In fourth grade I successfully convinced my mother that a tupperware storage bin was not a suitable bedside table for a girl my age. Girls my age, as I explained to her, had matching bedroom sets with drawers for trinkets and secret letters and sticker books and Lip Smackers chapsticks and assorted cucumber-vanilla Body Works lotions and sprays.
I watched the UPS man make four trips to my front porch with each box containing white, wickered adulthood. I had already filled the drawers of my bedside table before it was unpacked. As I pushed into middle school, cheap jewelry and passed notes filled the drawers. Come high school, enough make-up splatter covered the surfaces to fill a Pollock canvas. Eyeliner smudges and lip gloss goo stained every once-sacred note and every new photo. By the time I had cleaned it out, it stunk from the garbage of my late teens. My first empty carton, a one-hitter charred black, a rum-sticky flask and a sock stuffed with hardened bloodied articles of clothing fermented atop of my favorite roll from my first disposable camera and a few crusty, half-empty body lotions.
The summer after high school, wax filled the space between the woven wood. I burnt candles and wrote letters only to my journal and removed all photographs that were overly reminiscent of joy. How mortifying to have been so naive to life’s misery, my eighteen year old self worried. My drawer became more sparse yet more secretive. Every thought I had felt criminal. One by one the pearly white drawer knobs went missing and chip by chip the paint job escaped from the skin of the wicker.
I have a new bedside table now. I’ve had many throughout my twenties. Some drawers naughty, some noble, some neat. This one has Lysoled surfaces and tightened knobs. It has a framed poem and an antique lamp and a leather bound journal on display. It’s attractive and adult.
I finally have non-plastic jewelry and a wearable red lipstick to place inside. But really that’s not what defines this cabinet, as I realized last night when I awoke in a sweat worried if I had taken my night time pills or not. (A common anxiety for common anxiety.) I root around in that drawer, blind, trying to differentiate the sounds of chalky pills banging against hollow plastic canisters. To take a morning pill at night would not be a risk worth taking. So I shook and squinted and tried to remind myself which sixteen letter words were the generic versions of which five letter words.
The happy pills, that really are more like not sad pills, make a deeper clink as they are more dense and round than the calm-down pills which are really more like pass-out and forget why you were anxious pills, make more of a tinkle. (I’ve learned as they are thin and wafer-like.) And these pill canisters, jumbled inside of this twenty-seven-year-old’s bedside table, have become more than residents. They’ve come to define both the table and my habits.
I no longer have a beside table with small celebrations of my existence. I have a medicine cabinet hiding under that antique lamp. I have a medicine cabinet hiding under that framed poem. I have a medicine cabinet hiding under that leather-bound journal that should have a note that reads:
“Dear fourth grade self, don’t be so anxious to grow old, one day you’ll realize you can’t grow young and you’ll be very sad and have to take pills for both causes.”