Love in the Time of Xanax
A new low: pushing prescription pills on a first date to get high.
By Maura Kelly
Photo Credit: Kateryna Govorushchenko/iStock Images
When I met Hank at a jazz club in Brooklyn for our first date, he seemed like a gentleman a mild-mannered Midwesterner with an MBA and some kind of straitlaced business job. He was rock-star skinny, and the physical chemistry was automatic: We couldnt stop grinning; our knees kept bumping into each other. I felt jittery in a good way, and Hank seemed like he did, too.
Conversation moved fast spurred in part by Hanks audio-visual props. While telling me about a recent trip to Sicily, he pulled out a tiny camera so I could see the short videos hed taken there. Then, smiling, he flipped down the collar of his cargo jacket to reveal special hooks for his iPod earbuds. For his third trick, he showed me a Swiss Army pillbox attached to his key chain. The stylish metal accoutrement was covered by a clear flap of plastic emblazoned with the companys logo, through which slender white tablets were visible.
What are those? I asked.
Just Xanax. Theyre prescription.
Sheepishly, I said, Remind me: Whats that stuff for again?
Its an antianxiety drug. It helps me not be a stress case.
I wondered momentarily if it was odd that Hank was packing meds on a first date, but then figured probably not. I didnt know exactly how Xanax worked; maybe it was the kind of thing you took if your subway train got evacuated because of a bomb scare or the corner bagel store ran out of your favorite kind. There are so many things in New York that could make a person freak out including the problem of excessive perspiration, which was plaguing me that night, since the club wasnt very well air-conditioned. I excused myself to go to the bathroom, where I took out the Arrid Extra Dry I always carry in my bag and applied it to my underarms, the soles of my feet, and the underside of my panties.
When I returned, Hank and I decided to have another round, on my front stoop. Later on, we ventured upstairs to my apartment, even though Id just moved in a few days earlier and it was a junkyard of unpacked boxes.
Hank sat down, and I immediately started clearing away the boxes and searching for wineglasses. After handing him a zinfandel in a nice stem, Hank said, Okay. Now, will you finally relax?
He grabbed my hand and pulled me toward him. You really need to chill out, he said. Youre kind of uptight.
Me, uptight? Ive been accused of many things, but never of being anal. Im cool, dude! I wanted to say.
Listen, Hank said casually. I have an idea. Why dont we take some Xanax? Its a great high if youve been drinking. It makes you forget all your hang-ups. You become the real you.
Seriously, its amazing, he said, with allure in his voice. Kind of like smoking dope, without the paranoia. Or like getting really drunk, except you dont get sloppy. And no matter how much you drink, you wont feel hungover tomorrow no headache, no nausea, nothing. Just a little spaced out. Plus, youll sleep like a baby.
Now, you might wonder why I would even consider this proposition.
The thing was, I used to be a hard partier. It started back in high school in New Jersey. Id booze it up whenever someones parents went away and there was a kegger; or when the Bergen Catholic boys would throw a party in a cheap motel room; or when my friends would drive into Manhattan and wed go to some hole-in-the-wall bar. Once I made it to the Ivy League and saw how many of my fellow coeds were toking up and still acing their classes I joined in. Weed was the gateway drug to some more intense stuff.
Then one night I took a ride with a Russian limo driver and wound up snorting lines off his clipboard as he sped through red lights. Our joyride ended in a fender bender. After that, I swore off illegal substances.
Id been 100 percent drug-free for a couple of years, and told Hank as much.
Its not drugs. Its prescription medication, he replied.
He had a point. How harmful could it be? You sure this isnt a roofie or something? I asked.
Come on, Hank said, placing a Xanax in my hand. You invited me here. And Im asking you if you want it not doping your drink with it. If itll make you feel better, Ill take that one, he said, pointing to the pill in my palm.
I nodded yeah, take it feeling like Id dodged a bullet. But when he swallowed it, I took the next one he offered in a flash. A scene from The Princess Bride flickered through my mind the one where the evil genius Vizzini thinks hes outsmarted the Dread Pirate Roberts, in a somewhat similar situation with a poisoned chalice. Then Vizzini dies.
But I was already down the rabbit hole. The stuff worked fast, and my inhibitions were swept away. In no time, I proposed that we ... lie down and cuddle. (Sad but true: My deepest, darkest desire was to spoon.)
How about we lounge around naked instead? Hank suggested. Well talk about our bodies. Like nudists. Well snap pictures. Itll be liberating. Did I consider the fact that the photos could wind up in the hands of his friends or worse? Nope, not in that state.
Sounds fun, I giggled. This, despite the fact that I normally have the body confidence of Jabba the Hutt. But no sex. Im not into one-night stands.
Once we were undressed, it became apparent that I had a few other anxieties too deeply entrenched for Xanax to erase although so did he.
Am I getting droopy? I asked him.
Nope. Still plenty perky. But do you think my stomach is kind of soft?
Come on. You look great.
He took out the camera, and I did a pinup-girl pose while he snapped away despite the fact that Id never even gotten into bed with the last guy Id dated till the lights were off.
The next thing I remember is waking up next to Hank with the early-morning light coming in the bare windows. He had on my red-paisley eye mask, pushed up around his hair, Mick Jaggerstyle. Sex now? he whispered.
No, go back to sleep, I mumbled, barely awake. Didnt you say Xanax makes you sleep?
I take it all the time, so I have a tolerance. Mind if I check my e-mail?
When I woke up again hangover-free but as groggy as a toddler after a midday nap Hank had vanished. Everything was so topsy-turvy that I half-expected to find him under a pile of clothes or in an empty box, but no dice. I did, however, discover a pair of my spandex exercise pants at the foot of my bed ... and suddenly remembered how Hank had pulled them on, pushed his hair back with the psychedelic eye mask, and lip-synched around the room to Under My Thumb.
What else had I forgotten?
I texted Hank to ask. Then I called my best friend, who exclaimed, Xanax? Thats, like, the thinking mans date-rape drug!
Thats when I remembered the pictures. Holy pornography! Was I going to Google my name and see myself in all my laser-hair-removed glory?
Whyd you take it? my friend demanded. Why had I? Especially when Id given up drugs so I could avoid the kind of anxiety I was now feeling.
Well, Id been motivated, in part, by feeling old: Id turned 33 a few weeks earlier and had started to think that all the wild adventures of my life had already taken place. Plus, Xanax was prescription; it had seemed so harmless! So had Hank, for some reason.
I ran to the computer. There was a note from him on my screen: Theres a present in your butter compartment.
Checking the fridge, I found a small white pill on top of a mustard tube. Then a text message beeped on my cell. Dont worry, Hank had written. We didnt screw. But, hey, did I leave my camera there?
I spotted it on my desk. How serendipitous. Id delete everything.
I am getting too old for this, I told my phone.