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ranor's Reading Room


...
by: R.B.

March 14, 2006


The clock says it's 4:40. I pop in Amelie knowing full well that it will be light when the movie ends, and that I will still be here. Scan the pages with the protocol written all over them. The text looks red because I'm starting to go delirious. This document is written in my blood. Where's the part where it says I can go home for a bit and be back later? Not for a few more hours. That's I mean, pages. In the world of the protocol, the length of the document is measured in time. Time here is strange: it always seems to stand still but when you look at the clock it's suddenly 2 hours later and you're still pipetting, still vortexing, still centrifuging and incubating and covering things in aluminum foil and waiting for someone to come, for death to come, so you can leave this place. In this place, life is a physics problem: you're travelling at the speed of light so your clock essentially stops; the clock in the earth frame keeps going. At the speed of light, you have infinite mass: I feel that firsthand. My eyelids droop and my body starts to fold in on itself, starting with the shoulders and the spine. And when I finally collapse into a single point of energy and mass--

Pipet, vortex, centrifuge, incubate, repeat.

The dyes for the microarray are bright pink and dark blue. When the dye molecules are excited by photons, they give off different wavelengths of light--green and red, respectively--and the array scanner records this. The entire yeast genome is on this slide, and this slide is going to tell me which genes are up- and down-regulated between the old and the young mutant cell sam--

Wake up. Concentrate. Huh. "Concentrate." It means something completely different here. So in addition to the altered physics, definitions are different too. A whole new language. Same words as English--same phonemes and morphemes--but completely different. When did I first start speaking this language? I don't remember. It could have been long ago but I can't tell because time doesn't pass. It could be that I learned it a million years ago, but the clock can only tell me the current hour, minute, and second in Pacific Standard Time. No telling how many days, weeks, months, years have passed. Everyone I know (knew?) could be dead and gone. I haven't seen a single soul in... hours? It could be hours. The time on the clock is different now than it was the last time I saw a familiar face. But I can't tell what day it is. What day is it? I have to write it down in my lab book but--

--nuclease free water must be warmed up to 50-60 degrees Celsius. Cooler water than this is ineffective at eluting the product from the filter. Do not centrifuge the filter/tube apparatus at more than 10000G, because this will cause glass fibers to pass through into to the eluate. This is bad. Naughty. You will be given a spanking. A time out. Go sit in the corner and stare at the wall. No, you can't come back yet. Your punishment isn't over. Well, tough cookies. And just for that--no dinner! Yes, your stomach will be empty for the next day. That will teach you, you rotten, no-good slac--

Pipet. Vortex. Centrifuge. Incubate.

Repeat.

{ENTER program} [enter]
{NAME} [b][enter][o][enter][i][enter][l][enter][enter]
{SET TEMP} [1][0][0][enter]
{SET TIME} [0][enter][5][enter][0][enter]
{END} [enter]

"Quince."

I suddenly snap out of the daze. What have I been doing for the last twenty-or-so minutes? I don't remember. But I bet I will when I get home. If I get home. If that ever happens, I'll remember, I just know it. I'll remember and I'll type it out on LiveJournal, because that's what I do instead of sleeping, instead of studying, instead of doing something productive during an extended period of incubation in lab. It's so strange how--

--and the sun starts to rise. I've barely gotten through--

--prehybridization buffer to 55 degrees C. I guess I'll do that now. But I really want to go home. At least before anybody comes into the building. The inevitable "What are you still doing here?" question will arise.

Well, I was being a loser by staying in lab all fucking day and Jesus fucking Christ what has become of my life, if you could call it that, because it seems that all I do is go to lab, eat, and sleep, and there is barely any time to socialize with friends, with actual people-friends (because it feels like my only friends are these little budding yeast [I shall call them "buddy yeast" from now on] but even then I manage to kill most of them for scientific purposes and oh my God am I going to end up doing that to my people-friends too?), let alone have orgasms--ohmyGod, did I just say "orgasms", because that would be a highly inappropriate conversation to have with you Professor Telzer, and I demand that you forget everything that I have said and hey can I come by your office sometime if I have any questions regarding the two classes that I missed because I really want to graduate so I don't have to be in this building for the rest of my life.

"..."

I'm just going to leave now.

As I open the redwood front-doors to the building, I have an eerie sense that this won't be the last time I emerge from The Building Where Souls Are Eaten after sunrise.
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