Working Girl: The Pills. They Want to Control You. Don’t Let Them Control You.

Just a Regular Working Girl: Moralistic Values Gleaned from My Time in Chicago’s Seedy Underworld

Moral 51: The Pills. They Want to Control You. Don’t Let Them Control You.


Choose the red pill, or the blue pill... or the green one, or the white one, or the orange one, or the purple one...Image by erix! at Flickr Commons

Choose the red pill, or the blue pill… or the green one, or the white one, or the orange one, or the purple one…
Image by erix! at Flickr Commons

One day, when I was personally assisting my boss, Caroline, I was putting some candles–

Okay, I have to start over. Even though I was a personal assistant, “personally assisting” someone sounds like a totally different thing than what I did every day.

In this case, I was putting candles away after my boss Caroline had sex with one of her clients.

There’s no other way to say that one. It’s just what it sounds like.

Caroline was an escort, so she had sex with all her clients. It was my job to set the scene before the appointment, and break it all back down again after the guy left.

So I’d blown out all the hazelnut scented Yankee Candles (to this day I can’t walk by a Yankee Candle store without thinking of prostitution), and I was putting them back in the bag Caroline stored them in, when I noticed something unexpected–a single little blue pill at the bottom of the bag.

While it was odd, I didn’t think much of it. I’d just cleaned up used condoms and stripped my boss’s messy black satin sheets. A little stray pill didn’t phase me.

I was about to toss it in the trash when Caroline stopped me. “Whoa, where’d you find that?”

“In the candle bag,” I said.

“Huh,” she said, and plucked the pill out of my palm and ate it.

I know I was just waxing something like poetic about how worldly I was, but that kind of phased me. The woman had sex with four or five guys a day on average, but for some reason I was shocked that she ate a random unidentified pill.

“What was that?” I said.

She shrugged. “Ephedra, I think.” Of course. Ephedra was her drug of choice.

“It helps me get things done!” she told me when I first started working for her. “I have a lot to do and sometimes between clients and working out and connecting with my girls and collecting their payments and handling my real estate I just need more energy. You know? You know? You know?”

She also liked the way it boosted her metabolism and helped her keep her weight down.

This was back in the early 2000s. Ephedra had just been banned. Caroline was vaguely annoyed by this–just another thing she did every day that the federal government had declared illegal.


Moral 49: The government doesn’t want you to have any fun, and that’s just the truth.


But Ephedra was far from the only drug she liked.

“Next time you find any pills,” she said, “don’t toss them in the trash. Put them in the glass in the cabinet with my plates.”

Sure enough, she had a shot glass in her kitchen cabinet, half full of random pills of various sizes and colors. I had no idea what any of them were. I had actually noticed this glass before, but I think I had decided it was better to pretend it wasn’t really happening. Kind of the way you do when your mom says something racist, and you have this moment of pause where you have this small internal war with yourself, but ultimately decide to let it go because she’s your mom and it’s just easier that way.

But now Caroline had brought to glass up, I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

“Caroline,” I said, “what are all these?”

Caroline took the glass and peered into it. “Hmm, looks like another Ephedra, an Oxycontin or two, Xanax, that one there’s a Prozac I think, Percodan. The ones at the bottom are Codeine. Or Vicodin. I can’t remember. And the big one on the top is a multivitamin.” She gave the glass a little shake and the pills all rearranged themselves. She reached in, closed her perfect red nails around a flat white pill, and ate it without water. “Yeah yeah yeah, so just put anything you find in here. Feel free to take one if you want.”

“Oh. Thanks,” I said. “But I think I’ll pass.”


Moral 50: When people offer you pills, they usually do so with good intentions. However, what do we know the road to hell is paved with?


Over the next few days, I noticed Caroline treated her little pill glass like a candy jar. She just swallowed random pills at random times.

This explained so much.

Caroline’s behavior was erratic at the best of times. I never knew when she was going to be sensible and friendly, or when she would turn into a banshee and yell at me for “only pretending to have cleaned her floor” or having “no good advice to offer about money laundering” and WHY DID SHE HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING HERSELF DAMMIT?!

Caroline’s high-class two-level apartment was, it turned out, a veritable Easter egg hunt for various kinds of pills. I found all kinds of pills in all kinds of places: In her cabinets, in her pockets, in her bags, on her mantle behind a picture of her mom, on her bookshelf atop a hardback copy of Goethe’s Faust, and balanced on the top edge of a picture frame on the wall. Once I found a pill in her oven, which she never cooked with because she stored cat food in it.

Her pill popping frustrated me in a way her prostitution never did. I was the one who had to deal with it when she switched from Dr. Jekyll to Mrs. Hyde. I quickly learned to watch the contents of the glass like a hawk. It became a game I played with myself. If I noticed a pill missing, I girded my loins for a potential rollercoaster ride.


Moral 51: The pills. They want to control you. Don’t let them control you. Don’t let them . . .


And then one day, I was cleaning up Caroline’s bedroom after an appointment, while she was rinsing off in the shower. I had just gotten the black silk sheets stripped, when she came out of the shower completely naked.

This wasn’t a big deal. I saw her naked all the time. But this time I noticed marks. Bruises and red marks–not like she’d been beaten or anything, but the guy had clearly been rough. There were five bruises on her arm where he had grabbed her.

As she wrapped on her robe, she said, “Cancel the rest of my appointments today, would you? And bring me the pill glass.”

And even though I knew that after this pill, she’d likely continue the cycle of abuse by freaking out on me, yelling, and demanding impossible miracles, I couldn’t be frustrated with her anymore.


Moral 52: Don’t just someone else’s coping mechanisms. You have no idea what it’s like to be them.

L. Marrick is a historical fantasy writer and freelance copywriter. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. She eats too much chocolate and still doesn’t believe downward dog is supposed to be a restful yoga pose. You can connect with her at either of her websites, and follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.

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