The Medicine Dropper

What he conceived of as an inoculation had been imparted long before he arrived at the doorstep of the witch's cottage. Those administrations, which he believed set the precedent for nearly everything else unfolding from that point on, had been carried out by his own mother. He recalled now, but had not been able to previously, how each day, she had removed the glass medicine dropper from the second shelf of their bathroom cabinet. The color was the only aspect of the procedure he recalled vividly, despite the fact that anyone would characterize the hue to be indistinct, provided not so much by the bottle itself, clearly fashioned not in the modern era, but by some hard to define interface. Certainly the liquid couldn’t have been described as clear. The label was illegible, embossed in a language unfamiliar to him. Years later, when he realized the relationship of this ritual to his present status, when the bottle, cabinet, and home were long gone, he’d agonized over what he had observed so many times, in particular, the label. Only color remained in memory, not a brown, but deeper, a species of amber perhaps, a redness that appeared transiently, but then again, not red at all, more fleetingly black, all of those, in fact, if a hue existed in the first place. He would have no way of verifying but was certain the viscosity had been interchangeable between glass and elixir; their state (he was aware that solid and liquid were defined clearly by the language of physics) transcendent, as if the substance he ingested leeched from the side of its receptacle, thick and malleable, like the mercury in their old thermometers. He’d present his tongue and she’d apply the drops. As an infant, it was one; as a toddler, two, and so on. The jar and its dropper remained in the cabinet throughout his childhood, crusting over with time, him becoming less aware of their presence or even that they had once played any significant role at all in his life. He couldn’t recall when the jar had become no more or, if it continued to reside there in the cabinet, pushed to the back, into the far corner, hidden behind the collapsing Band-Aid box and loose aspirin tablets, half of them dissolved into the rust of the shelf. The jar, in a sense, had completed its job.