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Banned Substances


The sweat stuck to Emmett Colgate's underarms as he weaved through the crowded sidewalk away from the office tower. Replaying the exchange with Miss Mason in his mind. Her harsh, commanding voice rattled and repeated.

"Are you crying, Emmett?" she'd smiled.

He caught a glimpse of his face in the glass of the station's exterior. No tears running down his square jaw. No pouting expression in his dark eyes. He shrank from the other commuters as he turned his thick, broad shoulders like a cumbersome backpack to avoid knocking people aside. His body was an apology cast as a living sculpture.

"We'll go easy on the feedback for your sake."

The others had laughed at her aside, and then continued to discuss how to market the company's new brand of herbal tea.

But he didn't laugh. He'd felt his face go hot, his cheeks turn red.

At the elevated train's entrance, the laser gate opened after scanning his eye. A large screen broadcast news of Madam President at a press conference. He stood among the passengers. A young woman got up from her chair and gestured to him with a smile, offering her seat.

He smiled back, lowered his eyes, and tacitly accepted her offer, sinking into the seat.

He squeaked out a soft "Thank you," more mouthed than spoken.

"Sure thing, sweet cakes," she said.

He walked home, leery of the group of women in hard hats working on the scaffolding across the street. Would they whistle at him again? He kept his head low. Not this time. He arrived in his studio apartment on the 30th floor and took his second dose of Spironolactone with his dinner, microwaved macaroni and vegan cheese.

The state pill bottle in his hand, he wondered what would happen if he stopped taking them. They'd catch him, of course. The weekly hormone test would light up like downtown on Mother's Day.

Researching herbs at the office, he had discovered some of them can mimic low testosterone in a blood test. If he took enough of them, could it work? Has anyone ever tried it?

They were sourced in the country side, he learned, miles past the last stop on the train.