She can withstand a double workday, one as a secretary and the other as a mother and a homemaker, thanks to a few diazepam [Valium] pills that she keeps hidden in her handbag. No doctor prescribed the drug; instead she herself found the path to peace by trying different medicines. Only under the small pills’ influence—every time at a greater dosage—can she tolerate the Party meetings, the food lines and the difficulties of feeding her family.
At first she bought them from a neighbor who took various products from a pharmaceutical warehouse. She experimented with chlorodiazepoxide and amitriptyline, and taking them she was able to sleep at night and to smile when the bus came half an hour late. During a raid on the black market for medicines, her supplier was sent to jail, and she didn’t have the sedatives that she needed. Soon after, a new seller appeared, and this one had much higher prices.
Nobody in the family wants to admit that their mother lives in the clouds, with a strangely satisfied face, even when dealing with the problems and shortages. Her evasion is quieter than her husband’s drunken shuffle as he returns—almost falling–to the house at night. Both of them have chosen their escape, each of them using what they have at hand; he, with alcohol distilled at the hospital by a skilled hand, and she, with a pill that makes her forget about her own life.
The children can’t adapt themselves to this reality either. They’d rather nurture dreams of escape, although in a more real and more definitive manner than their parents. They keep a half-assembled motor underneath the bed, and this August they’ll purr across the Straits of Florida. The mother won’t worry about them. Double the diazepam dosage, and she’ll avoid torturing herself with thoughts of sharks, sunstroke, and the separation from her children that awaits her.