the series of one-oh-eight

Sleep studies were among my major concerns as a sleepless middle schooler. I couldn’t figure out how you could masturbate while being monitored, and what if you can’t fall asleep without getting off! I know most middle schoolers are preoccupied with more mundane predicaments—say, whether that stuff with which you antibacterialize your retainer is dangerous to ingest—but my fear was relevant for two reasons: 1) My doctor told me that if the meds she gave me, in combination with a sun lamp, didn’t cure my sleep problems, I might have to undergo sleep observation. 2) My dad was living in a hotel on-and-off for years (It doesn’t just happen on Gossip Girl), and one of the floors was permanently rented out to sleep studies, so I knew that such studies existed in actuality and were a real possibility, not an empty threat—a clever contrivance.

My last year of college I developed an Ambien problem. Shocking that your daughter would develop a prescription drug problem when you started her on the Upper East Side cocktail of prescription drugs at age fourteen. Thanks, mom!

The thing about Ambien is, you blackout, so you have no recollection of it being a problem. The next morning, all you are left with is the sentiment, the feelings of dread and guilt. Because I have never had a drinking problem, and because I am not one to make stupid decisions while drunk (okay, stupid maybe, but nothing I wouldn’t do sober), I initially had no idea what to attribute these feelings to. If it weren’t for my boyfriend recounting horrific tales in combination with the physical evidence that was my inbox the morning after (which was filled with responses to messages I didn’t remember sending), I could have undergone a lifetime of Ambien abuse without any inkling that something was the matter. One morning I woke up not next to my boyfriend (he soon learned to avoid Ambien-infused evenings), but next to a token of my nightly transgressions: my camera. I had a vague suspicion that the previous night I did not designate my bed the storage space for my camera. Lacking the consideration and foresight that even a well-mannered one-night stand might have, my consciousness did not transcribe a note before it took leave. I looked to my camera, itself, for clues.

I turned it on and there it was: my vagina! I flipped to the next picture and there it was, again: my vagina! We could continue with this routine for quite a while, replacing “again” with phrases like “once again” and “once more,” but the novelty would soon wear off. Because, as the recipient of this story, you already know that I am planning to convey the outrageous. But, you could not imagine my surprise upon waking up to pictures of my vagina when I was, in fact, fully-clothed and not particularly cognizant of my actual vagina. The shock continued upon discovery of each picture, until the ultimate shock came: I glanced at the top-right corner of my screen and saw the notation “[3,108].” This is picture number three in a series of one hundred eight pictures of my vagina! Then I recollected the previous evening. When I took Ambien, visual gradations took physical form. It is the adult version of looking into the clouds and seeing objects—the drugged-out version. Light areas jumped out at me, and dark areas receded. The wooden panels constructing my room became fascinating, as did my vagina. Not that my vagina isn’t always fascinating, but on Ambien it took on a life of its own. Too bad vaginas on Ambien are lifeless to touch. But, visually, they are fantastic. I was struck by vaginal wonder!

The thing about Ambien is, you have no recollection the morning after, no recall memory, but you still have a recognition memory. Meaning, you could not recall, upon being asked, what you did the previous evening. But, with priming, you could fill in the blanks. Sort of like how some people cannot remember their dreams until the next day something reminds them of something they dreamed of. Then it all comes flooding back.

Ambien is technically considered a “nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic,” not a hallucinogen or dissociative, but, in addition to motor retardation, its side effects include visual hallucinations and cryptic writing. Sleepwalking and sleepdriving have been reported. When articles about the bizarre things people did on Ambien started surfacing, my mom commented, “Thank god Genie doesn’t know how to drive.” Since I have been off Ambien, there have been studies comparing it to other sleep medications. Apparently the new class of sleep drugs is no more effective than older sleep medications, but the new drugs are at least four times as expensive. The reason for the development and popularization of new drugs is that drug companies want to push drugs without generic equivalents (Ambien has since become generic, but, in a timely manner, the drug company developed a controlled-release form without a generic equivalent). Even more shocking is that the difference in onset of sleep, caused by the new drugs versus the placebo, is a mere nine minutes. Hardly a large enough difference to justify ingesting a substance with numerous potentially harmful side effects. However, the magic of Ambien is that it leaves consumers fooled. The studies show that despite the miniscule difference in sleep onset, those who were given sleep drugs self-reported less trouble falling asleep than those who were given placebos. How Ambien works is, it fucks you up so badly that you don’t remember having trouble falling asleep. For serious. This shit is prescribed for convenient memory loss. Think of all the things you could conveniently fail to remember. This was practically every night of my last year of college. Needless to say, my boyfriend has some regrets. I wish I was able to have some, too. The catch is: those who were given Ambien, despite self-reporting less trouble sleeping and despite getting nine more minutes of sleep in actuality, evidenced poorer cognitive alertness the next morning. Thank god I don’t wake up in the morning.

When I showed my boyfriend the series of one-oh-eight, he was unimpressed. I was a little hurt. I mean, you can’t insinuate to your narcissistic girlfriend that her vagina is less than an absolute joy. But, he explained that he saw my vagina nearly every day from that perspective. And I think he had had enough after like three pictures. Either way, I accepted his explanation.

A month later, we got into a car accident (my boyfriend was driving because, duh, New Yorkers don’t know how to drive). Amidst a snowstorm, we left the totaled car on the side of the highway, as we called AAA and his dad for help. Let me first explain that I was visiting his parents en route from the end of a semester at school to my vacation at home, so everything I owned was in this car, including my senior thesis, which was luckily backed-up on the school server but unfortunately irretrievable until the beginning of the next semester. Everyone asks, but Genie, why didn’t you take your stuff with you or wait patiently on the side of the road? The answer is: a) It was snowing like a lot and I didn’t think my computer, which was externally kind of busted, would survive the snow and b) other cars were swerving and we didn’t think it was safe to wait by the side of the road. We had some trucker drive us to the nearest exit where we could wait warmly, safely, and computerless for an hour while his dad drove to pick us up. By the time my boyfriend’s dad arrived, the car was gone—computer and all. This was puzzling because totaled cars do not drive themselves. AAA claimed the car was gone before they got there, and I won’t get into what the state police said. It was a mess that could not be cleared up on the scene of the crime and after passing by in both directions, pondering where the car could have disappeared and checking for tracks in the snow, we gave up, relinquishing the car filled-to-capacity with all of my earthly possessions.

On the ride home, I gave my boyfriend the smuggest look possible–given the circumstances–and whispered, “Do you know what was in the car? My camera!” Rolling his eyes, but failing to conceal his enormous grin, he affirmed, “I know—and you love it.” Love it? I was thrilled! Some unsuspecting victim (wait, he was a criminal) was going to turn on my camera and be met with one hundred eight pictures of my vagina—one hundred eight! Someone was going to see pictures of my vagina and I wasn’t even responsible! This is how I always envisioned it: great things happening while remaining unfettered by moral responsibility. Oh, what a life!

Alec: you took 108 pics of your vag?

Alec: in a row?

me: didn’t i explain this story to you? like how i was an Ambien addict?

Alec: I didn’t realize it was all in a row

and I didn’t realize that you still had them

me: um, 108 pics of my vag are clearly priceless, an incomparable series, almost as priceless as my vagina panorama, how could i possibly part with such a gem

Alec: damn. digitize them and preserve them lol

me: you should have seen my surprise upon waking up to 108 pics of my vag

the beauty of Ambien is that you black out

oh, i have them on two comps and i just got an external hard drive

have you seen the double vagina pic?

Alec: I have not

me: well, if you didn’t have a girlfriend, i would e-mail it to you

it is quite the work of art

Alec: hahaha

I can only imagine :]

me: and almost entirely accidental

Alec: what exactly is it?

me: well, soon after uploading the series, i opened iphoto to view it and simultaneously this program called “panorama maker” opened up. i had opened iphoto many times before and this program had never opened with it. i took it as a sign. i thought, “i want a vagina panorama!!!”

[i am destined to have a vagina panorama]

most people take panoramic pics of beach vacations

i compile them of my vag

Alec: amazing.

I am truly inspired.


me: the first pic i laid out was nothing remarkable, the program morphs them and side-by-side vaginas are nothing spectacular. i saved the file for posterity and labeled it “smooshy vaginas.”

the second photo i thought i would arrange. so i took one pic, copied it, flipped it around 180 degrees, and hit the “smoosh vaginas” button.

Alec: that’s a classy button

me: it’s sort of hard to describe how seamless the result is

yeah, i use that button like practically everyday

Alec: haha, i’ll have to let my imagination go

me: basically, it is two vulva centered around one hole

but the hole is seamless

Alec: have you ever been tempted to take a picture of yourself while in the act?

me: and the bigger you make the pic on the screen, the more you feel like you are getting sucked into my vagina

it’s mesmorizing, truly

i even e-mailed a copy to my gay ex bf

i don’t masturbate; i only make vagina panoramas

Alec: that’s a fantastic quote.

me: ha ha

well truth be told, i have a four-week vacation and i think i’m masturbated out

Alec: lol

me: actually, i don’t like masturbating out of boredom. so i was masturbated out from the month pre-vaca. and now i’m just bored to tears. i fell asleep while watching porn the other night. at like 11pm.

I told a mutual friend that I sent my vaginal masterpiece unsolicited (obviously) to my gay ex-boyfriend, and his response was: “No offense, Genie, but how many guys have pictures of your vagina?” In case you’re curious, the answer is: only one (guy who was given pictures of my vagina for non-artistic purposes).

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