A Request

“You’ll have to go back,”

Oh no, thought Tim, I’d really don’t want to. What will she say?

Tim was extremely reluctant to return and demand a refund, because of what had happened since he’d purchased the medicine from the chemist.

The specialist explained why Tim was entitled to a refund, and the difference between the correct medicine and the one he was given. Meanwhile, Tim weighed up the consequences of demanding a refund or forgetting the matter entirely. The hit to his wallet had been hard, but the hit to his dignity might be more severe, and more lasting.

“…and make sure you speak to the pharmacist directly, not just the front desk staff. And if they don’t want to give you a refund, call me straightaway, I’m happy to speak to them.”

Thoughts raced through Tim’s mind while he sat in the consultation room. I could just do nothing, the specialist might forget. But the doctor’s conscientiousness made that unlikely, and is why Tim made the four-hour round trip for the appointment.

The specialist continued explaining the mistake and the reason that Tim had broken out in red rashes from head to toe after taking just one tablet. Tim wasn’t completely focussed, but did hear the words:

“…ended up in hospital after taking that medicine…” Tim had been lucky.

I guess I have no choice, he surmised, but the task ahead soured his mood on the long drive home.

Tim’s finger hovered over the button.

Follow.

Should I? he pondered.

Should I request to follow her?

He’d been struck by her physical beauty as soon as he’d approached the counter, even as she was partially obscured by the cashier and the plethora of medicines which surrounded her. She’s obviously intelligent, too. She looks quite young but that might be the result of her genes, and she must have spent at least four or five years at university before taking up this current position. She’s not too young for a man of Tim’s vintage. She possessed the two qualities Tim genuinely admired in women – brains and beauty. He certainly didn’t subscribe to the the theory that men should never date a woman who is smarter than them. He craved an intellectual sparring partner. Maybe subconsciously he wanted intelligent children, maybe he just wanted someone who could converse. Either way, he knew he would like to get to know this woman more.

He felt his heart beat faster as his finger remained fixed over the button. He imagined the optimal outcome, and his heart beat faster again.

When he first entered the pharmacy, he thought he would be in and out in a few minutes, but he’d been unable to find the correct bottle of tablets, so approached the cashier, who wasn’t able to help.

“The pharmacist will be with you shortly,” she offered.

While he waited for the pharmacist to bring him the medicine, he surveyed the chemist aimlessly. Locals waiting for scripts. Parents buying cold and flu tablets. Tourists stocking up on sunblock and repellent. Then his eyes rested on the board.

The supervising pharmacist had a Sri Lankan or Indian name, while the pharmacist on duty had a name that stood out. It was uncommon in these parts. The pharmacist who had caught Tim’s eye was clearly not from the sub-continent, so she must be the owner of the second name. He rolled it over in his mind a few times, committing it to memory, and realised that unlike most people from this suburb, he had visited the land of her ancestors. He had an ‘in’, a conversation starter. He then tried to remember some of the words he’d picked up from his travels through that country. They trickled back, but then he remembered that those words belong to languages in the south, and her family name comes from the north. No problem, he still recalled a few words of the northern language – at least enough to surprise her. Maybe even impress her.

His finger continued to hover.

Is it creepy?

Will she think I’m a creep, a stalker?

Will she remember me from the pharmacy? We’d spoken for quite a while as she explained the tablets and their likeness to the ones I couldn’t find on the shelf. It was a typically mundane conversation that had been made substantially more enjoyable by her presence. Surely she will notice my profile pic when she sees the request.

Is it normal, is it flattering?

Lot’s of people meet online these days, via social media, via Tinder and all sorts of dating apps and dating sites. Millenials connect via socials, even if many of them don’t admit it – and the photogenic pharmacist was a millenial. People lived most of their lives online, so of course they could meet a partner online. COVID had even forced people to socialise entirely online, so sending an electronic request to initiate a connection with another person is surely somewhat normal these days.

On the other hand, is it too forward?

Will she wonder how I found her? If she remembers it was me, she will know that she never told me her name, nor asked for mine. She was definitely smart enough to deduce that I’d taken it from the board in the pharmacy. She was also smart enough to realise I’d committed the name to memory while in the store – after all, it was not a ‘common’ name.

She might think it was endearing that I’d gone to so much mental effort to remember her name, or she might find it very disconcerting. Some might even call it the early stages of identity theft, or cyber bullying. What’s more, the social media account looked like it hadn’t been updated for quite some time, so she might become suspicious upon seeing a follow request completely out of the blue.

He must think I’m single, she’ll also think. Did he check if I was wearing a wedding ring?

Yes, Tim certainly did. As soon as she emerged from behind her counter.

Will she think less of me for not saying anything in person? Should I have expressed my interest face to face in the pharmacy, upon first meeting? It was hardly a romantic setting. A chemist, surrounded by cures for illness, next to a shabby old man with all manner of health complaints waiting for who knows what medicine. And the middle-aged lady coughing through her nicotine-clogged lungs and showering the chemist with coronavirus: very romantic. Plus, she was giving me medicine, and knew what I was likely suffering. This is what people try so hard to hide on a date.

Will she think me cowardly for not speaking face to face, and for hiding behind a social media account to connect with someone?

His finger descended.

Requested.

Armed with the proof of purchase, the doctor’s business card and the bottle of offending pills, Tim approached the pharmacist.

“Um, hi…”

Image: Ilan Dov