categories: Cocktail Hour
Comments Off on The Adventures of Mr. Id–part 5
Charles forgot about the boy and again concentrated on the women in the group. It hit him with the force of minor revelation that he had been so focused on breasts earlier, that he had given short shrift to that other darker subterranean manifestation of the female sex. Now it came at once to mind, and to nose. Too much so, he realized. Musky, insistent, and each odor as individual as a fingerprint or snowflake to his newly-honed nasal receptors. Charles had been circling for some time but now he plunged himself into the crowd, into the swirl of smells. He found he was capable of siphoning the world in through his olfactory cleft, detecting the subtle odorants that came off his colleagues, reading their chemical trails. It seemed he could even smell their moods—apprehensive, bored, jaunty, miffed—by focusing on the effluvia rising from their scent glands. In this way he gleaned secret messages sent out by their scalps, armpits, and groins. Exercising an older brain, a limbic wordless brain, he could suddenly read a language, a language he had long forgotten or never known.
And so he let his nose, that long neglected organ, lead him where it wanted to go. For a moment he was briefly drawn toward the odor of a woman who stood off alone in the corner, a Geology professor he knew slightly, and, thinking fast (or fast for his present state), he asked her about her work. But as she declaimed on her theory of mass schism during the Mesozoic all he could focus on was the smell–a citrus scent but at the same time swampy–that rose from below and he was almost overcome by the sudden urge to drop to his knees and sink his face into her genitalia. That was just about when he knew he had to leave, knew that it wasn’t a game any more (if it had ever been) and that it all might really turn bad (if it hadn’t already). For that moment of awareness he would later give himself some small credit. He staggered toward the door.
He would have made it, too. Would have made it if it had not been for a sight of the one person whom he’d been both hoping to find and wanting to avoid at all costs. He had caught her scent earlier, of course, when he circled the room, her odor bold and obvious in his nasal cleft. In fact right after re-entering the room with Stanwurst he had become aware of her, standing at the far side of the circle, as indeed he had been aware of her presence and whereabouts almost every minute of the night. Charles had determined, however, that after his awkward bout of staring he should not make eye contact. This was born of a sane, protective impulse. It was her he wanted to protect as much as himself, and of course what he wanted to protect her from was him.
But as he neared the door, he looked over, and, at just that moment, she glanced over at me. And that did it. There would be no escape. With four short strides she was right on top of him. She jutted out her hand.
“Good to see you again, Dr. Kaiser,” she said.
As he griped her hand he could feel the blood pulsing under the skin of her fingers. Flesh on top but a stirring molecular soup below—so much going on at a cellular level. During the brief second she held his hand he imagined himself tunneling down below the epidermis and dermis, below the cuticles and nail roots, into a world of epidermal ridges and down deeper into the snaking pulsing world of capillaries. And below that of course an infinitely more complex molecular world, a throbbing, pulsating cellular world.
“How’s your hawk?” he managed to ask.
“No carnage I’m afraid. Just a lot of sitting and watching today. But negative data–”
“—is data too,” he finished for her.
She laughed a little as he breathed in her resinous smell, a smell that was to his nose as clear as the ringing of a bell. She was a small woman, just over five feet tall, and she still wore her brown hair straight and simple down her back as she had earlier while bird-watching, as if to say, “No need to fancy up for these folks.”
“And what have you been doing all night?” she asked.
Later he couldn’t believe he said what he said next. While it may not have been that out of the ordinary for Charles to imagine what the women in any given room look like without clothes, it was unusual for him to say it out loud. But before he could censor himself the words came blurting out.
“I’ve been picturing what everyone looks like naked.”
Her reaction surprised me. She didn’t put her hand to her mouth or slap him or anything like that. Instead she laughed sincerely, as if he’d made a good joke.
“Well that doesn’t sound very pleasant,” she said. “Wouldn’t that go better in a room full of younger people?”
“Well, yes. I suppose it would.”
Her tone, he vaguely understood, was meant to say, “How silly and fun,” though at her suggestion he was in fact already imagining a room full of naked young people. But that vision was quickly muscled out by a new one: that of a naked Pamela Swan. It had been a night of small epiphanies, of becoming aware of things he was always aware of without really consciously knowing, if that made any sense. But now, looking fully at Pam, he had both the most obvious and deepest revelation of the night: he was wildly attracted to this woman.
Charles understood that this wasn’t merely the drug at work. If you had asked him, during his normal life, if he found Pam Swan attractive, he would have answered, “Sure.” And if you had asked him if they flirted when they met he would have said, “I suppose.” He wasn’t completely blind to the fact that their relationship, a relationship that consisted mostly of two modes—teasing and professional discussion/debate—also contained an element of sexual tension. But dear God! Tension was one thing, but this…whatever it was….was something else. How had he not seen the obvious? The brown hair he wanted to stroke (He held his hand back lest it follow his thoughts), the full breasts behind that frumpy blue sweater, the sheer smell of her pouring over him, a scent so clear and specific that he knew he could be blindfolded and pick her out in a room of a thousand. Charles breathed in deeply through his nose, letting the odor molecules travel up to his olfactory receptors where they were converted to electrical impulses that shot off like bottle rockets in his brain. He was torn by two impulses, one tender, one not so much so. The first was to pick her up in his arms, the whole new sexy smallness of her, and run out of that stifling place. The second was to pull her middle close to his own, so he could feel the delightful contrast between pelvic hardness and her soft ledge of breasts.
Charles was too deep in his imaginings to respond. How had he not seen her this way before? He realized that if he pulled her toward him the top of her head would fit neatly under his chin. How had he allowed himself to muddle on with his life without so much as asking her out for a drink or a cup of coffee?
“You’re staring at me, Charles.”
Sharp words this time, sharp enough to cut into his daydreaming.
“I’m sorry…..I’m sorry.”
She smiled, not as fully as before, but still sweet, clearly giving him a chance to get back on track. She even did him the service of changing the subject.
“So how go things in the lab-bor-a-tory, Dr. Frankenstein?”
Again it took Charles a second to cipher the meaning of the words, but when he did it was like heat lightning shot into his brain. His work! He hadn’t thought about it once over the last two hours. How was that possible? He couldn’t remember when he’d ever gone so long, outside of sleep, not thinking about some aspect of his work. Not that he was a drudge—though he was that, too–but simply that he found the work he did endlessly fascinating and absorbing, something he now suddenly remembered. And another new and simultaneous thought: the pleasure he felt thinking about DNA was maybe not so different than other physical pleasures he’d been experiencing that night—the food, the wine, the breasts, the sight of Pam. To him his work was every bit as tangible and physical and real. Which made him understand that he could take his new mind—this new animal mind, this direct mind—and turn it toward his work, perhaps even sparking new results. Charles instantly wanted to rush back to the lab.
But first this business of answering Pam’s question. And of appearing sane as he did so.
“It’s going well,” he said. “Quite well.”
This was usually about as much as he told anyone. If he was close-lipped about his personal life, he was positively mute about his professional one. He had guarded his recent genetic experiments like Fort Knox, and took even the most innocent questions as mini-assaults on his fortress. By why be so afraid, he now wondered. And especially with Pam. Beautiful Pam.
And then suddenly he was talking before he could stop himself. In fact at first, in his rush to communicate, he didn’t even stop to translate the language of his profession. She was a biologist, too, after all, though a different sort. So he dove right in, spouting on about messenger RNA and junk DNA and his search for the primal gene, or, more accurately, the series of interactions between several fairly active—or in the jargon, “jumpy”–genes.
“The first challenge was to strip the successive nucleotides in the DNA,” he said at one point.
That was when Pam finally slowed him down.
“For God sakes, Charles, speak English,” she said. “I’m not exactly up to date on my gene work.”
He nodded. He could have stopped right there; he should have stopped right there. But he wasn’t in a stopping mood. Instead he decided to try and explain what had happened in more general terms. Instead he decided to create a story for her. And before he knew it he had he told her everything.