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“You’re the designated driver for my life,” she said.

“I … didn’t know that.”

We were sitting by the window watching rich people try to avoid making eye contact with panhandlers positioned on either end of the street.  In between sips of coffee imported directly from a small farm in the lower Andes, Lisa handed me a small bottle of prescription pills.

“Hold on to it for me,” she said.

Lisa’s asked me for a lot of favors over the years.  “Is this your …”

She nodded.  “I’ve decided to stop taking it.”

I bit my lip.

“If I really go crazy, if something very bad happens, you’re the one I’ll listen to, to take them again.  I promise.  I don’t think it’ll happen, I really don’t want it to, but you’re the designated driver.”

I put the pills back down on the table, in the very middle between us.  “I’m not sure I’m qualified.”

“Who else?” she asked.  “Really.”

“Try a doctor.”

“They know my symptoms,” she said.  “You know me.”

I looked outside the window.  There was a strong breeze blowing, and everyone looked cold.  Except the dogs getting walked.  They always look thrilled to be here.

“There’s no one else I trust like you,” she said.  “Not after the last few years.”

I grimaced.  “When I was a kid, my parents put me in therapy because they thought I was a delinquent in the making.”

She laughed.  “You?”


“Maybe an outlaw poet,” she said.

I grinned, just a little.  Not enough.

She took the cue.  “I didn’t know that,” she said.

“My therapist, who was really very good, at least as far as a discerning nine year old could tell, asked me what it meant to trust somebody.  And … I don’t know why I remember this, but I do so clearly … I told him that I would trust somebody who, if they had complete power over me, wouldn’t change a thing.  They’d leave me exactly as I am.”

She nodded.

I look back out at the street, for just a moment.  “I don’t think I believe that anymore.  I … I’m pretty sure that misses something important.”

“What?” she asked.

I thought about it for a while.  “Can I be honest?”

She rolled her eyes.  “Well, obviously.”

“Since you’ve been on the meds … you’ve been happier.”

She pulled back.  “Do you really think so?”

“This isn’t the first time I’ve thought it.”

“That’s … interesting,” she said.  “Because I feel small and .. dull.  Not the person I want to be.”

“But happier,” I said.  “And remember, you trust me.”

“I …” she stopped.  She realized, I think, that if she just dismissed me I’d have an excuse not to hold the drugs for her.  “May … maybe I was happier, but I wasn’t as happy with myself.”

“I’m not sure I understand the distinction.”

“It’s …” she stopped.  “It’s about how you dream.”

“Do you really want to get out of control again?”

She nodded.  “Control,” she said.  “Happiness.  Maybe you’re right.  There are rooms missing, in my head, and they’re a haunted house, but I think they’re where I live.”

I sighed. “I can’t imagine wanting to be less happy.”

She smiled.  “Maybe your therapist was that good.”


She picked up the medication and put it back in front of me.  “Maybe I’m wrong,” she said.  “Maybe I don’t trust you that much.  Maybe what I really mean is that I know you trust me.  It can be hard to tell the two apart, if you feel them strongly enough.  You need to do this for me.”

I drummed my fingers on the table.  “I need to be in control so you don’t have to.”

She leaned closer.  “If you had it in you to lose control, I couldn’t have leaned on you all those years.”

Eventually, I put the bottle in my pocket.


Benjamin Wachs has written for Village Voice Media,, and NPR among other venues.  He archives his work at

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