One Last Xanax — Part One


This is the first part of a book that I am writing for Thought Catalog. This is a fiction book about young people in New York City. The book is called ‘One Last Xanax.’ A lot of it is not fiction, and not made up, because I am not sure if I am very good at making things up. Anyway, they gave me money to write this, and then I had sort of a nervous breakdown and stopped writing it for a while. This is the first part of the book. If it is bad, I am sorry. Oh, and thanks to ‘Gawker’ for suggesting the title.


One Last Xanax




{ 1 }

THAT WAS THE DAY. That was the day when he apologized to a Coke machine, which is how he realized that he was going crazy. The Coke machine looked like it was going to eat his dollar bill, then spat it back out – but then, after a moment of suspense, grudgingly accepted the dollar when it was pushed in again. Now he realized that a Coke was a dollar-fifty, not one dollar, but he didn’t have fifty cents. “I’m sorry,” he told the machine. Then he saw what he had done. Apologizing to a machine like that was clearly a bad sign; he glanced around to see if anyone had noticed. They hadn’t. He pressed the coin return button and four quarters clattered into the plastic coin tray. He took the time to wonder if he was going crazy. Crazy people talked to inanimate objects like that: this was a definite thing that the insane did. 

He looked down the street, scanning for a crazy person to compare himself to, but the street was shockingly clean, and there were no crazy people present, no homeless people, even, only business-y commuters walking in long, self-righteous strides. A street in New York without any crazy people on it! What bad luck! …What terrible luck for him.


{ 2 }

He left the Coke machine behind and thought about how he would tell Nusrat the “I’m sorry” ha ha, I apologized to a robotic machine story when he got back. Thinking of telling it as a story made him feel less crazy, and the pleasure of this, of having an funny anecdote to relate, buoyed him through the next few minutes, and carried him through the walking that he had to do, and soon enough he was on the subway, not having noticed that he had pushed through the turnstiles.

On the subway, the girl in the seat across from him wore pink furry earmuffs; these also served as headphones; a squiggle of cord led to her iPod. The girl was sultry-looking and was wearing a tight top that slashed diagonally above her breasts, and via the transitive property — via the algebra of attraction, multiplying by X like that — this made him think that pink furry headphones were also sexy and sultry and appealing, and then he took a second longer and realized that, no, pink furry headphones were just stupid. But by this point he was distracted by thoughts of having sex with the girl. …The thing to do after having sex with her, he decided, would be to make some gentle wardrobe suggestions. No, not so much with the dressing like this; more with the dressing like this. Less pink, try to utilize more charcoal gray in your day-to-day attire. But then, since he wanted the fantasy to be realistic, in his imagination she started bitching him out for always complaining about her wardrobe like that. Who do you think you are? she said, hands on her hips, an actress in a TV sitcom. You don’t own me, she said. …Then they fought, then they had makeup sex, and then, soon enough, they had been married for twenty years, and then they got divorced and split up the kids. Depressing.

The girl yawned and punched a different song into her iPod; her neck made a zig-zag in time with the music. You could go too far with subway infatuations like this, where soon enough you had been in a decades-long mental relationship with the other party. Now he felt tired just looking at her. If the girl had suddenly gotten up, crossed the subway car, and put her hand on his knee, he would have said: “Oh, what is it now? The best twenty years of my life, I’ve given you already!”

Thinking of this, he smiled. Unfortunately, the girl saw him grinning in her direction, and she scowled back at him. The doors dinged open; it was his stop. He felt a sudden and unwilling surge of anger. He got off the train, still percolating with rage. …Why, he thought, why scowl at me? What could be possibly gained by scowling at me? …Was smiling a fucking crime now, he was thinking, and soon this surge of thought was leading him in unhappy directions, and he was applying this negation to everything he saw on his walk back home — going from Why scowl at me? to Why scowl in the first place? to Why subway trains? to Why subway exits? to Why streets? to Why stars, and cars, and bars? …Why trees? Why birds? And so on, until he reached his apartment building. Maybe he really was going crazy. He definitely needed more Xanax. They were almost out.


{ 3 }

In the kitchen of the apartment, Nusrat was making some sort of Bangladeshi-influenced dish. She said his name neutrally as he entered: “Ben.” He kissed her on the cheek. Whatever she was stirring in the pot looked like alien seed pods, though that couldn’t be right, and probably it was Brussels sprouts or something. Brussels sprouts made up a surprising proportion of Nusrat’s culinary repertoire; he was learning to enjoy them, their strange acidic tang.

She stood over the stove. Nusrat was tiny, barely five feet tall, but in his imagination, she was tinier still. When she wasn’t around, he thought of her as being almost invisible, porcelain-doll sized, then was impressed by her actual stature when she appeared. Her skin was dark, darker than brown; her hair was ink or coal. His sense of adjectives failed when describing her: chocolate-ydusky, everything sounded stupid and foreign. …She was his roommate, and also, the two of them were fucking, and also, she cooked lots of Brussels sprouts. And she was from Bangladesh, land of tigers. These were the solid facts that he had on her. Everything else was vague.

“How’s the Xanax situation coming along,” he said, then cursed himself for leading off like that, for not waiting ten minutes longer.

“The same… as yesterday,” she said, and picked up her wooden spoon, in defense from the anticipated barrage of questioning.

“So no good,” he said.

“Not thus far.”

“No good,” he repeated.

“I can’t make them go any faster. You’ve been taking too many.”

At this, Ben wanted to shout, But I’m an artist, don’t you see?! I have important things on my mind. I can’t be possibly expected to keep track of every little Xanax! But there were problems with shouting this. For one, he wasn’t an artist. For two, that was a horribly pretentious thing to shout. And for three, now he remembered stealing Xanax from Nusrat’s room the day before – creeping in and stealing them, and then willfully suppressing this memory – the blast of guilt that he felt over this kept him from saying anything.

In compensation, he put his hand between her shoulder blades and massaged her back gently; she continued stirring the pod-things in the cooking pot. Ben wondered if she was surprised by his bursts of affection; so many of them were prompted by nothing more than guilt. It must seem random to her.

Thinking of her, he thought of how he always felt shame when he entered Nusrat’s room. The last time he had entered her bedroom, he had especially felt shame — and it hadn’t been shame over stealing the Xanax. Her room was just always so sad.

…Thinking of this, he removed his hands from her back.