The air was humid and drops of rain hung on the window. A hum came from the fluorescent bulb in the drop-tile ceiling. The man sat on the table across from a desk built into the wall. The man checked his watch. 9:45. His paper robe fluttered. The light was bright, and his penis didn’t work.
She held out a hand. Fine, delicate, not the hand of a worker. Perhaps the hand of someone who writes prescriptions. She sat in a chair, low, with swivel wheels. The chair was black. She wore a white lab coat. “Sorry I’m late, Mr. Hemingway. I’m Dr. Swenson. What brings you in today?”
“The weather has been damp.”
“True, so… allergies? Do you spend a lot of time outdoors?”
“On the barco de pesca Pilar.”
“Oh, hold on a sec.” The doctor swiveled to the door and turned the knob. “Ashley? Can you get the Spanish translator for me? Thanks a bunch.” She swiveled back. “Part of our inclusiveness initiative.”
A poster, UNDERSTANDING THE NERVOUS SYSTEM, hung on the wall. It showed a flayed body. There were words but they did not matter.
“So, let’s go over your intake form. Weight seems a little high. Tell me about your eating habits.”
“Marlin. Oysters. Rioja Alta. El ron cubano.”
She swiveled to the door. “Ashley? That translator in Exam Three, please?” She swiveled back. “I’d like to see more fruits and vegetables. Here’s a pamphlet on the Mediterranean diet.”
She looked at the clipboard on her lap. A high whistle came from the air conditioning vent, the exhalation of a machine trying to control nature. “It says here your alcohol consumption is twenty-to-thirty drinks per day. Did you mean two-to-three?”
“The day is hot.”
“Okay, we can circle back to that once the translator gets here. You wrote that the reason for your visit is to get ‘medication for The Condition.’ Can you tell me more?”
“The medication. It’s simple. Then we’ll be happy again like we were before,” the man said. “We were happy once. She agrees.”
“By ‘we,’ you mean you and your partner?”
“It’s easy,” the man said. “A pill. Maybe washed down with a cerveza. A pill and the problem goes away.”
“Generally, I don’t recommend taking medication with alcohol.”
“If the effects last for more than four hours I must call you. This I understand.”
“But Mr. Hemingway, I’m unclear on what pill you’re talking about.”
“For the condition. It happens to all men.”
The young bullfighter in the bar had said it never happened to him but the man knew that was not true, for this problem was universal.
“A pill for men? Are you talking about erectile dysfunction?”
“I seek the single pack so it can travel with me. I prefer not to stay in one place.”
“Mr. Hemingway, before we resort to medication, we should talk about lifestyle issues. The alcohol, obviously. And stress. Are you under a lot of pressure? Your occupation is…” She examined the paper on her clipboard. “A writer. Well, that explains a lot. So, I think we should start with a blood panel and EKG. Then we’ll go from there. Sound good?”
She would not write the prescription. Not today. Maybe not any day. The man looked out the window. The clouds had thickened. It was raining again. His gaze rested on the hills perched low on the horizon.
“All I want is to hold hands while sitting in the side-by-side tinas de bano.”
“Ashley, that translator, please!”