A man sits down.
He gets up.
His ass hurts.
He walks to the kitchenette and makes himself a cup of tea.
He walks to the table.
He sits back down, this time in the chair at the table in the kitchenette, and not that chair that he had previously occupied.
He stares out the window.
After a while he goes to take a sip of tea, but finds that it has cooled to a temperature which lies somewhere between warm and room temperature, and thinks to himself that the tea has gone cold, though in reality the temperature is closer to tepid.
He gets up again and once more walk to the kitchen and pours the tepid tea down the drain.
He hates wasting tea, but hates tepid tea more, so watches the stain of opaque tan liquid that coats the stainless-steel sink transforming into tiny rivulets which converge, forming brown spirals, filaments which seem to bleed into the latent droplets of water that had absentmindedly collected from the last time he did the dishes.
He wonders if by some miracle of science he could somehow separate the tea from the milk form the water.
Paper chromatography might do it, but he didn’t know how to do that.
An alarm rings.
He washes the cup.
Moving out of the kitchenette, past the chair and the table, past rows of cubicles each with a single desk and a solitary figure, each draped in some form of grey garb; a shirt, a neckerchief, a tie, trouser, a blouse, socks, shoes, pantyhose, belt, nickers; he makes his way out into the hall where the figures congregate around him and together they exit the building.
He walks to a diner.
He walks into the diner.
He sits opposite another man.
They exchange greetings and after some banal conversation which the man considers to be more of a platitude than any real exchange or dialectic with the man, the man says
So, I found out today that they’re gonna take me and run a bunch of tests on me. They said three days, but you know, I don’t know.
So they gonna probe you?
Are you sure? They usually probe you.
Yeah. In the ass.
Fuck off, no they don’t.
They do. Dave from accounting got probed in the ass. Tried to take down his pants and show me.
Nah, bought him a drink so he wouldn’t.
They find anything?
Oh, thought they might, you know, cause of the way he –
Yeah, he’s a fucking freak.
So when you find out?
Three days .
How they tell you?
That’s a cold. Suppose it better than it just being sprung on you.
Yeah I guess, though they didn’t give me much warning.
Yeah, but you know, it’s not like they have a list or anything. I hear it’s basically random.
Yeah. I don’t know.
So you gotta do anything to prepare?
Mmmm well – hang on. Hi, um excuse me. Yeah um can I um – hey Jerry, you know what you want?
Mmmm, not really.
Alright. Sorry can we have a couple more minutes? Thanks.
So what you getting?
Probably the mushroom soup, but I was also thinking a club sandwich.
Yeah the sandwich does sound good, though I can’t really eat solids. Yeah, I’ll probably just get a coffee.
Alright. Yeah, so anyway, I don’t think I have to prepare anything I just have to –
When I went and had my tests done, I had to fast for two days, and then had to drink a drink to clean me out –
Yeah I don’t have to do anything. Well they didn’t specify.
Cos they said that if I didn’t the results might be skewed, but –
I mean it’s not like they will me doing experiments on me or anything –
Really, you sure?
Excuse me, I think we’re ready to order. Bob?
Thanks, um, can I just have some coffee? Black no sugar.
And…. can I have the club sandwich, but with bacon on the side, and also can I get some Hot sauce milk with a couple extra lugs of hot sauce? Cheers.
Yeah that’s all, thanks. Nah, I think we’ll be fine. Thank you very much.
I used to love their hot sauce milk.
Yeah me too.
So how’s Janice? She know?
Nope not yet.
Oh, you gonna tell her?
I don’t know.
Mmmmm, I don’t think they’ll run any experiments. Just tests.
They’re the same thing though.
No they aren’t –
Yes. I mean what’s the difference then?
I don’t know, experiments are designed to prove some hypothesis or something, and tests are just fucking tests.
Yeah, but you need a reason for test –
Yeah, but you aren’t looking for an outcome –
You are. How would you know which test to take if you didn’t have some sort of hypothesis to prove? I mean how the fuck did they find my cancer? They looked at the evidence and the doctor figured that there was a chance for this illness and order the test and it proved his suspicions and now I’m probably gonna die.
Nah its fine.
Shit I mean I didn’t –
No, really, it’s cool.
Shit. I don’t know what to say.
There’s nothing to say.
I mean I didn’t know that it was that bad.
Neither did I.
Over there. Thanks.
Wait, sorry, so we pay at the counter? Excellent, thanks.
Don’t worry about the bill.
Nah, it’s fine. You only got a coffee.
Don’t worry about it, I have it. I’ll put it on card.
So what if they find something? Like a polyp or –
I don’t think they will.
How you know?
I just have a feeling.
But what if they do?
I don’t know. I hope they won’t.
It’s not so bad.
Nah, it’ll be fine.
How the milk?
Good, want some?
Oh shit, right. Sorry. So how you gonna tell Janice?
Yeah, I’ll just let run its course.
Just let it run….
Yep, just die.
Shit, that’s harsh. Not really.
At least I’m not being abducted.
Fuck, I don’t know if I could recover from that.
I don’t know, it’s life, you know?
Shit. I don’t know, Dave was never the same. He kind of just wasted away. Unnatural. They must have experimented.
Yeah, but he was a freak. Who the fuck knows what happened to him.
Yeah, but still.
Shit. At least I won’t be awake.
Yeah that’s ok then.
I mean, if they just probe your ass I guess you’ll be fine.
Yeah, they probably probed his brain.
I guess you aren’t that interesting.
Thank god neither of us are.
Yeah. Fuck I can’t imagine if we were.
Yeah, it would be shit. We’d be Dave.
Hey, anyway I have to get back.
Yeah ok. I probably have to head off too. I’ll see you.
The man gets up and his companion goes to pay the bill.
The bid each other farewell and the man makes to walk back to the room with the cubicles.
He knows that he must at some point himself sit in one of the cubicle.
He makes to turn and call after the other man, but he is now gone, himself gone to a cubicle.
He stands for a moment.
Perhaps he will tell his wife tonight.
Perhaps he will after dinner, when the kids have gone to bed, before they also go to bed, he’ll tell her and in whispers argue about what is to be done, and how she will survive, and how he will survive, and how they will survive, and whether more can be done, and why has nothing been done, and how can it all happen, and then cry salty tears.
He continues to stand, not wanting to go back to the grey room.
He looks at windows.
He wonders about the other man.
He goes back.
He sits down.
He thinks about cancer and tea and anal probes.