Sorry, What Was The Question Again? - September, 2031

Geoffrey Miller - Cli-Fi



‘Sorry, what was the question again?’

The hum of incandescent flood lights held my pulse, soberly. I pulled my eyes back from the window, returning to the dull baby blue hospital ward. The social worker waited for my full attention.

I tried.

Consciously, I rotated my torso back to face her, put down the rubber band I’d been fiddling with and tried once again. ‘Sorry Doctor’, I offered, ‘What were you saying about treatment options?’ He held his gaze on me for a moment and scribbled down a few notes. His handwriting was surprisingly neat for such a well respected clinician. ‘Well, there's no perfect formula but we usually find that some combination of lithium, zyprexa and seroquil usually does the trick.

I cut him off there.

‘Okay perfect, I’m happy with however you choose to medicate me’. I flashed my not-so-pearly whites with a big grin and continued. ‘So, if that’s the plan, do you mind if I go? They usually only have the outdoor courtyard open for about an hour a day and my lungs are craving some fresh morning air.’

I hoped that was the end of it for the day. I stood up to leave.

‘Luca, wait.’ I felt his stern tone. I sat.

‘I need to go through these treatment options with you carefully. I haven’t even mentioned Cognitive Behavioural Therapy yet.’ He must have noticed the urgency in my eyes. ‘But don’t you worry, I’ll have you out of there with enough time for lunch.’

The point flew right past his nose.

‘But - ‘ he cut in again; launching into a list of possible side effects and therapeutic doses. My eyes once again wandered back to the window. The morning light had faded into a clear blue sky, yet the ground outside still slightly damp from last night's rain. The plants, clinically cultivated yet so inviting to touch. I heard the fig trees soft green leaves calling my name.

And a single green fig, hanging from the only tree in the courtyard.

‘Are you still listening?’ Dr Ellevin asked.

No, I thought, I’m about to miss out on outdoor time. I longed for the touch of soil and some Vitamin D. The bell rang, time for lunch.

‘Thanks Doc, I’ll give this medication a go.’

I guess I’ll get some air tomorrow.




‘We follow the hospital policies’, he stated. I listened for the empathy in his tone but never found it.

‘Could you give me an estimated time?’ I pleaded. I realised my next breath would be wasted. ‘Thanks, I guess I’ll just wait until I’m allowed outside.’ Defeated once again, I returned to my room to read.

10 minutes in 36 hours. I don’t understand these healthcare policies.






‘Nope, you can’t make that move’, I sat back in my chair. The hum returned. My headache pulsed.

Mullan’s eyes darted around the board, frantically searching for a move to avoid his fifth straight loss. He’d given up trying to teach me anything, but refused to let me walk away undefeated. I wondered whether I should let him win a game. He had the build of a linebacker and yesterday I watched him accelerate from a seated conversation with me, into a vicious fight with someone else in the ward. Every staff member above six foot had raced onto the patio to stop the chaos.

The trigger word was ‘racist’. As it turns out, that label was well-deserved. Unfortunately, I’d discovered that fact after a late night roomie chat. Now he won’t stop referring to me as his best friend.

I just.

I just didn’t know.

I’ve never thought to assume the worst of people. I wish I didn’t have to.

I wish.





‘Sorry, what was the question?’ The nurse still hadn’t looked up from her computer.

‘I just asked for a written confirmation of my admission status.’ I tried to present a calm and rational tone.

I tried.

‘Ask your doctor tomorrow’, she retorted. Still no eye contact. I went to lie down, mind humming, hands shaky. I only caught a moment of quiet before the linebacker found me. I tried to pretend I was asleep, with no luck. I had an itch on my calf and he caught me in the act. I had no choice but to talk cocaine. My head pulsed. I thought about telling the nurses, but I didn’t want another pill. ‘Must be the medication’, they’d hypothesize. As if it was the only stimuli in the ward.

‘Watkins,’ the nurse ordered. Thank. God. Bye Mullan, I chuckled internally, enjoy your drug fantasies.

The nurse waited for my full attention.

‘Doctor Ellevin decided to up your dose by 5 milligrams and added some blood pressure medication.’


Written by Geoffrey Miller


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