By moving the artificial tea light closer to me, its gray flame came alive. I leaned my device on it, so Alban could see me, and I said, «Hey bro, how are you?»
«It’s a good day today.»
He was looking down at his device lying in front of him on the bed, propped up on the blanket. The perspective emphasized his double chin, which had grown proportionally with the amount of medicine he had to take over the last year. His entire body had swollen, his cheekbones weren’t noticeable anymore.
«Did you get the pink pills?» I asked. After his last episode, the doctor prescribed him a brand-new drug. Since neither of us could remember the long name, he referred to them as the pink pills. The doctor told us, it could take a while for them to be shipped.
«Not yet, tomorrow is delivery day.»
«The doc hoped you would have your first dose by now!»
«What can you do.»
And we couldn’t complain, his medicine, the doctor and the hospital visits were provided by public healthcare. Two years ago Alban was diagnosed with the DOPB syndrome. We both remembered mom loving her generation XV device and rested it on her belly for the entire time of her pregnancy with my little brother. We confirmed that in front of the doctor. For the following device generation they fixed what they called magnetic leakage, and DOPB became a thing of the past—except for Alban and millions of others.
On a good day, Alban only had the nosebleed caused by the high blood pressure; on a bad day he was bedridden with high fever and hallucinations. He lived far away from Lethbridge in an asylum in Calgary for people like him. I visited him twice this year.
«What are you playing these days?», I asked him.
«Aha.» The third edition of Fun. I grew out of it two Christmases ago. My cheeks were always hurting from laughing, and I didn’t want to go out afterwards, since it felt I was grinning for no apparent reason for another hour. The people in the streets looked at me concerned, some scared.
He coughed, the picture shook, and a dark spot landed on his camera lens, blood rushed down his lips. I heard his «Sorry» as he turned away from the screen.
All of a sudden it was eerily quiet in my apartment, especially after all the action with my neighbors. No sound came through the closed window and the balcony door, just the dim lights of all the other studio apartments from the building complex across the street kept staring at me; the waves of rain like a transparent curtain in between. A shadow moved behind an illuminated square.
With a blood-stained towel pressed to his face, he appeared again. Whatever he said was too muffled, and I couldn’t understand, I imagined it was something like «See you next time.»
I waved, and he waved with his blood smeared hand. The next cough let his device tip over onto his blanket. Mostly dark, the video call still continued. Everything trembled when Alban had another coughing fit. After the fifth, I ended the call.