“Yes,” I say. “I’ve heard. I know.”
The poolboy walks back to the two drowned rats and picks them up by their tails which should be pink but even from where I sit I can see are now pale blue and he puts them into what I thought was his toolbox and then to erase the notion of the poolboy keeping the rats I open the Los Angeles magazine and search for the article about the fountain on the cover.
I am sitting in a restaurant on Melrose with Anne and Eve and Faith. I am drinking my second Bloody Mary and Anne and Eve have had too many kirs and Faith orders what I believe to be a fourth vodka gimlet. I light a cigarette. Faith is talking about how her son, Dirk, had his driver’s license revoked for speeding down Pacific Coast Highway, drunk. Faith is driving his Porsche now. I wonder if Faith knows that Dirk sells cocaine to tenth graders at Beverly Hills High. Graham told me this one afternoon last week in the kitchen even though I had asked for no information about Dirk. Faith’s Audi is in the shop for the third time this year. She wants to sell it, yet she’s confused about which kind of car to buy. Anne tells her that ever since the new engine replaced the old engine in the XJ6, it has been running well. Anne turns to me and asks me about my car, about William’s. On the verge of weeping, I tell her that it is running smoothly.
Eve does not say too much. Her daughter is in a psychiatric hospital in Camarillo. Eve’s daughter tried to kill herself with a gun by shooting herself in the stomach. I cannot understand why Eve’s daughter did not shoot herself in the head. I cannot understand why she lay down on the floor of her mother’s walk-in closet and pointed her stepfather’s gun at her stomach. I try to imagine the sequence of events that afternoon leading up to the shooting. But Faith begins to talk about how her daughter’s therapy is progressing. Sheila is an anorexic. My own daughter has met Sheila and may also be an anorexic.
Finally, an uneasy silence falls across the table in the restaurant on Melrose and I stare at Anne, who has forgotten to cover the outline of scars from the face-lift she had in Palm Springs three months ago by the same surgeon who did mine and William’s. I consider telling them about the rats in the drain or the way the poolboy floated into my eyes before turning away but instead I light another cigarette and the sound of Anne’s voice breaking the silence startles me and I burn a finger.
On Wednesday morning, after William gets out of bed and asks where the Valium is and after I stumble out of bed to retrieve it from my purse and after he reminds me that the family has reservations at Spago at eight and after I hear the wheels on the Mercedes screech out of the driveway and after Susan tells me that she is going to Westwood with Alana and Blair after school and will meet us at Spago and after I fall back asleep and dream of rats drowning, crawling desperately over each other in a steaming, bubbling jacuzzi, and dozens of poolboys, nude, standing over the jacuzzi, laughing, pointing at the drowning rats, their heads nodding in unison to the beat of the music coming from portable stereos they hold in golden arms, I wake up and walk downstairs and take a Tab out of the refrigerator and find twenty milligrams of Valium in a pillbox in another purse in the alcove by the refrigerator and take ten milligrams. From the kitchen I can hear the maid vacuuming in the living room and it moves me to get dressed and I drive to a Thrifty drugstore in Beverly Hills and walk toward the pharmacy, the empty bottle that used to be filled with black-and-green capsules clenched tightly in my fist. But the store is air conditioned and cool and the glare from the fluorescent lighting and the Muzak playing somewhere above me as background noise have a pronounced anesthetic effect and my grip on the brown plastic bottle relaxes, loosens.
At the counter I hand the empty bottle to the pharmacist. He puts glasses on and looks at the plastic container. I study my fingernails and uselessly try to remember the name of the song that is floating through the store’s sound system.
“Miss?” the pharmacist begins awkwardly.
“Yes?” I lower my sunglasses.
“It says here ‘no refills.’ “
“What?” I ask, startled. “Where?”
The pharmacist points to two typed words at the bottom of the piece of paper taped to the bottle, next to my psychiatrist’s name and, next to that, the date 10/10/83.
“I think Dr. Nova made some kind of … mistake,” I say slowly, lamely, glancing at the bottle again.
“Well.” The pharmacist sighs. “There’s nothing I can do.”
I look at my fingernails again and try to think of something to say, which, finally, is “But I … need it refilled.”