Your gaze lingers at the dull interior of the hospital, at the gloss floor (you notice a slightly dislodged tile in the far corner), at the rustling white and blue coats, the dazzling ceiling lights, which instead of creating a cozy and pleasant ambiance, inflict you with uneasiness and hesitance.
“Is Seymour here?”
The nurse’s alarming tone startles you. You leap from the waiting bench, loosen your collar, adjust your belt. The nurse is still calling your name. After standing there a few more seconds unnoticed, the hasty attempts of the impatient nurse end in success: She notices those petrified eyes of yours. Once her glance meets yours, you speak with a barely audible voice:
“I am here”
“You are the next!” The nurse warns you with an air of arrogance anddisappears almost without finishing her command.
You follow her into the room lost in thoughts. The nurse points at the chair, you sit down. Bleach wafts from the bedding next to you. You still hear doors sliding open and shut, people talking and rushing through the corridor. The room smells like antiseptic, sweat, cologne, snacks from the vending machine, and burnt coffee. A TV plays at low volume. 3 pm. CBC newscast live. The true address of current local and international news. A curly-haired woman is reading “The Recent Statistics”: The annual age-adjusted suicide rate has almost doubled. It is more common among males and statistically speaking, teenager suicides comprise the major part of the death toll. During the last 2 months, the frequency of suicide attempts increased 3.2 times. On average, there are 132 suicides per day.
“Get your vaccination!” You can see it everywhere; in social media accounts of celebrities, on the side notes (“FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE”) of all online advertisements, on the walls above urinals, on the doors of streetcars, in the eyes of your parents… “Our scientists made the most vital breakthrough in the history of medicine. Finally, “Anti-Love” is available! Contact your medical consultants. Now!”
“How old are you?” The nurse asks without looking at you, rummaging in the cupboards ceaselessly.
“Soon will be nineteen. Next month. July 1st.”
You feel lost. You think of Sara; your body tenses up.
The illness starts with unrequited feelings towards someone. As it digs its way through, the following symptoms appear: sense of worthlessness, sense of impending doom, constant state of despair, restlessness, abnormal sleeping patterns, insomnia, persistent physical and mental exhaustion, loss of appetite, short attention span, uncontrolled anger, withdrawing from friends, family. Unfortunately, individuals try to avoid all these symptoms by false means, which worsens their condition. Unsurprisingly, the rate of alcoholism and drug abuse is increasing day by day. Eventually, the illness manifests its ultimate phase: Seclusion and loss of will to live.
The nurse is still asking you questions, indifferently, just for the sake of recording the proceedings.
“Have you recently experienced anxiety, sense of hopelessness, or being suicidal?
“Have you recently experienced any major difficulties with sleeping, eating, and focusing?
You are not really paying attention. You would say anything, yes or no, doesn’t matter now, just to get rid of her. There is nothing inside your brain; it is a tar-black cavity where perpetual mist and darkness reign. You close your eyes. Sara walks past you with her new boyfriend. With a twinkle in her eyes, she beams at you cheerfully. “She is playing with me”, you sigh.
“Can you please sign your consent here, Seymour?” The nurse breaks into your daydream, like a looter shatters silence of a night.
Her focus on TV, she hands you the paper,
Love is a very complex neurobiological process that relies on a complex system of nerves and networks in the brain. The recently synthesized drug “Anti-Love” reduces the progression of love, significantly modifying the levels of dopamine, vasopressin, oxytocin, and serotonergic signaling. Obviously, like all other drugs, it has side effects too. About those effects after the break. Stay with us!
You turn the pages, check possible side effects. “Don’t forget to read the terms”.
“I can’t fall in love if I get it?”
“No, Seymour, it is not quite like that.” A serious expression follows her forced smile. “Let me sum it up for you in an understandable way. So, this drug rather programs your brain to exhibit emotions only if the love is mutual, if not, it blocks the transmissions.”
“Besides, why do you want to fall in love?” She smiles sarcastically. “You like suffering, don’t you?”
You stand up and rush to the door furiously, throwing the paper on the desk. “What is happening, Seymour?”, the nurse baffles.
I want to address the parents, for the sake of a bright future, take your children to the vaccination centers as soon as possible, it can be late anytime. Tomorrow, at school, a kind innocent warm glance can change their lives. I am a mother, I know what it means to lose a child… My sweetheart…The reporter’s eyes glisten with teardrops. They take her out of the news stage as uncontrolled laments follow her silent tears.
You go directly to your bed. You lost the sense of time. You can’t tell if it took a second or an hour to get home (but it doesn’t change the reality, the bus arrived at the nearest station to your house in 34 minutes). Your mother asks if you got the shot. You bury yourself under a blanket. Then she asks if you are hungry. Then she asks if you are sleepy. Then she asks if you are feeling down.
“You are not going to talk to me?”
You think of Sara. You think of her dark ablaze eyes, her playful smile. You imagine her in all of her dresses one by one. You imagine her naked. Fever and delirium cast anchor on your sweat-soaked bedsheet. You have a smirk on your face.
You like suffering, don’t you?
Ali Zarbali was born in Azerbaijan. Currently he lives and writes in Hungary, Budapest. His stories have recently appeared in Maudlin House, New World Writing, and Down in the Dirt, among others.