Fiction · 01/11/2012

The Contraindications for Respite

How can Restorall help?

Restorall reduces excessive brain activity that can lead to anxiety or insomnia, increasing total sleep time.

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What can be expected from Restorall after one dose?

Very simply, a good night’s sleep. You wake refreshed and ready to start the day. While Restorall cannot replace the husband you resent for not taking better care of himself, nor the father your angry daughter lost after ten short years, it can offer some relief, a sense of order to the chaos. When your daughter refuses to go to school, you approach the morning tasks with optimism. Dressing her one limb at a time almost feels routine. The bowl of oatmeal she throws across the kitchen, just missing your head, takes only minutes to clean up. On the drive to school, you turn up the radio and sing along to drown out your daughter’s assertions that she hates you more than anything else in this world. You may even think your lives have returned to normal. Continued use is strongly recommended.

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What special precautions should I take?

Before prescribing Restorall, your doctor will ask about your alcohol and tobacco intake. Omit the nights you sit alone on the patio with a bottle of Cabernet and a pack of Camel Lights once your daughter has screamed herself to sleep in your bed. Oral contraceptives can also interfere, but this is no longer an issue. Depression or thoughts of suicide are red flags. No need to mention the Tylenol with codeine in the medicine cabinet, left over from a root canal three years ago, how you’ve considered combining it with your husband’s heart medicine and the contents of a few other amber bottles with labels too faded to read. No one — not even your own mother — knows that, though your husband’s death breaks your heart, it is your daughter’s rage that makes your life a living hell.

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What are the side effects?

Aside from the usual list (dizziness, nausea, vomiting, rash), Restorall may affect your mental health in unexpected ways, such as increased agitation or aggression and feeling as though you’re outside of your body. When your daughter throws a tantrum, you might return her slap with an even harder one, or sink crescent-shaped bite marks into her arms like the ones you keep hidden under shirtsleeves. The next time she tries to kick down the bathroom door while you sit, shaking, on the edge of the bathtub, instead of waiting for her anger to subside, you could tell her she can go live with Grandma if that makes her happy. Then you say you’ll go to Disneyland, or maybe Hawaii, stay at the same hotel he used to take you both every Christmas, and never come back. Remember that some people have experienced hallucinations. So you may see your husband watching you, judging your parenting skills from his cloud on high. As you pace the bathroom floor, he shakes his head in disbelief, stunned that you’ve stooped so low as to play the abandonment card. Give him the finger. You finally have the upper hand for a change, until you open the door and see your daughter collapsed in tears.

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What other information should I know?

There are reports that some have engaged in various activities while partially asleep. Results vary. Once your daughter is sleeping, you steal the security blanket she clings to — a beach towel she drags everywhere, drawing puzzled looks from other parents and a concerned note from her fourth grade teacher — and toss it in the neighbor’s trash can. The memory book you’ve started for when she begins to forget him winds up in the fireplace, your half-burnt kindling. Quilting squares cut from his favorite shirts flutter from the car’s open windows during a midnight drive. And one precious night, when your daughter and her stuffed animals have taken over your bed, you lock yourself in her room and lie down to touch the places you’ve starved for months. In the morning, just before her calling Mommy wakes you, the residue of dreams, mixed with the lovely ache, trick you into believing he came back to do the pleasing. Fortunately, once the drug wears off, you will have no memory of these things.

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What should I do if I miss a dose?

Restorall should be taken only at bedtime or when you are able to stay in bed for 7 to 8 hours. If taken during the daytime, you may miss the three o’clock pickup from school, the piano and horseback riding lessons, or the psychiatrist’s appointments every Monday and Thursday afternoon, making your threats of abandonment a reality.

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Is there a minimum age for taking the drug?

Restorall is meant for adult use only. After reading the above, you may be convinced that she too can benefit from the drug’s relief. However, you should never let others take your medication. Prescriptions have only a limited number of refills, anyway. But, perhaps if you give your share to her, you both can still benefit. Her aggression couldn’t get any worse, and strapping her to the bed can be comforting as well as curb any wandering. Everyone knows a growing ten-year-old needs her rest.

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Lori White wrote this story during the fall semester, in between waves of student essays, which seems like a triumph in itself. Her work has appeared most recently in Spittoon and In Her Place: Stories about Women Who Get Around. She teaches English at Los Angeles Pierce College and lives with her partner and their three dogs in a trailer by a lake on the edge of the Los Padres National Forest.