When D’arby got home he found a pile of papers sitting on the table. There were leaflets with descriptions of flats available in the area and some rental application forms. D’arby looked at the leaflets and became alarmed by how high the rents were. Then he noticed that one of the rental application forms had been partially filled in. John’s handwriting was quite child-like and some words had capital letters in the middle of them. But what struck D’arby the most was John’s birthdate – according to the form his birthday was 1st January, which would have been a week ago. D’arby felt bad that he had never thought to ask when John’s birthday was and now he’d missed celebrating it. Then he wondered why Fanta hadn’t done anything to celebrate John’s birthday either.
D’arby set his alarm for 1am because he wanted to discuss the effectiveness of his pills with John when John got home from work, but D’arby needn’t have set the alarm. There was no way D’arby was going to be able to sleep when there were important questions he needed answers to. D’arby had almost made up his mind that his pills didn’t actually do anything, but because that was such a disappointing conclusion to make he kept going over the evidence again and again, hoping that he’d missed something that would allow him to change the conclusion.
Most of D’arby’s thinking focused on when John and Andrew had taken the pills because both had changed behavior as soon as they took the pills. D’arby had taken this instant change to be evidence that his pills worked but now that he knew that Andrew knew D’arby had put pills in his coffee D’arby needed to consider that maybe John and Andrew had only changed because they knew they were taking pills and so expected to change. What also distinguished the cases of John and Andrew was that they were both in stressful situations at the same time (John thought he’d been poisoned and Andrew thought his wife had run off to live with hippies). D’arby realized that he wouldn’t have been accosted by John if John hadn’t been near rock-bottom and D’arby wouldn’t have spiked Andrew’s coffee if he hadn’t felt Andrew needed it. So maybe it was the situation that made John and Andrew change, and not the pills.
If he was able to temporarily accept that his pills didn’t work then D’arby still had other questions to answer. Like why they didn’t work – was his initial idea wrong or was it the execution that was wrong? Would the pills work if the production process was tweaked or had D’arby misunderstood how they would affect the brain? Was it worth doing more work on the pills, or was the risk of being caught too high, and the chance of success too low?
At 1am John was still walking home. D’arby got out of bed when his alarm went off and went to watch the street from the living room window. As D’arby waited for John he realized something that cheered him up – people can change without pills! It was one of those revelations that seem enormous if they are had in the middle of the night or when you are tired. In the morning D’arby would realise that his night-time realization was nothing new and that triggering change was probably just as hard as coming up with pills that make people change, but for now D’arby was happy because he thought he’d made real progress.
It was only when D’arby saw John coming down the street that D’arby realized what this new information meant for John. It meant that John hadn’t been magically cured by pills. It meant that there was no permanent change in John – nothing to stop him from going back to his old ways.
When John opened the door of the flat he was surprised to see D’arby staring out of the window.
“Why are you still up?” asked John. “Are you ok?”
“I’m fine” answered D’arby. “I just wanted to say how sorry I am that we missed your birthday last week. I saw your birthdate on that application form on the table.”
“So you stayed up to say sorry?” asked John.
“Yeah” answered D’arby, and then he turned to go back to bed, but John had too much to talk about to let D’arby go.
“Don’t worry about my birthday. I don’t like to celebrate getting older so I don’t tell anyone when my birthday is. Do you want to know about the flats I saw?” asked John.
“Oh, yeah” asked D’arby, wishing he’d remembered to ask.
“First I looked at a place that cost the same as this one, but there was such a long queue of people looking at it that I had to wait half an hour to get inside. While I was waiting one of the neighbours came out of their flat and told me not to move in to the building because the ceiling always leaks and everything goes mouldy. When I eventually got inside I looked up and saw that the living room ceiling was covered with black mould and there was water dripping in one corner. It didn’t seem to put other people off though and when everyone else took an application form I got scared and asked for one too.”
“I hope there’s some better news coming up” said D’arby
“Sort of” said John. “The second place I looked at cost 30% more than this one, and from the outside the block looked ok, but the Real Estate agent didn’t turn up. I know it wasn’t that I made a mistake about the time because there were about 10 other people waiting too. Afterwards I walked to the office to ask what had happened and they said the place had already been leased”
Before D’arby could complain that that wasn’t better news John continued.
“So I went to look at a third place, even though it was way more expensive” said John, and then he paused to see what D’arby’s reaction would be, but D’arby just looked tired so John continued.
“I was a nice place, but nothing special, really just similar to this one. One bedroom, quiet street, small block. And for double the rent we pay now.”
D’arby looked shocked when John told him the price.
“Can we even afford that?” asked D’arby
“I do make more money than that every week, but there wouldn’t be much left over. We’d go from ‘comfortable’ to ‘struggling’ I reckon” said John. “I took an application form though. The agent said to get it in by Monday lunchtime”.
“I think we should talk to Fanta tomorrow” said D’arby. “She might be able to tell us whether we should wait and look for something better or take what we can before rents go up even more. It will also give us an opportunity to joke about moving in with her”.
“Ok” said John. He was glad D’arby hadn’t given up on his idea of them moving in with Fanta because the other option was looking pretty dismal.