Of Tea and Sympathix


With lime green floral shears, Lori cut the tight, twisted rubber band from its colorful bunch of flowers. Blood orange cosmos, blue-violet columbines, lacy fern fronds rained down into the kitchen sink. Snip, snip, snip, with quick, efficient motions Lori cut each flower stem diagonally. The warm sun rested on her bent shoulders. With a quick deliberate head gesture, she turned on Netazon. The home screen appeared a few inches Lori’s face with its familiar red N logo bounded by the date, the time, and a friendly “Hi, Lori, what are we watching today? Here’s what’s trending” below. Her fingers gently sorted the blooms.

She looked up at the glimmering images. Sports Highlights, Best WorldStar Clips of 2039 Volume 2, British mystery show, Comedy movie, another British mystery show, each flitted by. The Great British Baking Show flickered before her eyes. Ooo bread week, she thought, this is a good day. With a swift up-down head movement, Lori selected her show. She adjusted its volume quickly so as not to disturb Jameson typing away on his old Tab with a mug of Earl Grey besides him at the kitchen table. Lori surveyed the flowers, absentmindedly dried her hands on her sunny yellow apron, and headed for the dining room.

The screen winked off as Lori turned and flashed on again to her left as she searched the top shelf of her antique pie safe. The opening music played over images of a tent full of anxious amateur bakers and then a quick fade to commercial. Lori rummaged a lower shelf.

“Not feeling yourself? Overwhelmed? Always anxious? Now’s there’s help. Now there is Flaviron,” said the commercial.

A beautiful model with silver temples wrapped in an elegant knitted shawl walked solemnly under autumn trees in the commercial. The announcer’s placid tone washed over Lori. She selected one of her favorite vases, a tall slender fluted cylinder of milk glass with scalloped edges that Jameson and she had gotten at that little shop in Providencetown when they had hid that time from a sudden rainstorm. Lori ran her fingers along the smooth, familiar surface.

“…the long-acting solution to depression, bipolar disorder, baby blues,” the commercial continued, curling around her head.

She snatched a green metal frog and returned to the kitchen. From the corner of her eye, Lori could see the lovely model twirling merrily under falling golden leaves, shawl flowing around her, her head thrown back.

“Honestly, I don’t believe what the Commission said I know the computers are listening to anything we say and selling our information to Facebook and AppleSoft and the government and God know who else. Just the other day I was telling Suz I wanted to spruce up my look and Facebook I kid you not sent my ads for hair extensions and exercise bras all day. I mean honestly I couldn’t even enjoy Ollie’s fall break photos. Honestly, it’s like—“

“Are you all right?” Jameson’s tone more than his question struck her into silence. Lori search his face, the dark rimmed glasses, the serious hazel eyes with laugh lines, the salt and pepper hair, the tightly clenched mouth. She followed his gaze to her own hand and then realized she was squeezing the frog so tightly that its tiny metal prongs had pricked her flesh and a thin ribbon of blood trailed down her arm. Lori rushed to the sink and bathed her fingers in cool water. The baking reality show returned over the sink. The hosts telling jokes about bread in the English countryside. Lori hummed to herself under the cool water as Jameson’s eyes surveyed her movements. His gaze returned to his device.  

This is a good day. Briskly, Lori returned to the flowers. The screen slightly above her head showed contestants frantically making brioche. Jameson and I had coffee and toast and eggs this morning. No headaches, no gray cloud. Such a good day. We went to the farmers’ market and the weather was lovely. We went to that stand with the good crumb cakes and there were beets and collards and even a handful of gorgeous grape tomatoes and Jameson had picked out two bouquets for her.

Lori placed the metal frog in the vase’s base and filled the container with warm water and an aspirin. Then she added each flower cautiously building up the arrangement. She pulled the leaves from each flower stem below the water line and imagined pulling off her own skin in long strip the way you peel Granny Smiths for a pie. She pushed the thought away. Above her, the contestants continued to race around their baking stations.

“Not feeling yourself? Overwhelmed? Always anxious? Now’s there’s help.” The sounds of the commercial returned.

Without looking up, Lori moved more quickly, crushing the bits of stem and leaves into the garbage disposal with a long wooden spoon. Flowers slammed together. “Hon, did you see that funny video from Oliver? I don’t know if he sent to you, too. Where he found his girlfriend’s cat in his shoebox?” Lori’s voice was cheerful and eager.  “He tried to put the box lid on and that cat wasn’t having it. He always knows how to have a good time, my Ollie. He was a happy baby and he is still is—

“Now there is Flaviron. The freedom of Flaviron.

“I know he hates to hear me call him baby, but he’s always my baby boy and speaking of babies did you see Taylor’s photos of Isaac and Ruby? Can you believe they are graduating?” Her voice rose higher, came faster.

“FDA approved Flaviron is the long-acting solution to depression, bipolar disorder, baby blues with the total suppression of all strong emotions. Flaviron puts you back in control. Flaviron puts your family back on track. Contact your doctor today for–

“I remember holding them in my arms. I remember the day they were born as if it were yesterday and now they are both taller than me and actually graduating high school.” Delphiniums, ragged pieces of asparagus fern, columbines, ranunculus, cosmos, she plowed them in, spearing each in place. Lori raced into the dining room, vase in hand, towards the dining table, paper thin ranunculus petals falling behind her. Suddenly her midriff hit the dining room chair and she dropped the heavy vessel on the table. The vase fell and tripped over almost in slow motion, water raced across the table, flowers splattered.

“Are you all right?” Jameson said.

He rushed into the room, his hands found her waist. Lori sidestepped his grasp and started mopping up the water with an embroidered yellow cocktail napkin with one hand while the vase in the other hand gently leaked water from a hairline crack. Over Lori’s head a grey-haired woman was spinning and then one of those baking shows Lori liked so much came on.  Jameson took the vase from her, placed it in the sink, and fetched paper towels for the floor and table. I’ll have to get that vase mended. There is a guy who sharpens knives at the farmers’ market. I think he can mend pottery and vases and stuff. I’ll looked up his shop. It’s still a good day. I can pick up some nice roses too at the supermarket when I get the milk. First a nap. My head, my head. Her shoulders were raised and her head throbbed. Jameson turned off the program with an abrupt gesture and Lori looked up at him with a grateful smile. He kissed her forehead gingerly.

Jameson returned to his Tab after Lori had wearily climbed the stairs for bed. He sat down wearily, his Earl Grey long grown cold. An ad popped up on his device screen. It was an attractive older woman walking under trees. The woman in the ad had a scarf, a little like the ones Lori used to knit when Oliver was little. She was always doing projects, making things. Jameson took a long draw of his cold, now bitter tea. Is Your Loved One Not Herself? Would you like to learn more? it read. His hand hovered over the ad then he brushed it away.

Jameson had been researching Flaviron for weeks. He read about the success rates in the clinical trials, the significant positive effects in prisons and juvenile detention facilities. He had pored over articles and blogs, potential side effects, potential benefits, the pros and the cons. This wasn’t like that terrible thing with Sympathix last year, he said to himself. Not at all. Besides you can believe everything you read anymore. The press were always making up bogeymen, creating tempests in teapots to sell more ads. People love to sit around and bitch and moan instead of actually doing things, getting things done. Granted a few people got hurt with Sympathix, a few out of many, and they were pretty messed up to begin with. Besides that was a different drug company and they had finagled the early trials. That couldn’t happen again.

“Everyone is always so sensitive nowadays over every little thing.” Jameson said out loud.

The ad refreshed on his Tab.

“Now, there’s Flaviron. The freedom of Flaviron,” the announcer said. An image appeared of the same attractive woman wrapped in a shawl now walking arm in arm with a guy through a park in autumn.

Jameson thought about a trip Lori and he had taken to New England years ago. A smile came to his lips. He knew under the latest guidelines husbands could seek and obtain prescriptions for their wives. It is done all the time. Would it be so bad to try? Just a little and he could stop if there was the slightest side effect. What’s the big deal? New and Improved, now colorless and tasteless. Would you like to learn more?

Jameson finished his mug of tea and tapped the ad.

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