Immortality News: A Novel
From Chapter 14:
On some days, Gary Ramas rode the Medeopolis Transport Company bus to work. The bus stopped only a block from the condo he and Larry Fraser shared, a couple of miles from the hospital. When he didn't walk, or jog, he took the bus and liked it. Its wheezing engines made a comfortable noise to think against, like gushing water. And there was often a new person or two on board, someone he had never met before....
Even from the curb, Gary could feel that puff of air conditioning the instant those hydraulic doors of the bus sighed open. Ah, better. He made his way to a middle seat. Not many passengers today--just Mrs. Eisenstein, who waved as she disembarked at the next stop. Too bad. Gary enjoyed talking to strangers. There was a story behind every one of them. Most people were not dangerous, honey, contrary to some opinions, and not crazy.
Whenever he met someone new, Gary made himself alert to the person's spiritual geography--first the bright center, then the outlying shadows. Sometimes with only a few minutes of conversation, or even during a phone call, Gary would see enough. He would trace a clear line around the healthy regions of a person’s soul, to bring them into view.
Gary spoke to whatever shone through in a person. He didn't waste time staring at the person's dark places, or his own for that matter. He cast those shadows off, put them behind him. He had decided that was the way Jesus would do it. Gary had fallen in love with the man Jesus twenty years ago, as a choirboy in the Santacruzan Catholic Church on Tenth Street, attended by many Filipino residents of Medeopolis. At the same time, he had fallen out of love with the Catholic God and his Church. These days Gary didn’t consider himself a Christian, just a Jesus admirer on a reading journey through the world’s religions.
The way Gary saw it, the dark regions in a person’s spirit were like disease, and the bright spots were health. You could call it evil and good, you could call it whatever you wanted. Gary was a healer by trade, and to heal a person you bolstered up the health, then trimmed away the rest whenever you got the chance. You just tried to remember that everyone had a story....
Some chances you took were stupid, and others were for a good reason. Like his trip five days ago to the protocol fridge with the eye dropper. In the dead of night, for heaven’s sake. For a good reason. The new "immune system strengthener" being tested under the Fraser-Connelly-Vandermeer proposal was exactly what was needed to bolster Gary's immune system and raise the odds that he could carry a pregnancy to term. They would never miss a few drops from the vials in the fridge, Gary figured, not with clinical trials as smooth and fast as these....
He had taken a spare vial with him, because he couldn't not try something, anything, for Junior K, that kid in the Burn Unit. Already Junior had languished there for a month, and a month in the life of a five-year-old was eternity. No matter how I try to cheer him up, Gary thought, this little person under all those layers of necrotizing tissue is losing himself.
Gary called the boy "Junior" because one day the little guy had whispered to Gary, "Don’t call me Stephan, please. Call me something else. My father's name is Stephan."
...Gary shuddered to recall the half hour he had spent last Friday night, five days ago, behind that locked inner door. Thirty full legitimate vials in the main rack and two illegitimate vials cuddled up in an adjacent rack, with the eyedropper ferrying the thick dark-purple liquid back and forth, and his own hand, somehow, right there on the squeeze bulb. He had felt completely naked. If anyone had entered, not one single thing could he have said.
Take a yoga breath, he had told himself. True, someone might see you. But this feels right. It doesn't feel wrong. Gary had read somewhere that goodness--or godness--could operate at the molecular level. After all, resurrection of the body is what normal cells do anyway. They renew one cell at a time, all the time. Good cells can evolve out of evil aberrances, toward life everlasting. Didn’t some theologian say that already? So, walk into the future. Leave the evil cells behind.
You had to take the good as you found it, one drop at a time. Two drops for Junior, two for the Ramas-Fraser baby. Two more for Junior, two more for little Ramas-Fraser. It must have taken forty or fifty transfers.... Next time, cupcake--if there was a next time--he would just pilfer one of the things and be done with it.
That same night, Gary appeared at Junior's bedside, after Carmela had departed, and told the boy, "It’s a vitamin drink, my own special flavoring. Sort of bubble gum, sort of berry. Lick your lips, now. I know. Your lips are so sore. It's all right. Good. You did a wonderful job, you got every drop."