As Louise was getting dressed in the morning, the Minder said, “Louise, the doctor asks if it’s a good time for him to stop by on his rounds.”
She stopped, one foot in her pants and one foot out. Right. She’d written him email, asked about Cognizoid. “Um, sure, tell him I’d be glad to see him.”
“Of course, Louise,” the Minder said. When she didn’t move again immediately, the Minder gently suggested, “Both feet?” which was enough of a prompt to get her to finish dressing.
She had never tried to remember the name of the doctor because the doctors for Paradise Living had a fast turnover rate. Or she thought they did. Maybe this was the same bland young man she’d been seeing once a month since moving here. As far as she could tell, they all looked alike: pale-skinned and brown-haired, a neat white coat over the blue-grey staff uniform. In any case, he (they?) never seemed to mind being called “Doctor.”
He was bluff and jolly, like all of them, swinging into her little living space like a blast of loud, dissonant music. “Good morning, Louise! Got your email. How are you feeling today?”
“Not bad, considering the alternatives,” she said, rising from her table. “What do you think?”
“I did a little reading,” he said, seating himself in the almost-comfortable chair her niece had brought her, “and I checked your last blood tests. The stuff is apparently a little hard on the liver, but your numbers look real good. I think you’re a good candidate for Cognizoid, if you’d like to give it a try.”
“I would, please,” Louise said, letting out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding and biting down on a second please.
“Sure, sure,” he said, making a note on his electronic tablet. He reached into a pocket and drew out a small bottle. “Here’s ten to start off with; we had some samples in house. I’ll write for the pharmacy to send you three months’ worth at a time, like your other meds. You know,” he said with a little pause, almost dangling the medication just out of her reach, “this isn’t a miracle drug.”
Shows what you know, kid, she thought, but nodded and said, “Of course. There’s variability in effects, and adverse reactions, and whatnot.” She took the bottle, and was pleased to see that her hand was steady.
“Of course you’d know, Doctor,” he said, banging his forehead with the heel of his hand. Well, what do you know? He had read her file. “One in the morning will do the trick, but you can go up to two in a couple weeks if you’re not seeing a good effect. Let me know if you do that so I can increase the script. Anything else?”
“No,” she said. “Thank you, Doctor.”
She very carefully did NOT shriek, laugh, or otherwise act abnormally after he left: the Minder would record such an outburst and it would be an unfortunate data point on her record. She stood and clutched her precious bottle and prayed to gods she didn’t believe in that the first one wasn’t a fluke or a delusion.
When her mind came back, she spent some of her expensive face-to-face minutes calling Mick.
“Louise, sweetheart,” Mick rasped in the familiar, darling, smoke-ruined voice that still made Louise’s knees go weak, though she did not activate the video.
“I had to call,” Louise said. “I got your… suggestion. And got some from my doctor.” Her rejuvenated mind versus the Minder’s recording devices and any recording devices in Mick’s dump of a nursing home: the monitors didn’t stand a chance.
“Changes everything, don’t it?” Mick said, laughing raucously. “Every-fuckin’-thing.”
“Every goddamn thing,” Louise agreed. “You know, I dreamed last night. And I remembered bits of it. First time in forever.”
“I loved it the first time it happened too,” Mick said.
“You were in the dream, Mick,” Louise said, imagery rushing back to her now her neurons were firing again. “You were the cutest little baby butch, and we were at a college, or in a castle or something. With other young women. It was deliriously beautiful; purple wisteria in bloom draped over everything, Gothic points on all the windows and doors, stained glass windows, a warm summer breeze that was just the right temperature…”
“I know,” Mick interrupted.
Louise stopped at the tone in her old lover’s voice. In the silence stretching across the country between them, she could hear the click and hum of the recorders. Mick wasn’t just saying that she knew the joy of dreaming so vividly. She meant…
“You know?” Louise couldn’t stop herself from asking the question.
“I make sure I take it before bed,” Mick said, as if responding to a different question.
“The doctor said…” Louise began.
“I don’t get full effect unless I do that,” Mick said, tension under the skin of her voice.
“Ah… hunh,” Louise said. As usual, Mick was running circles around her. Wasn’t she only just now feeling high and mighty? She did wish Mick had turned on the video.
“Give it a try,” Mick said. “We ought to go.”
Louise swallowed, inhaled, and blinked. “Yeahhh,” she said. “Yeah, you’re right. It’s good to hear your voice, darlin’.”
“Always makes my day to talk to you,” Mick said, back to her usual warmth. “Love you.”
“Always love you,” Louise said.
“See you in my dreams,” Mick said, just before hanging up.
Of course she took another dose just before bed. Wouldn’t anyone?