I had my first drug overdose before I hit kindergarten. No one lured me into a shadowy recess of the playground with the promise of candy in order to trick me into taking something illicit so that I might behave illicitly. I didn’t stumble upon any funny tasting brownies or a silly looking postage sticker that some older jokester advised me to stick on the end of my tongue.
Given that I was a child of a certain era, all of those could have been real possibilities. But I am a ginger and we make our own fun. My first drug overdose I conceived, initiated, and executed all on my own.
I had an extreme fascination with my grandmother’s bathroom, more specifically with all of the contents behind its many closed doors. She had a large built-in cupboard that went from floor to ceiling and then there was the door to the cupboard under the sink, as well as the sliding door to a little mirrored storage cabinet above the toilet, and of course the medicine cabinet door.
The big cupboard held dull things like linens and extra rolls of toilet paper. It also housed the scale which I enjoyed taking out each time I used the facilities. I would pull it out, step on it, wait for the numbers to stop moving, then hop back off and put it away making no note whatsoever of what the scale had registered as my weight. However, it was a vital part of my bathroom ritual.
I liked to open the top big cupboard door because it concealed my grandmother’s down quilt which I insisted on sleeping with every night even in the summer. I was insane about the smell of it, only to find out as a grownup that the aroma I so adored was actually camphor from the mothballs my grandma kept stashed in the cupboard to protect the cover from damage. Most of her house must have been well protected because camphor, cigarettes, and Chanel No. 5 permeated every nook and cranny in an oddly pleasant mixture.
I enjoyed the cupboard over the toilet because it held my grandmother’s cosmetics. She had one container full of lipsticks which I loved to take out individually, unwinding each one so I could examine its color up against my lips in the mirror. Another container held the hairpins she used to set her hair in pin curls every Saturday night when we had our screwdriver parties.
Our screwdriver parties consisted of grandma and grandpa drinking vodka and orange juice while they gave me orange juice in a cup and let me pretend I was drinking a highball too. They played it up big time and I was naive and impressionable enough to believe I was getting tanked with my grandparents every Saturday. Just like them, I couldn’t wait for the week to be over so we could get together around the TV, eat frozen pizza, and tie one on.
I hated the stinky cupboard under the sink but I adored the medicine chest and all of its contents. Of course, I was not allowed to open the medicine chest or to touch anything in it under any circumstance which made me absolutely obsessed with it–the ginger way. I took every opportunity I could to get my little self in that cabinet and, as a result, I had its contents itemized.
When I was in the bathroom with my grandmother at bath or tooth brushing time, I would ask as many questions as I thought I could get away with about what it held. Most answers amounted to none of my business or don’t you dare ever touch that. A couple of things, though, did pertain to me. One of them was St. Joseph’s Baby Aspirin which was doled out to me whenever I had an ache or pain (if my grandfather wasn’t around to give me his cureall–a whopping dollop of brandy). The other was Ex-Lax in chocolate bar form which I had to take on occasion, my fragile redhead constitution kicking in quite early in the game.
Like a good addict, I could never get enough of that delicious orange flavored St. Joseph’s Baby Aspirin. And I lived in perpetual longing for that scrumptious dark chocolate Ex-Lax. I constantly plotted how and when I could get to them unchaperoned.
One afternoon I had the great fortune to be left alone in the house while my grandmother was distracted by someone out on the porch. I slipped off to the bathroom to get my festivities started. I got in the door and got it locked behind me. Starting a little trickle of water in the sink to mask my revelry, I opened the medicine cabinet. I took out the aspirin and the “chocolate”. Filling the toothbrush cup with a bit of water, I dumped the bottle of aspirin minus about 5 pills into the water. I filled the cup up a bit more, took the end of my toothbrush, and ground and stirred the aspirin and water until I had a sweet, fizzy, orange beverage. Not bothering to savor it, I hoovered it down alcoholic-style in a couple of quick gulps. Then I hit the Ex-Lax, chewing and swallowing every last bite. I took a drink of water, cleaned my mess up, and vacated the bathroom.
For a brief moment I felt awesome. The combination of pain reliever, sugar, and deception was a total rush. Until I hit the heat of the porch and the piercing gaze of grandma.