High on Ambien in the Tropics


Last night I opened the shower curtain to be ┬ástartled by a tiny opalescent gecko struggling for escape. I eventually cornered him with a washcloth and he perched on the rim of a plastic cup left on the counter (for water that isn’t safe to drink.) I looked him over delightedly while he slid sly glances at me out of a liquid gold eye slashed with inky pupil. Eventually I let him go on the cracked cement outside our room, and he wriggled away to the night shadows with relief.

I nearly died of the heat, arriving in my jeans. I was slicked with sweat. I paced the hotel room naked for a while, with the air conditioning on full blast, then donned a thin nylon dress and went in search of potable water. The cement was cool against my soles. I dodged dying Christmas beetles rolling in a frantic vortex, thick millipedes fringed with legs like eyelashes, more geckos darting in the dark. Eventually I encountered filtered water, filled up a couple of small plastic cups, and got lost on the flaky sidewalks crisscrossing between palm trees. It took me half an hour to find my way.

I had a terrible night. I simply could not sleep, despite taking my usual soporifics. I hesitantly took half an Ambien- I’m always scared I’ll wake up lost and naked- and tumbled into a thick pool of dream around midnight. I woke up again at 5 am, and despite my better judgement, took another Ambien, meaning that at 9:30 when I had to wake up, I was high as a kite. I stumbled down to breakfast, vaguely hoping for fresh fruit, but it was a tired platter of powdered eggs, limp bacon, greasy sausages lying in stiff military rows. T kept talking, but I couldn’t hear him- I had to lipread around his cup of coffee while I downed a pile of eggs and Tabasco sauce, and drank two cups of coffee in a vain attempt to counteract the Ambien and gabapentin. Back in our room, I took out my wallet- and immediately was struck by the soft glitter embedded in the plastic. I spent some time sitting and moving my wallet slowly so it caught the light and shimmered, marveling at its beauty. Then I went to the bed and lay down despite T’s protests. “Surely we have ten minutes,” I mumbled. I couldn’t sleep thanks to the coffee, just lie on the creaky bed with my face in a pillow and feel chemicals war in my skull.

Now we are taxiing past pink houses and luxurious-looking casinos and barred cigarette stands that sell earrings by the dollar. I don’t think I have words for how I feel- kind of a breathless calm, a restless, dizzy alertness, my head filled with cement. I couldn’t sleep, but nor do I feel I could move very far. I just want to write. It centers me in the haze.

My OCD was terrible on the plane. It’s terrible in general.


I am definitely still high. A trip to Starbucks was a disaster. “I’ll. Um. Okay. Can I get. A sugar-free cappuccino? I mean Frappucino. With no sugar.”

Woman: “No, I’m sorry.”

Me: “Oh. Then. Iced coffee. Latte! Soy. With vanilla. Sugar-free vanilla. Iced.”

I wish I was a normal person.


During our first dive, there was a rainstorm. I’d never seen one from below. The same glassy swells, pocked with crystalline spikes, rings of light and shadow flashing away from each raindrop, spheres of water rolling just below the surface.

I love the expressions of fish as I dive. Some glance at me slyly, some fearfully, some with a mischievous gleam. There are perky, smiling fish and fish with their jaws thrust forward pugnaciously as prize fighters. Some fish dart away playfully like children, some flee, some investigate me narrow-eyed. Some simply gaze back in an interested manner, as if they were exploring my home and not the other way around.

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