A Door Unopened

A Door Unopened
Knock, knock...

Friday, May 10, 2013



Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote:
Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another,  only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
It wasn’t like that at all.
If Cara were to write in nautical terms about that time in her life, it might be something more like: Two kayaks traveling down the same river heading for the same rapids, would hit the white water at different times. She would hazard the torrents of divorce well before Brad. Out of her marital kayak she’d fly into the cold, clean water of singleness. She would swim alone for a while but not forever. Eventually, she’d be pulled back and into a different canoe built for two.
That would be more like it.
But none of that had happened yet. At this point in time, Cara and Brad were each in their own paddle boats on a stretch of river where the current drew them in close to one another. There was a distinct but unmentioned pull.
Who can explain the magnetic forces of personal attraction? They were both nice-looking, both personable and both married. Perhaps it was the nature of their studies at the reproductive endocrinology research center at the university. The essential goal was to solve the problems of the infertility. In layman’s terms, they researched how to get women knocked up. Sex and the science behind it was their daily job. Maybe it was Cara—she was in deliberate and steadfast denial about her bad marriage, making her susceptible to, and keen for the attention of other men. Maybe it was Brad, but Cara would never be sure since they didn’t talk about it. Many years would pass before she would learn of his divorce. The news would definitely give her pause for thought—one of those “ah-ha” moments.
It seemed, then, that they were each afloat in their own unsustainable matrimonial boats. Whatever the case, there was enough emotional turbulence; chemical eddying and hormonal undercurrent, that it made work life interesting.
Cara’s research associate job, among other things, was to report findings from the assays she performed on the tissues submitted to her scientific oversight. Ovaries, endometrium, testicles and the like, ended up thinly sliced, histochemically stained and preserved between slides and cover glass. She was a mistress of microscopy.
Brad’s principal investigator job, among other things, was to sit across from Cara at the two-headed microscope and listen and watch while she narrated and guided him through experimental results. Together, they viewed magnified samples as she steered the stage, expertly navigating tissue coordinates.  Brad was also Cara’s boss.
The table supporting the microscope was narrow, necessarily so, since the scope itself was not wide. Cara and Brad sat opposite each other, eyes to binoculars. On this occasion—as often happened—their knees knocked, momentarily intercalated and bumped against each others’ in a bid for space. Eventually they settled their limbs, parking their patellas necessarily close, but not touching.  Soon after reaching this articular dentente, Brad reached for the stage controls, asking, “OK if I drive?” Their fingers tangled momentarily as she relinquished control.
“Oh. Sorry.” Cara couldn’t help apologizing. The unavoidable closeness of working at the double-view scope made her edgy, especially when Brad’s knees were close enough to hers that she could feel his warmth. He seemed to be burning some serious calories as he sat across from her. Or maybe it was Cara. Either way, in academia, it was unusual to find yourself in such close proximity to someone else and it felt to her like someone had turned up the heat on a warm, summer day.
Brad seemed unfazed. “No worries. It’s just the nature of the beast. I mean, here we are in the reproductive endocrinology center. Knocking knees, clashing fingers—that’s just part of the preliminaries.” He glanced up, and flashed a rakish smile. Cara wasn’t exactly sure what that meant but Brad was a well-know flirt. Regardless, the comment seemed rather brazen. She laughed—trying to deflect the tension. She wished he didn’t make her so made her damned nervous, but he there was no question that he did—in a good way.
They continued their microscopic exploration. The images were promising. They discussed various theories for the differences they saw and the next assays to run. All the while, their eyes focused down into the binoculars.
Eventually the talk turned to the subject of their families and the recent winter holidays.  Suddenly remembering the gift she’d given him, Cara looked up from the scope and asked, “Hey! How’s that beer I gave you for Christmas? Was it any good? I wasn’t sure...” A case of international beers could go either way.
Brad looked at her and tilted his head.  “It’s really good. Thank you. I meant to say something earlier.”
“Oh, good. I’m relieved to hear. You never know when it’s stuff you haven’t tried.”
He paused, pushed back from the table and crossed his leg over his knee still holding her gaze. “Actually, I think of you whenever I have one. There’s a Joni Mitchell song, ‘A Case of You’. I think of that song, and you, when I’m having a bottle. You know that song? It’s on the Blue album.”
Cara’s eyes shifted from his. She felt her stomach drop and the air around them seemed to condense. She knew the “Blue” album but it had been too long since she’d listened to it. “Uh…I’m sure I’ve heard it. But I’m…uh…not remembering it now. I’ll have to listen to it again.”
“It’s a great song. You really should check it out.” With that, Brad got up from the scope and walked out of the lab.
Cara, temporarily stunned, stayed seated and tried to figure out 1) what that smirk on Brad’s face meant, and 2) if she should feel flattered. Mostly, she felt confused—that, and flustered.
Before she went home to her disinterested husband, she stopped by a record shop and bought a copy of the “Blue” album. She listened to the song twice on the way home. She listened to it more the next day on her way to work. Again and again she played it.
The song was conflicted. The lyrics mentioned lost love, but also referenced an emotionally fraught relationship—not a particularly healthy one, Cara thought. The line “I could drink a case of you, and still be on my feet.” was the part of the chorus.  To Cara, it could be interpreted two ways. If a person was truly intoxicating, you’d take one sip and pass out. On the flip side, if you could drink a case of someone and still be on your feet, it meant... She wasn’t sure what it meant.
The next day at work, Cara felt more than a little tightly wound, especially in the presence of her boss. In a true Freudian moment, as he walked into the lab and she walked out, they glanced off each other. This resulted in her modestly-sized breast accidentally grazing his upper arm.
“Oh my God! I’m so sorry.” Cara, who rarely blushed, felt her face flush hotly as their eyes met. She did the only thing she could do in her embarrassment, and laughed. Meanwhile she wished she could sublimate into the industrial, grey linoleum.
Without hesitation, Brad assured her, “No, no. It was my pleasure.” He gave her a wide, devilish grin and continued into the lab. She heard the door close and made a hasty path down the hallway.
The coolness of the corridor helped Cara relax. Her face shifted back to a normal state of blood flow and the tell-tale red faded.  She slowed her pace. She’d just brushed her bosom against her boss and he…well, he certainly didn’t seem to mind—that was for sure. Meanwhile, the chorus played over and over in her head. “I could drink a case of you, and still be on my feet.”
 With a few more feet of safe distance between her and Brad, Cara decided, whatever it meant, it just had to be something positive.
*     *     *
Years passed, and whenever she heard the song, Cara couldn’t help but think of Brad. She was happily remarried and she’d heard through a mutual friend that Brad was happily divorced. They were no longer in touch.
Still, whenever she looked back on it, she had to admit, at the time, she’d had a pretty heavy duty case of him.


1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this Lyn -liked how it ended. Brava!!