By Sean Murley
Solomon, glancing at his watch, hurried down the crowded sidewalk. His meeting with Greg, his therapist, had gone longer than normal, and he was now five minutes late for an important marketing meeting at ABM, a major drug manufacturer. They had just gotten FDA approval for a new drug to go to the market, one which made people feel extremely elated for fifteen minutes at a time. It was intended for depressed people, but it was his job to turn this drug into a phenomenon. Something that teens would share at parties, something that non-depressed adults with three kids and a nearly empty house in a new suburb would think they needed. The drug wasn’t addictive, but he had to make it seem so. All he had to do was sell the idea of being happy, even for the shortest bit, to get people to buy it. Weaving through the crowd on the sidewalk, his shoulder accidentally glanced another person’s. The man turned toward Solomon, and the two locked eyes. The man glared at him for this terrible social infringement. Solomon’s heart starting beating faster, as he stared into the face of his brother.
Adam ran down the field, the ball jumping off each dirt patch. He got closer and closer to the goal. The ball popped up off his foot, and Solomon jumped with extended hands out of the goal toward the soccer ball. Adam jumped as well, headfirst into the edge of Solomon’s elbow, as he grabbed the ball. Adam fell to the ground, staying motionless for a moment. Solomon, knelt beside him on the ground, shaking him, asking, “Are you okay?” Solomon walked through the glass doors to an empty waiting room. He sank in one of the plush chairs and put his feet up on a coffee table littered with self-help books. The door to Greg’s office suddenly opened and a middle-aged man with thick round glasses and a woman with a small dog shoved in her black purse walked out. Solomon headed into the office that was filled with old books that Solomon didn’t recognize. Greg sat at his desk, which was cluttered with wooden puzzles and copies of the New York Times.
“How are you,” he asked, looking up from the most recent copy of TIME magazine on his desk. The cover showed the face of Mr. Evergreen, the head of ABM.
“Good,” Solomon said, not looking at Greg, but at a cardinal outside his window.
“I know we had to end our session rather abruptly last time,” Greg said, “so I want you to continue telling me about your brother Adam. What was he like?”
Solomon looked down at the floor, and began speaking in a soft voice, “Adam was always the more athletic one, and that concussion had been the final blow to his athletic career, since he’d had five before that. No more football, soccer. Nothing.” Solomon paused for a moment. He had a blank look on his face. His eyes avoided Greg’s, as he gazed outside. “From then on all he did was sit inside watching terrible Godzilla movies on our family’s old square television. He always sat with his legs up in the recliner, as if it were his legs that had been injured. He skipped college, and went straight to work in a factory that made airplane parts for Boeing. News of airplane crashes always upset him. He got a distant look in his eye, each time.” Solomon stopped, and looked out the window. Greg turned to see what he was staring at. The cardinal had disappeared.
“Watch it,” the stranger said, disappearing into the mass of the crowd.
“Sorry,” Solomon said in a soft voice, his words fading into the wind, nearly as soon as he said them. Solomon stood there several moments in the midst of a current of people. It seemed that even with all the noise he could still hear the sound of his watch ticking as each second passed. His eyes followed the supposed stranger. Solomon took out his small orange pill bottle that held his two remaining anti-anxiety meds, which rattled in the plastic container. “I’ll be fine tomorrow,” he thought, swallowing the last two tablets. He carried on walking. A vagabond was huddled in a large overcoat, resting against the glass panes of ABM’s headquarters with a cup in his hand. As Solomon passed, the beggar lifted his head. “Change, sir,” the beggar said. Solomon stopped in his tracks. This misplaced soul looked eerily similar to Adam, same long, messy hair, same piercing brown eyes. He couldn’t stand it. Reaching for his faded, almost empty leather wallet from his back pocket, he took out a five-dollar bill and handed it to the man on the sidewalk. “Thank you, sir,” he said. Solomon, now fifteen minutes late, nodded, starting to walk again. He should have driven to the meeting, but he had his license temporarily revoked after driving through a park late one night. The officer who had stopped him found the little orange bottle in the backseat, along with a half-empty bottle of gin. Solomon glanced back at the homeless man, whose head hung down once again, staring at his cup.
Darkness obscured the road ahead. Adam was driving down an empty road, and trees were all that could be seen for miles. The radio was turned to some old rock station, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” started playing through one of the speakers, while the other emitted a faint buzzing noise. He turned it up way too loud. Solomon laid his head back, trying in vain to fall asleep. Outside the window was a blur. He faded in and out of consciousness, from pure exhaustion. He awoke to a red and blue collage assaulting his weary eyes, which hadn’t adjusted to such intense sudden light. His ears were more attuned and could clearly hear the sirens ring. Adam pulled over, and the cop approached the window. It was a brief interaction, that ended with Adam in the back of the police car. A highly unflattering mugshot of him appeared in the newspaper the next day. That was the last time Solomon saw his brother.
He had seen Greg twice already that week, and Solomon sat in the waiting room once more. Another person was with him this time. She sat across from him, staring down at her phone. He stared straight at her, and the longer he looked the more her face seemed like Adam’s. The features slowly appeared the longer he looked at her. Her narrow face, her short brown hair, looked exactly like Adam’s. He tried convincing himself that this wasn’t true, that they didn’t look similar in the slightest. After a while she looked up to see him making eye contact. Suddenly the door opened, and both of them turned to look into the office. It was Solomon’s turn.
Greg looked the same as the other two visits, just with a different colored shirt. “How are you?” he asked in typical fashion. Solomon answered as he always did, “Good.”
“So where did Adam go after he got out,” Greg asked, picking up the conversation from their last meeting, yesterday.
“I’m not sure,” Solomon said. “When he got out, I never heard from him again, but then I moved here and started seeing him all around. Complete strangers, appearing exactly like him.”
“Has your prescription not been helping assuage these, delusions?” Greg said.
Solomon said nothing for a short while, simply staring outside at the tree where he saw the cardinal, only it wasn’t there. Greg was talking, but Solomon had given up listening. He wasn’t going to show up to the next appointment, and Greg would find some other poor soul to ask how they were. His orange pill bottle hadn’t had any of his meds for a week now. In place of his anxiety medicine, Solomon had snuck a bottle of the new drug he was trying to market.
“Solomon,” Greg said, “Have you talked to these ‘Adams’?” He shook his head no, and sat through a few more minutes of Greg’s benign questions. As Solomon left the office, he took one of the new pills, experiencing one of the happiest moments he had ever experienced. Fifteen minutes later he was lying in a dumpster a block from his apartment.
Solomon walked in the ABM building, which resembled a glass pillar. Light flooded in from the glass windows, and dim lamps hung overhead. Several people were sitting in the smooth, pristine marble lobby. As Solomon headed to the elevator, he caught a glimpse of one of them. Solomon knew it wasn’t Adam, that it couldn’t be. Nevertheless, the man who looked like Adam got out of his chair and began walking towards him. The circular button lit up as he touched it. The doors opened into an elevator lined with mirrors. Thousands of Solomons could be seen in that dark box. Which one was the real one, he wondered. The doors started closing, as the man who looked like Adam approached. He reached toward the elevator as the doors shut, leaving Solomon alone in his ascent. He took the last of his stolen drugs, just as the doors opened to a room filled with business men and women. All discussion ended when they saw him grinning like a maniac. “You’re late,” Mr. Evergreen said. Solomon, having little excuse, simply apologized. “Alright, well. Show us what you’ve got.” With a sordid smile on his face, Solomon took out his empty bottle, threw it on the black glass table, and walked through the elevator doors as they closed.
It was raining when Solomon walked out of the ABM building. Though he only had his coat to protect him from the rain, he didn’t mind. He was chemically as happy as could be. He sat down on an uncomfortable metal bench, under the shade of a large oak tree in the middle of a park. A ray of light broke through from the clouds. Someone that looked like Adam came and sat next to him. Neither said anything. They both looked forward at the rain falling upon the trees, as sunlight glared in their eyes.