Chapter Description: The check-ups are done, the tests begin.
Losing Weight(Chapter 2)
The check-ups are done, the test begins.
The next day started right to the schedule. At 7:30 am the testers were weighed, measured and taken blood samples from individually and at 8:00 am they met the doctors in the cafeteria. Anton threw a short look at Michelle, but she didn’t meet neither his nor Christine’s eyes. The latter moved around even a bit slower than yesterday. Probably she was off the painkillers for the tests. Remembering the last time, he had been too curious, Anton said nothing, but watched, as Dr. Robinson and Dr. Anderson unpacked three syringes filled with clear liquid.
„You all read the plan we handed to you yesterday,” Dr. Robinson began. „You get the drug and then we start a new round of exercises.”
„Can we at last have something to drink?” Christine asked, her voice hinting discomfort.
„You will get refreshments later,” Dr. Robinson replied smiling. „Who wants to get the first injection? Mr. Lubowsky?”
Anton shrugged and offered his arm. The sting hurting only for a short moment and while Dr. Anderson placed a patch on it, Michelle and Christine got their shots. Next the testers were led to a training room where they took up where they left the day before. Stretching, throwing medicine balls, sitting on them for more exercises.
It was mostly the same as yesterday, except that when they jogged in rounds outside, Anton noticed his stamina had improved quite a bit, as he felt not near as powered out as before. A quick look around revealed that Michelle held herself better than yesterday, too and Christine walked with a steady space which and an expression on her face which showed determination despite of the pain she had to feel.
The training session ended and the testers left for their rooms to refresh before dinner and the start of the next session. Anton felt as if he could train the whole day though. When drying after shower, Anton stepped on the scale, read the result and repeated the process. This couldn’t be right! Seven pounds since the morning! Anton looked in the big mirror. There were no too obvious changes. His second chin seemed to have receded a bit, but he simply could imagine things. What he didn’t imagine was that he felt no hunger or even thirst. Now that he thought of it, Christine hadn’t asked for something to drink after the exercise. None of them had.
When he laid down on his bed to continue reading The Hunt for Red October, it suddenly knocked on the door. Anton rose from bed and adjusted the band of his fresh sweatpants which seemed just a bit too loose. Making a mental note to use the scale before the next exercise session, Anton told the visitor to come in.
Thus, turned out to be Dr. Anderson holding a notepad.
„Hello Mr. Lubowsky,” he greeted him. „I need a blood sample.”
They sat down at the small table and the doctor began taking the sample with a syringe.
„I’m sorry, but there are also some questions we failed to ask during your arrival,” Dr. Anderson admitted while putting a patch on the artery. „Do you mind if I ask them now?”
„Your last big meal before arriving?”
„A Hot Dog while at the train station, a delivered Hawaii Pizza the day before at home.”
„Your parents’ occupations and jobs?”
Anton wanted to ask, what this had to do with his overweight, but remembered what Michelle had said about her own weight-problems being pretty much hereditary if by genes or tradition.
“Mother lives in Florida. Before he died my father was a clerk and my mother a housewife.”
„Did you move during childhood?”
„I was elven, when we moved from Dallas to San Francisco,” Anton said, remembering the all the friends he had to leave behind back then. „Wasn’t this in the forms I filled out and sent to you?”
Dr. Anderson scratched his chin.
„Could be. We always have slight problems digitalizing the data,” he admitted. „Okay one last question to optimize customer service: How was your arrival?”
„The train had a delay, but your directions were precise. I really liked the air conditioning of your car. Mr. Hanson was very nice and the cool drink a great service,” Anton explained. „I have a question for you, if you don’t mind.”
„Not at all,” Dr. Anderson replied, putting away the pen.
„I lost around eight pounds in one training session. How hard is the risk of your drug causing me to collapse?”
„There has been no complains so far,” Dr. Anderson admitted, not the slightest surprised. „Still, this is a trial, so should you feel unwell, please report it to me or Dr. Robinson.”
„Any chance I can invest into your company?”
Dr. Anderson smiled as he stood up. „I already have.”
Before the next training session, the testers met at 2 o clock for a snack in the cafeteria. All three listlessly and most important without hunger, stabbed in the salad they had been handed and only sipped at their water. Looking at the faces of the others Anton guessed he wasn’t the only one who had dropped some weight. It was Christine who spoke it out.
„Ten pounds. It already was worth it.”
„Nine”, Anton said.
„Eleven”, Michelle added with a slight smile, which just for a moment transformed her face into something more beautiful.
„Did Dr. Robinson ask you these questions, too?” Anton asked.
„Yes, but they were already in our files, weren’t they?” Christine noticed.
„Really?” Michelle asked, only to add: „Guess so.”
„Anyone else worried when our hunger comes back?” Anton asked.
„This evening”, Dr. Robinson noticed, entering the cafeteria. „If you are in line with the other groups.”
„Why then the snacks?” Christine asked.
„We are testing the drug. It could have been different this time,” Dr. Anderson explained. „Ready for the next session?”
They were and if it was the drug, the weight-loss or the additional motivation, Anton found the dumbbells quite easy to lift, the balls easy to throw and the distance easy to jog. This was until the last thirty minutes or so, during which his inner battery seemed to give up. After the last round of throwing balls, he found himself panting quite heavily.
„The drug has run out,” Anton noticed in one of the examination room on the second floor, when Dr. Robinson took a blood sample after weighing. „I can feel it.”
„This is the first day,” she replied.
„I guess after the end of the two weeks I won’t have to worry about weight anymore.”
„No,” Dr. Robinson agreed, looking at him in a strange way for a moment. „I guess not.”
„When will it be released on the market?” Anton continued. „Not that I am not thankful, but I’m not sure I will be able to hold my new weight, not that I won’t try, though. Still there are a lot of people this drug can really help, if the results are the same.”
„I agree with you Mr. Lubowsky,” Dr. Robinson noticed earnestly. „This is why I work so hard … why we work so hard to perfect it. Still the release is not my decision, but that of the higher ups.”
„Anyway,” Anton said. „I am glad I can help you with it!”
„And I’m glad to help you,” Dr. Robinson replied. „Enjoy your free time. We see us tomorrow.”
Anton stood up and left. He quickly wanted to shower and check his new weight. Little did he know that back in the room Dr. Robinson rubbed her eyes, trying to hold herself together.
The three testers enjoyed a dinner with pasta and mincemeat in the cafeteria. Dr. Robinson had assured them that this was part of the testing process and wouldn’t cause them to gain too much weight. For once Anton was willing just to believe them, but he still said no to the vanilla ice cream afterwards, as did Michelle and Christine.
„Does anyone is still in for a walk?” The latter asked.
Anton and Michelle were. As they walked outside, between the walls of the building and the new fences surrounding it, both found Christine walking a slow but steady pace while making good use of her cane.
„I feel like back on painkillers,” she said. „Not the good stuff, but okay.”
„Do you mean the drug serves as painkiller, too?” Michelle asked.
„Maybe, but it is supposed to have stopped. I mean the hunger came back.” Christine shook her head. „I don’t know, but I like it.”
Michelle smiled. „I’m happy for you.”
„Am I the only one who worries what to wear, when this is over?” Anton half-joked.
„I would like to fit in my old cheerleader outfit,” Christine admitted.
„I would like to be able to wear my old football uniform,” Anton said. „One time posting it to my colleagues. I don’t think half of them believes I ever played.”
„I could cheer you on!” Christine offered.
„I would wear anything, as long as I don’t get starred at,” Michelle revealed. „You know being normal.”
They walked silently some time, until Christine stopped abruptly. Anton believed she was in pain, but her face revealed puzzlement.
„Did you hear that?” She asked.
„Hear what?” Anton listened, but believed to only heard the wind.
„For a moment I believed there was a child crying.”
„I hear nothing,” Anton admitted.
„Michelle?” Christine asked.
The other woman shook her head.
„I was probably wrong.”
Anton was silent, remembering the obviously … probably used sand pit he had seen in the inner courtyard. Where they testing this drug on children, too? He couldn’t quite imagine this being legal. Maybe there were other drug trials running. They had hardly seen a third of the complex so far. At best.
„Makes me wonder,” Christine said. „Even if this drug works as we hope our chances for children is probably over. Us women this is.”
„I wouldn’t rule it out yet, with all these possibilities. Adoption for example,” Anton noticed, trying to offer a more optimistic point of view.
„I ... I wouldn’t make a good mother,” Michelle confessed. „I just know ...”
Christine gave her a hug. Anton let himself fall behind a bit to give them privacy. They seemed to have formed a connection. Probably they met while he was reading in his room. Maybe he should concentrate on his people skills for a while. Children though? He felt an awkwardness rise in him again, bolstered by the memories of too many rejections. No, better to focus on the career and maybe throwing some balls with guys in his age. Relieving memories of the golden days as sad as it sounded.
„Well this leaves more energy to focus on the career. Makes you feel better, walking past these cashiers day by day, knowing at last you have a pension ahead of you, once you are in the sixties.”
Anton needed a moment to realise he had actually spoken it out loud and one more to look into Michelle’s eyes and realise that he could hardly have said something more stupid.
„I didn’t mean ...” he began, but she already raced past him, back into the building.
There was a long moment of uncomfortable silence between Christine and Anton.
„What do you do for living?” She asked in a polite tone.
„I’m advertising expert,” Anton answered.
„I’m clerk, accountant to be exact and let me be frank I hope you are better at advertising products than advertising yourself.”
„I am. And I am sorry.”
With this Christine left. Anton, alone and feeling hot from the shame looked up. Back in the hospital building he could see light coming out of windows in the closed off section.
The next morning Anton still felt awkward. So, he blocked all attempts of Dr. Anderson to get him into small-talk about his favourite football team, politics and music, when thus took a blood sample. He went straight in the cafeteria, where he waited for Michelle to arrive, feeling the memories of last evening and the growing hunger take an equal toll on him.
When Michelle did arrive, she made a sour face on seeing him. He wanted to say how sorry he was, but Christine, walking besides her, warned him with a small shake of her head. No talk now, as much as he felt he needed it.
„Everyone ready for the second injection?” Dr. Robinson asked, as she and Dr. Anderson walked in.
The testers nodded and if their lack of enthusiasm was noticed by the doctors, they didn’t mention it when injecting the drug. Quickly Anton felt his hunger fade and his embarrassment being pushed aside by his body telling him it was ready for action. This was an issue he could do something about.
During the first training session of the day he did his best to power himself out. He pushed the dumbbells much quicker than Michelle or Christine, got closer to his toes with his fingertips than in years, pedalled the indoor bicycle much like the last time he had used his real one and nearly lapped Michelle twice when they jogged outside. Still, he felt only half as exhausted as he had before, when he had trained the first time, before the drug.
„No reason to start training for the Olympics right now,” Dr. Robinson warned him. „We have the better part of two weeks ahead of us and there is no reason risking a heart-attack. Not with this pension you planned for, remember how you told me?”
„Uh yeah,” Anton answered.
He was not really paying attention this moment, but looked after Michelle who just went back into the building alongside Christine. Absent-mindedly he tightened the waistband of his sweatpants, as he had three times during the training already. How much did he loose during these three hours?
„You can really see the success already and this all in ...” Dr. Robinson stopped, looking thoughtfully. „When did the limousine pick you up from the train station?”
Anton looked at her confused, having listened only half-heartedly.
„Uh?” He asked.
Dr. Robinson sighed. „It is okay. Go refresh yourself. Next session starts in two hours.”
Anton left for the entrance of the building, looking over his shoulder once before entering and noticing Dr. Robinson and Dr. Anderson talking intensely.
Anton took a long, refreshing shower, feeling like having even more energy when he stepped out. While blow-drying he threw a look on the toilet, realising not just his need for food was gone while the effect of the drug lasted. Stepping on the scale Anton learned he had lost another eight pounds already. It felt unreal.
Still, when Anton put the new training clothes on, he noticed they were just a bit too big for him. The company seemed prepared, so at least the test seemed to go according to plan. He then stuffed the dirty clothes in the blue plastic bag he had been given for this. As Anton put the bag on the floor outside, he looked at the other doors and came to a decision. Burying your problems in sport was better than in food, but still not the real solution, so he walked over to Michelle’s door and knocked.
Michelle opened, looking clean and clearly thinner than he had seen her the first time, but also clearly not having expected him.
„Anton,” she said after a moment.
„I just wanted to say how sorry I’m because of yesterday.”
„Yesterday ...” She looked perplexed for a moment, as if she had forgotten, but then her eyes focussed. „Um yes. It is okay.”
„It is not,” Anton replied earnestly. „It was stupid. I sounded like an asshole and if I have hurt you, I’m sorry.”
„You didn’t want to hurt anyone,” Michelle stated. „That makes it okay. Not good, but okay. The people who say mean things to hurt you that is not okay and there are too many of them. So, we should forget things people did and which weren’t meant to make you feel bad at least. Just forget it.”
Anton nodded, feeling quite a bit relieved. „So, we see us later downstairs?”
„Sure,” Michelle replied with a quick smile and politely closed the door.
Anton stood in front of it a moment, before he returned to his own room. It seemed Michelle was a bit perplexed, but this was probably only natural given the rapid weight-loss they were going through. What she had said so sounded solid, though and given the way she had looked when speaking, made Anton realize she probably had had her fair amount of people being mean to her.
Still Anton promised himself to guard his tongue from now on, as he entered his room and fastened his waistband.
Anton barely had opened the book, when it knocked. Slightly irritated he told the person to come in.
„Hello,” Dr. Anderson began. „I hope I don’t disturb you. We need another blood sample. You remember?”
„Sure,” Anton said, as they took place at the table, wondering if the other man thought him dumb.
„You weight-loss?” Dr. Robinson asked, opening his case and placing a notepad on the table.
„Twenty-two pounds just this morning,” Anton replied and speaking it out made it sound unbelievable.
„How much with yesterday?”
„Great,” Dr. Anderson commented. „How about your calorie consumption. What did you have for dinner yesterday and before you arrived?”
Anton felt the doctor tried to spoof him. He only asked him what he ate before he arrived yesterday and clearly had to know what they ate!
„Steak yesterday ...” Anton teased him, sounding a bit insecure as he wondered about the intention of the other man. „Falafel on the way here and fish on my last day home.”
„Aha,” Dr. Anderson replied in earnest, writing something down and took the syringe.
So, you want to play, Anton thought, while the doctor took the blood sample.
„How about the trip to here?” Dr. Anderson asked, putting the blood sample in the case. „Was everything all right?”
Anton waited a moment. Dr. Robinson had asked the same sort of question, so it was maybe something between them.
„Yes, the driver of the taxi didn’t find the way here at once,” Anton said. „She had to phone her central.”
„That is bad.”
„It is far out here.”
„This indeed,” Dr. Anderson agreed. „I see you outside.”
With this the other man left. Anton stayed at the table a moment, wondering what to make of it. Maybe the doctor just had a special sense of humour. Deciding he had no time for reading a chapter before the next training session, Anton started the TV and watched CNN.
Anton was already outside, when Michelle and Christine came down, the latter going directly to the doctors already present.
„Makes you guess these guys voted for the president,” he noticed, looking at the high hurricane fence.
„Uh?” Michelle asked.
„I mean the president would like this fence.”
„President Obama?” Michelle asked doubtful.
Anton gave her a look. Were they all trying to hoax him?
„Yeah,” he replied, not wanting to risk to strain their relationship again. „Sure.”
„Time for the training,” Dr. Robinson called them. „Please gather here.”
Anton started the next training session slower. He still felt full of energy but he didn’t know how long this would last. He saw no reason to find himself totally out of breath after half an hour. He also saw no reason to risk a heart-attack – as Dr. Anderson had pointed out – the sort of which he had feared for so long after it caused his father’s early death. There was a lot to look ahead.
It was during the jogging, that he noticed the change in Christine for the first time. Had she before only walked in a steady pace she now ran, or rather limped quite quickly. Her face revealed some pain behind the determination, but she held on for nearly a round, before shifting back to her normal speed. Anton was more than impressed.
During half of the session, he was just throwing medicine balls, Anton felt the drug wear off. He didn’t feel powered out – indeed at this point he felt better than the last time this had happened – but he once again felt there were limits. When the session ended with another round of stretching, Anton donated his blood and went back into the building.
Anton was glad to get to his room, shower and lay on his bed with a book before dinner. After training, when he was still in High School, he hadn’t need to rest, but despite being unbelievable thinner now, he knew he wasn’t as young as he was back then and still terribly out of shape. No one was going to cheer for him anytime soon.
Anton felt like he was deep under the ocean as he continued to read his book, when there was a knock on the door. Hoping it wasn’t one of the doctors with another set of prank questions, Anton walked to the door and opened it, finding to his surprise Christine waiting for him.
„Hello,” he greeted her. „Everything all right?”
„Yes. Can I come in?”
Anton stepped aside and let Christine in. When she passed him, he noticed she didn’t use a cane, but twice propped on the wall.
„Your leg got better?” He noticed.
„Yes,” Christine replied. „And not just because it has to carry less. Look!”
With this she pulled down a part of her sweatpants, revealing the scar on her leg and hip once more. Anton needed a moment to realize, that it was different from before. Smaller. When it once ran from over the hip to under the knee it now didn’t touch the knee and didn’t pass the hip.
„Wow!” Anton commented. „That is ... could it be just the skin?”
Suddenly he realised, that the way he had lost weight, his skin shouldn’t have looked as tight as it just had in the mirror.
„No,” Christine commented. „It is the bone, too. I hardly feel any pain there anymore. Also, the teeth.”
„I broke three teeth during the accident. Two were fixed, one left this way. I checked in the mirror and with my tongue. The one broken feels like it is regrowing and the caps on the other ones are becoming loose, so I guess they are regrowing, too.”
„I wouldn’t call it this sort of wonder,” Christine commented smiling.
„Do you think they know?” Anton asked, before answering his own question. „Of course, they do. The cells must repair themselves while burning fat.”
„Or they are burning fat while repairing,” Christine replied. „I think I will ask the doctor tomorrow what sort of test it is.”
„Seems valid,” Anton said, looking at the clock. „Do you care going to the cafeteria already?”
„Sure,” Christine noticed. „Why not.”
„I have managed to excuse myself by Christine by the way,” Anton told her, as they walked through the floor to the elevator. „She has taken it rather well.”
„Excused?” Christine seemed startled.
„Yes, because of yesterday,” Anton said. „I said something stupid about cashiers, remember?”
Christine blinked at him a moment, then she smiled.
„Sure, I do,” she replied, touching his arm. „Good for you.”
For a moment Anton was surprised that Christine hadn’t remembered at once. But her smile and more so her touch set him at ease. He found he liked her smiling. More so, he liked her.
The next week seemed to look better and better.