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[He realized that, while once again caught up in thoughts, he had been staring at the ground, so he promptly looked up. And as he did, he barely believed what immediately caught his eyes, right in front of him.]
Two red doors, seemingly from out of nowhere. Another anxious rumination gone to waste. There were three doorbells. The bottom one had no name on it, the middle one just said “Neurology.” The top one said “Nathan Fields.” Pressing it didn’t generate any doorbell sound, at least not one that was audible downstairs.
Chess’ mind was just about to go to battle with itself on the question of how long he should wait to press the bell a second time. If he simply hadn’t pressed it right the first time, waiting might make it seem that he had trouble finding the apartment after all and make him feel like a silly bitch. If it was working properly, pressing it again would betray his anxiety, automatically lowering his status towards Nate. Then a loud, reverberating buzz emerged from the door that unlocked itself.
Oh right, but what floor is he on? I guess the third one.
Chess started walking up the stairs, counting the cash he had brought one last time, to avoid any confusion afterwards about how much he’d have actually spent. Twenty and twenty is forty. And that’s fifty. That’s ninety…
The door on the third floor was ajar, allowing Chess to assume this was the place to be. He still knocked to announce his entry. Across the room, a skinny, gentle-looking, middle-aged man wearing a white overcoat, assumingly Nate, was seated behind a presidential office desk, courteously smiling away. A little out of whack for a common drug dealer, it seemed to Chess. But he was especially relieved not having to deal with some sleazy, overblown alpha-male that would scare him into buying the wrong shit.
“Well hello, Chess.”
Nate had gotten up from behind the desk and casually reached out his hand.
“Yeah, that’s me. And so you’re Nate? Nice to meet you.”
“Yes… So you know what you are here for? Or did you want to take a gander at the goods before deciding on anything?”
“Well, uhm, no. Yeah, I was pretty excited about that uhm new uh? You’re, I mean, you had like new stuff right?
Chess assumed from Nate’s patient smile that he knew what he was talking about.
“So like, how much can I get for ninety, no well… for fifty?”
“That should get you about three to four grams. You know what, I’ll just get you four. Consider it a special trial offer.”
Now chess helplessly tried to recall his conversation with Mark and recalculate. He could have sworn Mark had said he’d be able to get eigth for that money.
Hm… Did he really mean eight ‘grams’? that’s twice what Nate is offering me here! What do I do now? Do I call him out on it? What if I’m wrong. Oh crap. He seems like a nice guy. I don’t think he’s trying to fuck me over. Mark’s probably full of shit. He just told me whatever to make me uncomfortable. It’s a prank to him.
“Is there any chance I could get uhm… eight, for ninety?”
Worst case scenario, I’ll just tell Mark I only used his fifty and give him the whole bag.
From Nate’s face, Chess could immediately tell his desperate attempt didn’t land as hoped. Nate seemed discombobulated by the request. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, breathing rather heavily. He was clearly trying to suppress his displeasure. Then he sighed.
“You know… fo-fo four grams fo fo for fifty was already a very generous offer. No, can’t do it my f-f-ffriend.”
Nate had suddenly picked up a stutter and even though he had just used the term “f-f-friend,” Chess detected a poignant change of spirit. His blood pressure dropped, he lost focus and only now started to hazily take in the room that was surrounding him. The walls were almost entirely covered with post-its, photographs and newspaper articles. It felt icky. He decided to correct course.
“Ok nevermind, you’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking. Can’t blame a dude for trying, right? Just give me whatever I can get for ninety. But if you could just split fifty-worth into one little bag and forty into another.”
The bit of magnetism Nate’s friendly conduct had brought about only a few minutes ago died out even quicker as he now blurted out a deranged laugh, causing Chess to freeze up.
“Ahahahaaaa ok y-y-you know what aha! It’s all good. You want eight grams of new stuff for ninety, I will g-g-get it to you. After all, we’re brothers aren’t we, junior? Just wait here, sit down.”
What a weird thing to say.
Nate was pointing at a leather Chesterfield sofa, next to the door Chess had entered the room from earlier.
“S-s-si-si, si-si, sittt… sit down. I’ll be right back. I’ll only be two minutes.”
Chess took a seat. As soon as Nate left the room from the same door, he started inspecting the newspaper cutouts on the wall behind the sofa.
“Portuguese virus contained before reaching mainland.”
“Mysterious organism still alive?”
“Heart attack rates at normal level says Health minister.”
“New study shows…”
Suddenly a cluster of quite sickening, photographs forced itself on his scrutiny. They showed people with bloodshot eyes and bluish skin, slouching on camping chairs, either dead or asleep with eyes wide open. One of them was being attended to by a nurse or doctor. There was no face in frame but there was a tag… Dr. Fields.
It seemed like Nate was about to cry. Was he ashamed of his stutter? The sadness of it all almost instigated Chess to console him.
“Ok, uhm listen. Thanks again, Nate.”
Sad and confused, Chess handed over the three bills of money he had actually been holding in his left hand the whole time. He stuffed the bags of weed in the inside pockets of his jacket and stepped out of the door.
“Hey Chester,” said Nate who had just lighted a joint that visibly soothed him, “nice couch, right? By the way, let me tell you a little secret. If you really want to get your money’s worth… don’t smoke it. Swallow some of it with saltwater. You won’t remember a thing, I promise.”
“Good to know.”
Downstairs, Chess pressed a metal button below a sign that said “Open door.” Once again, the door unlocked and once again a loud reverberating buzz startled him a little bit. A random thing Mark had said to him on the ride here popped up in his mind:
“There’s a bottom to the ocean, you know.”
What the hell just happened?
Standing outside the door, dazed, facing the street curb, he took out one of the little bags from his pocket. He noticed it had a small label on it: Protozoário #3.
There was no Range Rover to be seen. In fact there were no cars at all. There was barely anybody.