The doctor adjusted the reflecting mirror on his forehead—it was round and concave, with a tiny hole in the center. Like the doctor, it was a relic. He stuck a stainless steel spatula into Ohmar’s mouth and began a careful examination of tongue, cheek and throat.
“I do not notice any change,” the doctor proclaimed while tossing the tool in a metal tray. It made a sharp ring in the quiet examination room. “You followed my instructions? A pill every six hours during the first three days, then one every four hours?”
“S-S-Sure, just like the ch-ch-chart you gave me,” Ohmar stammered.
He swallowed saliva to rid his mouth of the horrid metallic taste.
Ohmar did not know the doctor’s name. The nurses called him 'Mr.' Doctor. When Ohmar filled out the agreement forms, doctor’s signature was illegible.
He needed money. When you have no steady income it’s easy to give in to temptation and offer up your body for testing to bring in cash—often insignificant amounts. In spite of what he’d been through, he was too stubborn to admit underestimating the perverse forces of the Universe. By participating in this program, he’d collected enough money to allow him to quit his night job as a watchman. So, instead of nodding off in a glass booth, he could spend his nights interpreting and making sense of the sacred text of Hinduism—the Atharavaveda.
The doctor’s palpated Ohmar sub-mandible glands with pale fingers bearing cut-short, square fingernails.
“Does it hurt when I touch it? Any skin rash? Difficulty urinating?”
“No, no, none of that...tell me, what are the drug's side effects?”
The doctor studied Ohmar through elegant chrome-frame glasses.
“I have no idea what you’ll experience. Ruptures in your stomach lining? Itching? Allergies? Intestinal disorder? Decreased appetite? Memory gaps? Manic episodes?”
“Can you tell me what this pill is for?”
“It’s a new antidepressant, nothing special. We’ll see if everything looks okay next week, on Thursday. Don’t forget—one pill every four hours.”
When Ohmar arrived at home he brewed a cup of Darjeeling tea, a luxury he could not afford before becoming a medical experiment. It was the perfect quench for his thirst. Few knew how to prepare tea properly. When the water just begins to boil, throw in a pinch of salt, and when it fully boils, sprinkle a teaspoon of leaves, turn off the stove and cover the pot. Sugar or honey weakens the tea’s flavor.
With his mind refreshed and his taste buds caressed by the flavors of the wild Himalayan flowers, he opened his journal—a thick book with green cloth covers where he wrote daily observations and ideas. After a moment’s thought, he wrote, “Adriana’s eyes have the color and shape of steeped tea leaves.”
He’d met her at the library. She arrived at the same time as every day and sat at the same table by the windows, quickly delving into reading.
Suffering a lifelong morbid shyness, he watched from a distance for two weeks before gathering the courage to address her.
She wore a white-wool sweater with a rolled collar that lay on her slim neck like a chain of snow. It contrasted with her skin and soft, dark curls of hair, cut short above the shoulders.
His blood rushed from his chest to his forehead as he waved at her.
As an echo from the past, women’s hands with short fingers and blood-red painted nails filled him with terror, but Adriana's hands were perfect: soft and narrow, with nervous unpainted fingers—expressive and restless, as if animated by a life of their own.
With shaking legs, he approached her.
"I k-k-know your name. Adriana. I h-h-heard the librarian say it."
He outstretched his hand and cupped her palm for a few seconds. Her hand felt like fresh snow, cool and sincere.
Ohmar never found another opportunity to speak to her and fell asleep dreaming of winter nights with her in his arms. In one obsessive dream, he walked through a forest of trees with branches covered with snow—holding her hand. Tender beams from her warm eyes made him sweat.
Shaking his head he got up from his desk. It was time to take another pill.
If he wanted to win Adriana’s heart, he would have to defeat his shyness and embarrassment. On impulse, he looked up her address in the library files.
The street she lived on was nearby. Hurriedly, he climbed the stairs of her apartment building. His heart beat with excitement as he pressed her buzzer. After three minutes of anxious waiting, the door opened slowly. Without warning, dizziness clouded his vision. He leaned against the door frame, waiting for the dark mist covering his eyes to lift. When his vision cleared he saw Adriana shrouded in a halo of golden light, smiling mysteriously and dressed in her white sweater, although it was summer. Remote, and yet so real. Words were unnecessary—ideas floated between them. His karma was perfectly united with the infinity of his soul's eternal particles. He opened his mouth to break the spell.
“If you k-k-knew how much I need you...”
“Who are you? What do you want?” The voice was hoarse and vulgar—with an ugly, asthmatic echo.
Leaning against the doorway, he shook his head. Before his eyes stood an old woman with thinning hair, dirty-orange painted lips and a flat, wrinkled face and heavy body wrapped in a house gown made of dreary, limp flannel.
“I am looking for Adriana,” he mumbled.
“There is no Adriana...go away before I call the police.” The woman waved her arms with a menacing gesture. “Tell the doctor to leave you alone. His medication will not create her out of nothing.”
Ohmar ran back down the steps. When he got home, it was time to take another pill. He always felt better after taking a pill.
Adriana. How I love you he thought as he drifted into sleep.