When Broadway Brenda and I were in Europe, we befriended two older women, who made me think of how Polly and I might be thirty or forty years from now. Lively, attractive, and fun-loving. Makes me feel good about aging, seeing women like that out there.
During the last leg of the trip, I mentioned to FutureDolly and FuturePolly that I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep the previous night. Of course, this could have had something to do with the five cups of strong coffee and Diet Coke (or rather, Coca Cola Light, as it's called there) I had throughout the day.
FutureDolly sympathized, and offered to give me one of her Ambien for the final night in Europe. I accepted.
Turns out, drowsiness hit me like a wave and I fell fast asleep without the sleeping aid. Might be because I substituted white wine for the coffee (after all, I need to give two of my biggest loves, caffeine and alcohol, equal attention).
"Great," I thought, "I'll save the Ambien for the flight back to New York. It'll be the easiest flight ever!"
I have always wanted to try Ambien, but not for the reasons it's prescribed. I have heard, from various sources, that if you take this pill and don't fall asleep, you hallucinate. While my drug experimentation days are, for the most part, behind me, I have always been curious to try staying awake through an Ambien dose. It seemed like a safer way to have a little trip than indulging in something as intense as LSD or mushrooms. Besides, what's the worst that would happen, I'd fall asleep?
Don't I wish.
I decided to pop the Ambien an hour or so before boarding the plane. This way, if I didn't like its effects while awake, I'd doze off just in time for take-off. I figured I could keep myself awake that long, but just in case, got myself a Pepsi Max. Right about now, you are probably shaking your head at my foolishness. Rightfully so.
Fifteen minutes later, I felt a general mellowness, and started peering around the airport waiting area, to see if the luggage carts were going to do a little dance or the bolted down chairs were going to start talking to me or something. No dice.
Dammit! The drug wasn't working! How bothersome.
Meanwhile, I began to feel a bit queasy, and the floor beneath me began to undulate.
"I feel like I'm on a ship," I told Brenda (a lot, as it turns out).
FutureDolly (who was on our flight) came over.
"FutureDolly, how long does the Ambien take to kick in?" I slurred, glassy-eyed, "Because, it's not working."
"About fifteen minutes. Honey, you should have waited until you were on the plane to take it." She glanced at my Pepsi Max, concerned.
"Well, it isn't working. But don't worry! I'm fine. I'm fine." The floor lurched again and I stared off into space.
I decided that since the Ambien wasn't doing its job, and I didn't want to be stuck with only one book to read, I'd check out the airport newsstand for something to occupy the flight.
Conclusive proof of my extreme narcosis: I bought a Dan Brown novel.
I returned to Brenda and FutureDolly and FuturePolly. My motion sickness got worse and I felt myself tilting from side to side. I tried to sit up straight.
We lined up to enter a smaller waiting lounge before boarding the plane. I had my passport and ticket ready. Damn unsteady floor! It would have been fun, like being on a carnival ride, if it wasn't for the nausea. Brenda showed her documents to the inspector, then looked at me.
"Go ahead, Brenda, I'll meet you inside."
"I'll wait for you." Her tone was light but facial expression panicked.
[The rest of this story is cobbled together from my own memories plus what Brenda later told me]
"Hi!!!" I smiled at the inspector and handed over my docs. Then I started swaying. Swaying. Side to side. To keep even with the floor, you see.
Brenda expected me to faceplant at any moment. She was sure that she and FutureDolly would have to be carry me onto the aircraft.
Despite looking visibly fucked up, I was let through to the waiting lounge. A couple of girls sat down next to me and FutureDolly started to talk to them. I don't know what she said, because I was busy concentrating on looking at nothing and being frustrated that the Ambien wasn't working.
FutureDolly: "Dolly, these girls are also from New York."
Dolly: [silence, glassy staring]
Brenda: "Oh, that's cool!"
FutureDolly and Brenda: [Readying themselves to scrape my unconscious body off the airport floor.]
Brenda told me that I kept uttering two phrases, repeatedly:
"It's not working."
"It's like being on a boat."
Finally, we were on the plane. Maybe I'd be able to stop feeling like I was going to hurl and actually get some sleep now.
"Hey, Brenda, check out that guy," I pointed out an "attractive" guy in a leather jacket, stowing something away in the overhead compartment.
"I can't see, somebody's blocking him."
"Yeah, he's with somebody, but that doesn't matter. You need to see Mr. Leather Jacket."
"I can't, I'm already strapped in."
"I'm telling you, it's worth the view. Go check out Mr. Leather Jacket."
Eventually, I shut up. But not before leaning over Brenda's shoulder, glancing down at the Sudoku puzzle in front of her, and muttering,
"You're doing it wrong."
The puzzle was blank.
I managed to pass out in a queasy haze for one whole hour before waking up and not being able to fall back asleep for the rest of the uncomfortable eight hour flight. I managed not to throw up, get arrested, or make a total idiot of myself to the rest of the passengers.
When Brenda pointed out the very ordinary-looking Mr. Leather Jacket out to me in a sober light, and filled me in on my other under-the-influence behavior (the swaying!), I laughed until I cried.