Red Pill

                                      A Memoir by Elaine Bennett

Dad would be well into the bottle most days when I got home from high school. 

One afternoon he jerked open the front door as I approached and barked, “Get into your room!” 

I reviewed my actions of the past few days; nothing much stood out. Still, I got into my room.

“I took your winter coat to the dry cleaner today,” he bellowed.

What’s the proper response to that? “Um…thank you?”

“When I cleaned out the coat pockets, I found—THIS.” Producing a carefully folded tissue, he opened it to reveal something red nestled inside. 

I’d heard about illegal pills—reds, greens, uppers, downers—but I’d never seen one. I’m guessing my father hadn’t either because the thing in his hand was—well, as I told him, “It’s a red TicTac.”

His eyes widened in surprise for a millisecond. He’d expected me to lie, but this? “If it’s a TicTac, where’s the box?” 

“It was empty; I threw it away.”

“Then why was this in your pocket?”

“It must have fallen out. I didn’t realize.” I said, growing increasingly frantic. I’d never done drugs in my life. “Just eat it, you’ll see.” 

My father would not eat the red TicTac. 

Did he think I was trying to get him high? Perhaps he worried the drug would not mix well with the alcohol he had already consumed. 

We were at an impasse. Finally he allowed me to put the “pill” into my mouth, break it in half with my teeth, and breathe in his face.

It was indeed a red TicTac. He never apologized.

                                                *    *    *

Elaine Bennett (she/her) is an award-winning speechwriter and definitely not the lady from Seinfeld, whose last name is “Benes.” She was a Finalist for the 2021 Brooklyn Non-Fiction Prize and won a Queer-Writers’ Fellowship to the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. A graduate of Smith College and The Brearley School, and a Mets fan who named her dog Fenway, she lives on the traditional land of the Wampanoag, also known as Cape Cod.

Leave a Reply