I would, under more mundane circumstances, be the first to admit that reads can be wrong, but as I stand here, my gaze locked with his, I can find no shred of doubt anywhere: he will fight. It must be a particularly distant cousin of logic that tells him I’m the enemy here. Asking him to explain his thinking would be useless. I know my client well enough to know that. His reasons are his own, but frankly his reasons don’t matter anyway. Central Planning requires his torture, and my assignment is simply to help him bear it. My job wouldn’t change a bit if I suddenly knew why he resists me.
This torture session, much to my annoyance, has actually stayed to its original scheduling. If Planning could have delayed it by even forty-eight hours, I would have had a much easier week. Hell, these things get bounced around by months all the time… but not for me, I guess. So, here we are, session well underway.
“Agony” is too strong a word for his current condition. “Severe discomfort” is closer to the mark. The lances have been pressing in firmly for a while now, and his flesh should tear any moment. I’m told this is the worst part – the build-up rather than the eventual rending. You’d think I’d know, having gone through the exact same torture protocol myself, but we have a way of suppressing such memories. As far as I’m aware, no one remembers their pass through the process, despite Planning’s requirement that everyone (with extremely rare exception) go through it.
The entire system is bizarre. If some race of extraterrestrial voyeurs were to look down at our civilization’s inability to rid itself of this exercise, what would they think? We’ve gone from stone tools, to fire, to pack hunting, to agriculture, to animal husbandry, to the industrial revolution, to electrical grids, to telephony, to the automobile, to modern medicine, to home computers, to the ability to summon information out of thin air onto a handheld device that can even read that information to you if you so wish… yet we somehow have remained slaves to this excruciating protocol? “That’s bonkers,” they would say. “Fucking bonkers.”
The first move is mine. As I pick up my tools – and I’m well-trained in their use, even if I don’t understand the chemistry involved – I can’t help but try giving off a sense of fellowship, an unconscious gesture that will in practice do squat. Indeed, the instant I move in to begin my work, he strikes violently at my right arm with his left. I anticipate this fully, revealing my first advance to be a pump fake. I pull my hand away and quickly return it back, coming in behind his passing blow. He immediately pulls his head far to the right so that it’s tucked behind his now finished left hook. On the whole he’s outmatched, but his speed and dexterity are still formidable. Without delay, I reach under his arm, hoping his view of the injector will be blocked while I use my free hand to feign an approach from above…
Damn! Surely that should have worked.
After a seeming eternity of thrusts and parries, I contemplate giving up. It’s his torture. I’m only trying to help, and if he so violently refuses my efforts, what can I do? After a point, the cure becomes worse than the disease, and that’s as much a failure for me as anything. If I can’t deliver in th…
An opening! Whether it was blind luck or whether my thoughts interrupted the cadence of the battle just enough, I don’t care. His hands are defending all the wrong trajectories, and his mouth is opened just wide enough. In a flash, the package is delivered. He tries desperately to remove it before his body takes it in, but my aim was true. The inside of the cheek is a perfect location, and he can’t do anything about it now.
I pack up my gear. We’re both calmer, happier now. His torture will continue. I can’t stop that. But at least he’ll suffer less, for a time.
My 12-month old son has some molars coming in. It hurts. He doesn’t like me giving him children’s tylenol through the little syringe thingy, even though he actually likes the taste and it makes him feel sooooo much better.