By Craig Loomis
The government is planning to study a project that will identify homosexuality through a clinical test, which will be added to the list of medical tests one has to undergo to obtain a visa. If an individual is tested as a homosexual that person will have an unfit stamped on his medical report and will automatically be disqualified from the visa application.
“That’s it? We’ve done all the blood tests?”
“Feces? Don’t forget feces. Nobody wants to look at the feces.”
“Lah, lah, we’ve looked at everything. There’s nothing there.”
He drums his fingers on the tabletop, until, “There must be something we missed. All that drips or oozes, or . . .? Something, Sah?”
It is late, and except for a small desk lamp that pools a weak yellow light across the desk, leaking ever so softly onto their legs and arms, the rest is grayblack lab. It is a bedroom-size government lab with a gang of steely machines neatly arranged around them. A Bunsen burner bubbles over there, a gassy blue flame flickers here. The many computers are at rest, ghostly gray and eyeless. A twinkle of tiny blue lights means one of the machines is thinking. And although the signs are clear, no smoking, the one wearing three gold rings is smoking a cigarette, flicking ash into a paper coffee cup. They wear white lab coats with nametags: Dr. Mohammad and Dr. Abdullah. Reams of paper full of charts and graphs and long columns of numbers cover the table. And so, the one continues to smoke while the other drums his fingers along the tabletop.
“Yes, indeed, now what?”
“They want something reliable, something accurate. A test that can be applied at the airport if need be, in some back room, something with instant results. Sah?”
The smoker nods to this. Somebody, somewhere is talking too loud. Both of them look around to see how that is possible if they are on the eighth floor and they are the only ones in the building, and it’s late, and . . .
“How about an X-ray?”
“Sure, of the pelvic region. That might turn up something.”
He picks up a chart, reads it, turns one, two pages before dropping it back on the table. The sound of someone, somewhere talking too loud grows weaker, then louder, then disappears. Blue lights twinkling.
“How about a lie detector test?”
“Of course, but the test would catch them, Sah?”
“It would have to be a yes or no question. Lah, lah, we need something more solid, more medical, something like a pregnancy test. Something we can see, something that does not take a specialist, a doctor, a PhD, something that says red for positive, blue for negative. Something like that, like a pregnancy test, Sah? Either you are or you aren’t, there’s no in between. You see?”
He gently lifts the vial of blood from its gleaming steel holder, asking, “And when do they need this test?”
“It’s top priority. The director even used the words ‘national security priority’–just like the movies.”
He fingers the vial of blood, and there is a police siren and then another, and then, back to the hush of a late night lab.
“My grandmother swears that a person’s face tells all.”
“Tells all. Actually, it’s the eyes.”
“The eye color?”
“Lah, lah, of course not.” Taking a long puff from the cigarette, filling the lamplight with a newer, brighter fog. “The space between the eyes is what she’s talking about. She says the greater the space between a person’s eyes, the more, . . . the more suspect that person is. You see? She says everybody knows this.”
“The more suspect? Your grandmother says this?”
“Nam, 82 years old this month,” he says proudly.
“And you believe her?”
He shrugs, saying, “All we would need is a tape measure.”
He holds the vial of blood up to the lamp light, peering to get a better look. “Again, what did he say about this blood?”
“The director says it’s the real deal. Says this is a sample we can use. He says it’s genuine, authentic. Those are his very words, ‘authentic blood’ from, he said, a most reliable source.”
Turning the red vial this way and that, until the two of them are looking at it together, squinting into the soft light.
“Where did he say he got it?”
Done looking, he quickly slides the vial back into its metal holder. While the one lights another cigarette, making a new smoke, a new fog, the other begins to stack the many papers into one neat pile in the center of the table.
“I didn’t ask.”