Despite Mom’s being a certified homeopath, my family does have a standard, run-of-the-mill GP we go to for all things mundane. His name’s Doctor Kim, apparently, and I have to read his name tag because I only ever visit his office for my yearly school checkup. Even then, Kim’s staff handles the proceedings.
To that end, he looks surprised to see me—though he smiles and shakes my hand as he enters the examination room.
“Ah, my friends the vegetarians,” he says. “Good afternoon.”
My parents take turns shaking Kim’s hand before sitting off to the side.
I pray to God I don’t have to undress for some reason.
Mom clears her throat uncomfortably. She’d been crying a lot in the car on the way over. “Thanks for seeing us on such short notice, Doctor Kim.”
“Not a problem.” Kim steps in front of me, glances down at his clipboard. His thinning hair is slicked back over a smooth, shiny pate. “So, Theo, you’re having a little, er, eye trouble?”
“I’m blind,” I reply, my voice catching in my throat.
“Blind?” Kim looks at me, peers at my eyes. “What can you see? Anything? Colors? Shapes?”
“Well, right now I can see, but only because I have my contacts in.”
Kim looks confused. He looks like he thinks I look confused.
I glance over at my parents.
Dad nods. “Go on. Show him.”
I hate this. I feel like the dog-faced boy being asked to turn a trick. But it’s necessary if I’m to be fixed up and sent on my merry way. I pop out the left lens, then the right. I blink in darkness afterward. I can’t see Kim, of course, but I imagine he’s doing the same thing I imagined my parents doing when I first showed them my hamster eyes: staring with his mouth wide open.
It’s a good, long moment before I hear him clear his throat. He must be shining a pen light into my eyes, because I can see blurry halos dancing in the darkness. “How did this happen?”
“I used some Old Eyes drops,” I say, slowly, reluctantly. “Well, not at first. I used New Eyes, then Old Eyes a few days later because I wanted to get rid of the New Eyes—”
“No, no, no, no…” Kim says, cutting me off. I hear him getting up, quickly walking over to the door, which he closes and locks. He goes to the other side of the room; it sounds like he’s fiddling with the window. “I’m sure it’s something completely different. Irritation, conjunctivitis, maybe a little glaucoma…”
I pop my contacts back in. The darkness lingers. For a moment I think I’ve been too rough with the lenses—but then I realize that Kim has closed the shades, turned off the lights.
He motions for me and my parents to join him in a huddle near the sink. Holding his pen light above our heads, he whispers, “Look, before we go any further, you need to understand that this practice does not condone the use of nanotech…”
Dad starts to say something—
—Kim continues uninterrupted, locked into pre-programmed disclaimer mode. “…nor do we provide information on where said tech can be obtained—”
“Doctor Kim,” Mom says, sternly, insistently. She grabs his head between her hands. “You’re babbling.”
Kim relaxes—a little. “I apologize for being so…blunt, but we can’t be talking about this here. All of us could get into a lot of trouble.”
“I don’t understand,” Dad says.
“Nanotech is very touchy business. Right up there with stem cells. I mean, that doping business at the Olympics, those politicians caught placing fabricated DNA at crime scenes…need I go on?”
“My son is not doping up, nor is he seeding any crime scenes with DNA or whatever. He’s had an adverse reaction to some eye drops, and he needs your help.”
Kim starts squirming. “I want to help. Really. But for liability reasons, I don’t deal with nano, period. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do.”
“But you haven’t even looked at him yet!” Mom exclaims.
“It’s not a question of diagnosis. I simply can’t treat him.”
Mom narrows her eyes. “Can’t or won’t?”
“Both,” Kim says. “If we’re talking complications from the use of New Eyes drops, then Theo’s condition has likely been caused by a caliber of technology that’s only available on the black market. What do you want me to do, dress in a trench coat and hat and go prowling around the seediest alleys in Chinatown?”
“If need be!” Mom growls, shifting her hands to Kim’s neck—
Dad stops her. “Easy now, hon. Let’s keep cool about this.”
“And just how do you expect me to do that with our son blinded and this allopathic idiot refusing to lift a finger because he’s more concerned over bureaucracy and red tape than he is with treating his patients?”
“Mrs. Smole—Anya, if I lose my practice I can’t treat anyone at all. Surely you’d agree that an ‘allopathic,’ as you call it, practice is better than no practice at all?”
My mom starts in again, something about having a backbone. I step back from the group, watching Kim quiver in his white coat, watching Mom seethe quietly while Dad holds her back. This isn’t at all how I imagined things would turn out. Asian doctors are supposed to be smart, intuitive; they’re supposed to have an herb or salve that can cure anything—they’re supposed to know kung fu! (Don’t even harp on me for being racist—I’m half Chinese, remember?) Here I thought Doctor Kim would be the answer to all my problems, my medicine man, my guiding light. Instead he’s just a flake, a cardboard cutout representative of Western medicine’s fucked up attitude towards nanotechnology.
“So, who am I supposed to turn to?” I ask. “Symantec? McAfee?”
Mom, Dad, and Kim stop arguing. They look at me. Kim uses the interruption as an out, wrestles free from Mom’s grip, goes over to the window and opens the blinds. Then he heads for the door, opens it, flicks on the light.
Standing in the threshold, he says, “I wouldn’t know, Theo. This is business for hackers, not an ‘allopathic idiot,’ as I’ve so thoughtfully been branded. Good day.”
He turns and leaves.