinguish it, but fate would not have me be so lucky, for I soon found myself under the muddy hooves of a startled horse and my career finished.

The doctor claimed me a miracle! I only suffered from two broken legs, two broken arms, and eleven pairs of fractured ribs.

Wendy, however, was as inconsolable as if I had died. I would never work again and, after some discussions, she became a maid like her mother, and she too became confined to poverty like her mother. I was simply a weight added to the chain that brought her to her lowest point.

My pain was excruciating, and the doctor gave me some substances to numb it. This medicine kept me entranced and the snowy white powder trapped me in a personal blizzard of addiction.

My Wendy became more depressed as my condition worsened. The pain was gone; it was replaced with a senseless rage, a constant numbness, and a craving for the euphoria that the drug provided. Blind to her feelings, I let the addiction control me.

Our money dwindled; my habit took any spare money we had. Wendy did not want to contradict me out of fear for her life; I sometimes flew into fits of rage whilst under the spell of the drug. Most of the time, however, I wrote. Stories flowed freely with the euphoria and they impressed a few magazines who offered to publish them. A considerable amount of money made sure that Wendy could eat and that the drugs could stay in my system.

The drug, however, became my mistress and my neglected Wendy began taking drugs too, a blue pill of mercury to cure her depression. She seemed happier, although she sometimes flew into frustrated rage when she ingested too much. When my drug was exhausted, however, I would take hers, and her depression worsened.

Wendy deserves a sainthood for tolerating me, for supporting me, even if I was merely an addict. I had been healed physically, but the drug left me crippled and incapable of mundane activities. She did not stay out of love. No, she stayed because she was trapped by society and poverty. As a woman, she could not support herself alone. And, as a poor addict's wife,  she would never escape poverty alive. She could merely continue with her miserable existence with me.

Well, until the inevitable, of course.

Life in London in January was dreary, wet, and cold. On that rainy day, my mind was blank of story ideas and Wendy had found work at a house in the West End. I searched for my drug, only to find that none remained. Instead, I finished the bottle of the blue pills that was hidden among her things.

I heard her mount the stairs and I met her at the top. Her countenance was drawn, and she walked with a limp.

The look on her face is forever ingrained upon my memory. Her thin lips quivered and her eyes were both dull and desperate. The sparkle that resembled the night sky had become the dull, blue color of the pills. She wore a cloak of melancholy. She collected herself after a moment and looked me. A spark of determination flared in her eyes; a spark of the old Wendy, one who still had dreams.

“The landlord says we have to leave. I was offered a room by my new employer, but she does not want you there.” Her voice was soft, but not broken, and she held her head high. All she had was her pride. “I refuse to support you any longer. You have made countless promises only to break them, and I will not suffer with you. I will not live in this Hell when you promised me the world and the stars. My employer is leaving for India in a few days, and I intend to go with her as a nursemaid to her child. They will also train me to be the child’s governess. This is goodbye. I wish you the best and hope to God that you die clear-headed and can reflect upon your mistakes.”

She turned to descend the stairs and I grabbed at her wrist, realizing then that I was simply a failure without her. Hell, I was one with her, but I did not want to be trapped in the jaws of addiction alone. Most of all, I did not want to lose my only friend and the woman I loved, even if I acted in the opposite manner. In this moment, I was shocked into sobriety. Only for a moment, my heart beat like it had in our youths, where love was pure and I only had eyes for Wendy.

But fate is cruel, isn’t she? When I reached for her hand, she jolted in surprise and flew in fear into death. The stairs were slick, and my senses were lost with the blue pills. I tried to reach for Wendy as her foot missed the stair, but my dulled body would not allow it. I could only watch helplessly as the blood pooled around her head at the bottom of the staircase; I could only stare as the small sparks of starlight in her blue eyes faded. Her scream still echoes in my nightmares.

She thought that she would fly among the stars of hopes and dreams with me. Instead, she fell from the highest point, and I had been the weight that sealed her destiny. The earthly angel was pulled from grace by a sinner with pretty words.

Her death was ruled an accident.

I buried her with the empty bottle of pills and the sober guilt that I had murdered her. I began to write again to try to cope, but every character reminded me of her, and I craved the drugs, the little blue pills and the white powder, to remove my pain.

I did not touch them; I deserved to suffer.

So I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I wrote to cope with withdrawal. I wrote to alleviate the guilt; each story became a tribute to my Wendy. Yet, with every passing minute without her, my pen grew sharper and the ink ran red in my feeble attempts to correct the mistakes written upon my heart. My thoughts tormented me, and I suffered like she did: alone and incapable of doing anything. Everything was just as she had wanted.

I had no home; I was evicted. I had no one to care for me; we had been orphaned at a young age. Eventually, the asylum called my name in a shrill, piercing cry not unlike her scream. Days, months, years have passed, and I am still here.

I am too insane for the other patients; I have blood on my hands, so they isolate me. I see her, sometimes, and the sight of her kills me. With the pills, she appears as a small child, and we talk, and I tell stories, and I feel young. Her eyes sparkle again, and I know that I am hallucinating. Whenever I finish a story, the nurses feed me more blue pills that helped to seal my fate, and I drift into an oblivion.

They do not realize that my condition is worsening, that the drug is killing me. Either the hallucinations or the guilt will be my end.

But alas, I must make a decision and my nurses are waiting. The doctor enters the room. In one hand, there is a small drill and, in the other, a syringe. They stare at me, boring fear into my mind.

“Has he taken the pills?” He asks the nurse who slapped me. She merely shakes her head and hands him the untaken medicine.

“You have to take these pills. We are going to try a little procedure to make you better, all right? It’s called a lobotomy, but do not worry. It will not hurt much if you behave and take your medicine.” His condescending manner makes me want to bite him. He is too cheery for a doctor in an insane asylum, and I know what happens to patients who try his procedures. They usually die within days. But, I cannot object. I can only eye the pills.

I can pray to see her, one last time. I can pretend we are children again, children who will fly and travel to the highest stars in Heaven, instead of two people who fell into the darkest pits of Hell. But, religion is for people with hope and hope was one thing I have never had. Oh well.

I can still wish to any God, if one is listening, that Wendy forgives me. All I could ever want is her forgiveness for ruining her life and for dying with drugs in my system.

“Just take the pills, Peter. Let us help you.” The doctor forces my mouth open and the pills down my throat.

I see her then, in the doorway; her blue eyes are twinkling. “C’mon Peter, I found a wonderful place for us to play. Let’s go. It’s halfway across the world, just like in your stories.”

I feel a pain in the side of my head. I ignore it and take her hand, suddenly free from the confines of my body. I pause at the doorway, gathering my resolve, and step over the threshold, away from the nurses and the screaming doctor.

I look at Wendy. I am only a few inches taller than her, and my body is like that of a child. I smile at her, and I silently promise not to fail her again.

“Yes, Wendy, my love. Let’s go.”


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