Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Curing Insomnia


Chewing the fat with the ex-husband yesterday, we were debating the news a daily dose of humble aspirin might guard against certain cancers.

“Of course, you can’t take aspirin,” he said, crossing his fingers this might hasten my demise. “It’s really bad for asthmatics.”

And it’s true, the last time I staggered into a pharmacy, grotty with a streaming cold, they refused to sell me those hot-lemon drink sachets because the formula contains aspirin, and I am indeed an asthmatic old bag.

Every time you go into a chemist‘s shop, you have to answer twenty questions before they’ll give you anything. ‘Is it for yourself?’ No, I saw an old lady outside in the street and thought I’d buy her a tube of insect repellent as a treat. ‘Have you taken it before?’ I can’t remember what day it is, never mind which brands of cough medicine I’ve necked in the past.

But the queen of frustrating pharmacy moments was during one of my many insomnia stretches. I staggered, red-eyed and bleary, into a certain high street chemist’s store, determined to buy a sleeping remedy. Valerian tea works a treat, but it tastes vile. I was in search of easy-to-swallow tablets, a quick fix.
The woman behind the counter was a doe-eyed girl, and she took a step backwards as my haggard, unkempt self lurched up, pointing.

“I’d like some of those,” I slurred.
She picked up the packet and examined it, biting her lip.
“Are you on any other medication?”

Now I could have said ‘no’. I should have said ‘no’. Instead I lurched into an account of exactly how I single-handedly keep the pharmaceutical industry afloat. She looked perplexed. She had to go and ask.

“You can’t have these,” she said upon her return, her eyes fluttering ever wider.
“Why not?” I managed not to howl.
“Because,” she clutched the packet to her chest, as though afraid I would make a demented grab for it. “They’ll make you drowsy.”
“They’re sleeping tablets,” I said, sounding surprisingly calm. “They’re meant to make you drowsy.”

Conscious of the queue lengthening behind me, I thanked her, and walked away, my face burning as though I’d just been caught trying to procure some illicit substance. I shambled home, and went to bed as normal. But I called her all sorts of names throughout the torturous lengths of another never-ending, tiresome night, although this didn't cure my insomnia either. Perhaps aspirin might do the trick...

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