A Taste of Prozac
“I’m just not sure this would be best for him.”
“Mrs. Nowak, I know why you have your reservations towards this medication, but it has been improving depression for people of all ages for six years now. It is the safest SSRI for young children and adolescents.”
I look down at my coiled hands in my lap. My nails are uneven nubs, with crimson cuts from biting them too often. I sense the psychiatrist’s eyes located on my pale scalp facing him.
“Look, Mrs. Nowak. I can see you are unsure. How about if Collin takes the pills as a trial run? He can see how he feels on them – how he reacts to them.”
I bring my hand up to my mouth again. My fingers hesitate on my lips.
Forcing my idiosyncrasy away, I say, “What are the side effects again?”
. . .
“But, I thought crazy people and celebrities are the only people who take Prozac. Hell, I even read somewhere that they named it Prozac because it sounds zappy. What does that even mean?”
“Collin, don’t take this lightly – you are depressed. If what happened the other day wasn’t…” she stifles a sigh, “… I’m not sure about you taking it either, but as Dr. Langham said, it is just a trial run.”
I rest my head on the side of the window, still able to watch the people in the cars to my right. Everyone is smiling or laughing, with canoes or bikes hitched to their cars – ready for their pre-summer vacation at Lake Eerie.
No one seems to look the way I feel inside.
. . .
“Okay Collin, now back the car up, and put it in park.”
My head feels loose on my neck, like at any second it will roll off onto the passenger side’s floor. I twist my head and the insides of the car shifts. The seats are moving in aimless circles and ovals, while I’m wondering how my school backpack has not fallen forward yet.
“Slowly. Slowly. Annnnd great!”
My Mom’s happiness feels fake. I know she is acting this way only to make me feel better, as if my depression is solved by a contagious happiness. As if others can solve the issues of my mind.
I roll down my window, “Can we go home now?”
“But, we just got her forty-five minutes ago,” her face inquisitive, searching my own, “Are you not feeling good?”
“I—I think I just need some time to hang out in my room. Relax a little.”
“Are you sure? You always love driving practice.”
“Yeah, just don’t really want to today.”
My Mom’s face is drawn down, looking at me as if I’m a hurt puppy. I hate that. I’ve always despised that look.
. . .
I hear three soft knocks on my door. My Mom, on the other side of the threshold, opens it a crack.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were sleeping. Dinner is ready.”
Groggily, I rub my eyes open. Yawning loudly, “What time is it?”
“6:30. Do you feel like coming down?”
I nod reluctantly – I know I want to sleep more though; my limbs are weak as if I slept for too long. What have I done today? I shouldn’t be this tired, I think. My bones feel sleepy as I pull on the side of the mattress to sit up.
“I’ll be down in a second.” My Mom leaves as quietly as came, while I fall back onto the mattress sighing. Something feels different. As if something has forged my body, locating my weaknesses and working them harder than before.
I swing my left arm around to my eyes, squinting without my glasses at my faint scar. Tracing it with my fingers in a pacing motion over my wrist; I begin to feel nauseous. My stomach carves itself out deeper and deeper as the short moments pass.
I force myself downstairs anyways. My Mom and younger sister are waiting.
. . .
“So then, Mr. Barfield told us we didn’t have to hand in our math practice sheets because we were doing a really good job in class. He then brought Lizzy, Kelsey, and me to his desk in front of everyone, and let us pick stickers from his collection. We were SO surprised.”
My Mom chimes in before she could finish her sprawling story, “Sounds like you had a great day.”
Heather’s toothy smile carries her happiness to her iris,’ glaring from the kitchen light.
“Yeah,” I said, shoveling a piece of beef stroganoff into my mouth, “Sounds like he has a total hard-on for you girls.”
My mom’s eyes dilate, “Collin, don’t ever use that language in this house.” She continues to scold me without my attention.
I look over at Heather, her face emblazons with an uneven red blush on her cheeks.
. . .
The soapy dishes enflame my hands a temporary sun-burnt red. Heather went upstairs after dinner; I’m not sure if I’ll see her for the rest of the night. She is probably writing in her diary all that she told us. Recently, I read it for no reason at all. Maybe, I just felt the need to see the inner workings of a sixth-grade girl – sad in their need for attention.
My Mom and I are cleaning the kitchen in complete silence. I don’t know exactly what to say. Now that twenty minutes have passed, I’m surprised as much as she is in what I told Heather. My mind fingers through ways I can apologize, flipping my choices in a cyclic motion.
“You know,” my mom’s head turns, interrupting me from my loitering thoughts, “Just because you are on medication, doesn’t mean you can do or say anything you feel.”
Instinctively defensive, I say, “I wasn’t trying to be an ass- … I mean, Mom, my mind’s a little foggy right now. I’m just trying to get used to it.”
“I don’t think this is ‘getting-used-to-it’ Collin. It’s already changing you.”
“Mom. They said it would take a week of irritation, change, ups and downs. I can’t explain how I feel, I just need you to understand I’m not making these decisions purposefully.”
She sighs, “I’m still wary, that’s all. You’re just – you’re still my young little man,” I can’t meet her eyes, afraid my stock-piled emotions will boil onto the surface of my face.
“But,” she says trying to change the subject, “It’s okay. I just won’t bring it up for right now.”
“Thanks… Hey, would you mind if Amber comes over tomorrow?”
“Yeah, but like always, she can’t stay past ten.”
She walks out of the room, leaving me to finish drying the dishes.
. . .
I’m never too sure if bringing Amber up to my room is a good idea, except for today. My Mom goes to the grocery store to pick up a few items for dinner, leaving Amber, me, and Heather in the living room.
“Let’s go upstairs,” I say while nudging her on the sofa.
“What if your mom sees we are gone when she comes back?”
“I think we have some time.”
Amber’s eyes contort into their thin sultry way –seductive, while being half closed. I think she even bit her bottom lip. I pull her from her stereotypical crossed-leg sitting position onto her unstable feet. We stumble sleepily to my bedroom.
I unbutton her shirt, my hand pulsing under her ample, yet petite breasts. She moans hard, slightly overexaggerated, but I keep going. I watch as her eyes move farther back behind her head, drifting into pleasure from the gentle way I bite her neck.
Finally, her agile fingers are on my belt buckle. Precisely undoing it from its worn hole. Her hands are cold when she first touches me, my skin prickling. Minutes of massaging go by, but I continue to be flaccid.
Now, with Amber sitting at the edge of my bed, her hair mussed, and her makeup slightly smudged I realize – the idea of sex seemed a lot better than the actual act. I could not understand this, only last week was I finishing too fast. Now, I cannot even start.
Amber’s eyes become two giant quarters placed in her soft face.
“I’m sorry, I – I’m not too sure why this is the case.” Then I remember reading about my medicine’s side effects. I never told Amber about my prescription. I was not sure how she would react to her boyfriend taking “crazy-pills.”
“It’s okay,” she says in a less-than-hidden disappointed voice, “Let’s go back downstairs. Your Mom will be back soon.”
Maybe I should have mentioned it.
. . .
Why did that have to happen? I’m always ready to go with Amber. I think, sitting up in my bed – slightly crinkled from my tossing and turning. I contemplate screaming into my pillow, but I think my Mom would hear me in the room across the hall. Why couldn’t Heather have this room? – I’m just being angsty. That’s all. Or, so I tell myself now, at 2 in the morning.
I rub my temples, massaging out the tension crippling my forehead. Do I have a headache? Maybe I should take some Advil. But, can I take Advil on Prozac? I don’t see why not. I go to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom adjacent to my bedroom. I flip the light on and cringe at the face looking back at me in the vanity mirror. I really haven’t gotten much sleep in the past three days, have I?
No water, just two red capsules dyeing my sweating palms red. Though the pills are round and small, they scrap the edge of my throat as they go down in a loud gulp. Once I turn the bathroom’s light off, I look down the hall towards Heather’s room and then the opposite direction. The darkness becomes lighter in my eyes as if it is being dimly lit by an invisible light. I don’t hear anything, except the buzzing in my ears from the stark silence.
I fling the covers over my body, warming my legs all over again. Who knew a spring night could be this cold? …Well duh, I’m in Ohio. It was only snowing about five weeks ago. I start to wonder why I think so negatively about myself at night. Does the night sky perform as magnets – producing a field of attraction between it and me?
Just shut up. You think you’re so poetic, don’t you?… If only. I look at my bookcase sitting forlornly in a caddy-corner on my left. So many books shielding themselves with new dust as the days go on. My legs become urgent and wriggle their way out of my bed. I thumb through their bound spines – creating a clean line between the dust. Moby Dick, hmm. When was the last time I read this? Probably when I was 11. I slide the book out gracefully, keeping every book in its place, without any falling on an angle.
Back in my bed, I flip to the first page of text. “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world…”
Two pages went by and I was almost crying with boredom. How many times have I read this? It would definitely be more than one hand’s worth. I concede to my aroused mind – for another night.
I hope this goes away soon.
. . .
“You’re already up?” My Mom asks as she walks towards me in her slippers – making a swipe noise that gets louder as she comes near. “And you ate breakfast?”
I sit with my t-shirt and jeans on, all showered-up, with a bowl of Frosted Flakes sitting empty in front of me – except for the remnants of dried milk and crumbs. “Yeah. I just couldn’t sleep.”
“Like the other night? You know I heard you getting up and down to go to the bathroom.”
“I think we have bigger problems, like your light sleeping.”
“Ha, ha. Very funny,” she twists the bag of cereal up and puts it in the cabinet, turning around to face me again, “I just, want you to be happy.”
“I’m well aware Mom. I can’t sleep well. That’s not your problem.”
“I know, but I can’t help making it feel like my problem. Like everything else since you started taking Prozac.”
“Mom. Let me handle it. Okay?” Picking up my backpack, I say, “I gotta go, or I’ll be late.”
I walk out the door, leaving my Mom’s small voice to be covered up by the slamming behind me, “Have a good day.”
. . .
I plop myself on the bus seat next to Amber. Her face is staring out the window, with her brunette hair covering most of her profile. If I could see her eyes I know they would not feel ecstatic to see mine.
“What was last night about?” She mutters, still peering out the window.
Heat instantly travels to the surface of my face. The embarrassment comes back to me renewed, stronger as if it never left in the first place.
“I uh…,” I stumble over my words, calculating my options. I decided to tell her. “I’m taking Prozac.” I leave my words hanging in the air, as if a wet and lofty shirt trying to dry in the wind, turning to the smell of mildew as time goes on.
Her face flashes fully towards me, “But, why? You don’t need that.”
Hot anger consumes my face, this time as white electricity. I try to mute my rage, reminding myself I’m on the bus. “I know you heard that I tried to kill myself a few days ago! This town is not large enough for you not to know. You just don’t want to bring it up. Why don’t you just bring it up?” Some of the other teens in the surrounding seats look over at me.
She uses the back of her hand to wipe away the tears puddling at the edge of her eyes. “I just don’t want to think this is possible. That this – that you’re shit feelings are real.”
Amber buries her head in my arm, shaking my body with her sobbing until we get to school.
. . .
“What are you still doing up?” Heather asks as she comes out of her room, most likely about to go to the bathroom.
I ask her the same question in an accusatory tone, “Why are you up?”
She does not trip over my mock-anger. “Mom tells me you’re on that new drug. Prozac, right? It makes you do some weird stuff sometimes.”
“Yeah, so?” I say with a little less edge in my voice because I’m slightly surprised that Mom told her.
“Just know that you can talk to me. If you’re unhappy, or whatever. You can talk to me.”
“But – “
“Don’t say I won’t understand. I understand more than you think. I just – wanted you to know I’m all ears.” Heather walks off in her baby blue flannel pajamas; the ones that showcase lambs jumping over yellow moons.
I catch her before she goes into the bathroom, “Heather – I’m sorry about the other night. Y’know, at dinner.”
Heather’s face blossoms crimson; she does not seem to need the foolish insinuation. “It’s okay. Drugs do stuff to a person.”
She closes the door behind her, making a small ticking noise as she turns the lock over.
. . .
I hear a double-knock clamor on the door, and not a moment later, it squeaks open. “What are you doing in this dark room? It’s so nice outside!” My Mom tries to go over to the shades to unfurl them.
I shake my head, “I-I’ve got a piercing headache,” I spit out.
She backs away from the window. “Okay,” my Mom says exaggeratedly, “Then, let me get you some Advil.”
“I’ve already taken four in the past two hours.”
“N-n-no, I know what this is, it’s from your meds isn’t it?”
I peek my head out from under my cool comforter again to see my Mom’s stern look, the classic look, when her eyebrows’ nearly touch. “I’m not sure, but I bet so. It’s all right though, we see Dr. Langham in two days.”
She is contemplating her next move. But, I know she wants to put me in the car and drive me over to my Doc’s office right now, just to curse at him for putting me on this new drug. She wants me off it, I know that’s what she’ll say.
She bites the edge of her bottom lip until it tints a bright red. She brings her hand to her mouth, about to bite her nails. But instead, a long sigh hangs from her mouth, “I just can’t help but feel bad for you. Is there anything you need me to do, or anything I can get you?”
“I’ll take the Advil you proposed earlier,” I say and place my head under the tent of my comforter once again, wondering why my Mom’s emotions are playing Russian Roulette as if she were in my situation.
. . .
The drive to Dr. Langham’s office is uncharacteristically silent. My Mom stares ahead, keeping herself focused on the road, while her eyebrows dance back and forth from a pinched to relaxed state. Her nails are short, cut unusually closer to the edge.
This morning I feel as if everything is clarified – my sight, my touch – all my senses are vibrant. But, when I look down I can still see the nerves in my hands, as they shake ever-so-slightly in my lap. I have gotten used to it already, just like my lack of sleep. For some reason, I think even if I didn’t have the Dunkin Donuts coffee my Mom bought me this morning, I would still be rearing to go.
The car becomes humid from the spring weather. I manually roll the window down just a few inches.
“Can you put that up?” My Mom demands, instead of asks.
“Why? It’s hot in here.”
“It makes a loud whirring noise, and that makes me anxious.” She looks over at me, “And I’m already anxious.”
“Fine,” I say, following her commands.
I don’t believe in God, but I make a quick prayer to someone or something that this next hour ends as fast as it begins.
. . .
“So, Collin, how has your past week been?” His grey eyes sit behind a quarter inch of glass, studying me in contentment. His grey beard, black in spots where it had not faded to an aging color. His hair had the same peppered color, brushed backward for a perfect view of his forehead’s sunspots. The freckled tie around his neck was lopsided, sticking a hair too high on the right, with an outdated silver suit to match.
I’ve met people like Dr. Langham before. He expires the style of his wardrobe at the era he felt his best. For Doc here, it was the ‘70s.
“You know, I have never been more tired in my life.”
“Is that so?” Dr. Langham asks perplexed, his eyes squinting slightly.
“Yeah,” I shrugged, “I thought it must be the medicine.”
His mouth slowly stretches into a wide smile – then, I finally notice how unusually large his teeth are for his face. “My, I know you’d be a wise-ass by the way your Mom was talking about you.”
“Really? What did she say?”
“That you are a compulsive liar.”
“No, she didn’t.”
“You’re right she didn’t, she said you were gullible.”
The light bulbs in my brain click on. “Doc, you’re funny.”
“Well you get that way when you’re my age, or you’re just a curmudgeon.” He makes a knowing face, “Now how about you tell me about the real symptoms you felt this week.”
I make a quick sigh, “Just the normal stuff. Insomnia, migraines, jitteriness, irritability” I look to the corner of the room, “no sex drive, drowsiness.”
“Hmm,” he uttered and wrote it down in his padded notebook. “No sex drive, so I see you have someone,” he says looking over his thick frames.
I rub the nape of my neck, “Well…”
“I see,” Doc says as he fixes his glasses. “So, what do you think?”
“What do you mean, what do I think?”
“About staying on Prozac.”
“No?” He gestures for me to expand.
“No, there are way too many side effects.”
“Yes, but you haven’t told me the one thing I need to hear. The one piece of information that would make me take you off the pills.”
I stare blankly at him. This man just wants to play mind games, as if I haven’t had a shit week already.
“Look at your wrist, maybe that will spring the memory.”
I look down about to touch the raised edge of skin but stopping myself when I realize where I am.
“Have you felt like that in the last week?” He nods at my wrist. I start to see the youthful side of him, a piece of him that is ironically exposed while he’s seriousness. I think we could have been friends if we were both young during the same time.
“No…actually I haven’t.”
“Do you think there is some connection between the medicine and that feeling?”
“Do you want to find out?”
“But, my Mom doesn’t want me – “
“Never mind her, she wants what you want.”
It’s not a possibility anymore. We would have been friends.
“Let’s find out.”
Jessica Clifford is a senior majoring in Communication Studies. She unabashedly relegates humans as second to dogs.