Zach’s IM on his phone dinged, indicating that he had gmail. Mr. Happy dinged in response. Everybody he knew, everybody with the exception of Em, texted. Even his parents texted. It was one o’clock in the morning and he had just gotten into bed after dinner and drinks with Dad and Joan. They’d played Scrabble and talked after dinner and she’d kicked his ass. She was good with words, he’d always beat his father pretty easily, and he’d been humbled. He liked her, and liked how Dad was with her. Enzymes and induced fit; loved had worked wonders on him, and probably her, too. She was a happy lady.
E: I just woke up from a dream and you were with Lwaxana Troi, she had on this kind of black wonder woman suit with the swirly silver boob armor and ink and piercings all over and spike heeled boots and a cat toy with feathers on the end, and she was tickling you with it and you couldn’t stop laughing and you were laughing so hard Mr. Happy wouldn’t stand up for her so she kept tickling you more and more and then me and the big tall guy who carries her suitcase starting getting together, and you went all nuts, asking me if I had no taste at all to be straddling that big goon and I said he had a nice smile and was really strong and cooked really well and always washed the dishes and best of all he didn’t say much but I was only yanking your chain but you didn’t know it and so then Mr. Happy got all worked up and then Lwaxana got all worked up and she threw you down and started straddling you and that kind of pissed me off since you hadn’t really invited her to throw you down and straddle you like that so I told the big guy what was his name? I told him to go pull her off of you and he did and so she turned around and threw him down and started fucking his brains out. You’re right, she’s a beast. I’m going back to sleep now. ‘night. XO
He didn’t even get a chance to respond, and Mr. Happy was all worked up. He sighed, rolled over, and fell fast asleep. They’d enjoyed quite a bit of good California red wine, and Mr. Happy’s heart wasn’t all that into it right then. Em was asleep.
Mr. Happy’s heart was beating. He was standing half mast at the loins of Zachary Richard, his childhood heroic self image. He’d heard the Zydeco guy one time down in New Orleans and made the connection with his middle name, Richard. Dick. He hated the name Dick, Zachary Richard was cool. When he was a kid, he imagined that he’d be a squeeze box player on his Enterprise, instead of the flute. He’d just made up a really good limerick to fool the Ferengi traders into taking Lwaxana in exchange for their cargo hold full of Zinfandel. They could be heard howling in submissive joy as she made each one her sex slave, both genders, it didn’t matter to her. The big guy kept pouring drinks and ringing his bell, every time Lwaxana got her bell rung by one of the Ferengi.
The Kardashians were attacking, Kim and Courtney’s faces were all done up like war-like reptilian enemies of the Federation, and they had on snake-skin thongs. Their butts had scales all over them, and little bitty prehensile tails were wiggling around, pointing at their butt cracks. Mr. Happy almost fainted, it was so creepy, but then Em showed up, and she had on Ohura’s little red dress and she was getting all sassy with Sulu over in the corner, and he had on a little red dress, too, only he was an old gay man, and Spock and Data were working out, Spock looking all buff and hairy and badass with those pointy ears and that Pon Farr attitude and Data was lifting weights with his dick and whistling pop goes the weasel and Mr. Happy’s heart really got pumping and he looked over at Em who was kicking Sulu’s ass in an all out bitch fight and he starting yelling number one number one and he suddenly realized he really needed to pee and woke up.
He decided to step outside; it was so much easier than trying to hit the toilet with the angle he had to work with. Marin county was really nice and Woodacre a cool little town. He wondered how his dad would do with it after so many years in the city. Or if he would. Or if Joan would move. Of it they’d try to do long distance or part time here and part time there or what. There was definitely good chemistry between them, and something had brought them together. In cells, all those molecules bouncing around, they’d all end up coming together eventually he supposed. Enzymes just made it happen a whole lot faster, they fit with the substrates, brought them together. Sometimes they took things apart. But with that recycling, it was all just part of a grand dance of interaction and energy transfer and change.
After what seemed like forever, he finished with returning nitrogen to the earth, that stuff that the plants had taken up so they could grow, and then provide food for something else, maybe even something kind of like Zach.
It’s all a great big system, he thought. Even as I’m pissing into the wind the molecules of piss which is just water and nitrogenous wastes are flying through molecules of air and there’s already water there and carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas and oxygen and maybe its reacting with something and really when you think about that water like the surface of a lake at some scale it’s probably impossible to tell where the water ends and the atmosphere begins because there’s water evaporating off the surface all the time.
He climbed back into bed, Mr. Happy curled up and ready to go to sleep. H dreamed of studying with Emily.
Em emailed Zach on Wednesday.
E: Just read back through our conversation yesterday. Oops, sorry, I was feeling a little off. A tongue sticking out and rolled eyes, an oopsey emoticon. That was the first time I’ve ever had to go through that all by myself, or at least with only you there for a little while during the pre part of it to get my hormones all messed up. The during part is the real drag, worse than the pre usually. Back at the commune we were all in sync and we could sit around together and bitch about it.
Z: The sacred red tent? And it’s okay, I’ve experienced worse. You’ve got nothing on my Mom, you should have seen her during menopause.That’s when I took off for South America for a while, she was pretty fucking dangerous.
E: Red tent? Not hardly. Those indigenous women have it good, we have stuff to do. Of course the barn is red, and we can generally work it so we’re not doing anything too difficult for part of the month. It’s not like the men aren’t capable of most of the stuff we do. We all do everything, or at least whatever we can do. It varies, that’s the magic of it.
Z: So do the men, have it good in those indigenous cultures I mean. Remind me to tell you about it some day. How was the proteins lecture? I really got into reading the chapter on the flight out west. I see why your professor says they’re so important! And the shape thing, do you see what I meant about the shape thing? The dimensionality of the molecules and their structure and reactivity? It’s like your tongue in my mouth. What’s really funny is that when I got to the part about enzymes and lock in key vs. induced fit, I totally got to thinking about my dad and his new friend Joan. He’d told me that there’s no such thing as the perfect fit between a man and a woman, there’s always a little change involved, give and take on the part of both. But the thing is, like, the enzyme doesn’t really change at its core at all, it just kind of shape shifts a bit to make the reaction happen. And something new is made. Enzymes can be like love. And it’s even kind of a yin and yang; sometimes subunits are brought together to build something big and complex, and sometimes big, complex things are broken down. And sometimes things are just kind of temporary, sometimes way more permanent.
E: Yup.And even more cool, everything is recycled, all the stuff, and every single interaction involves energy transfer. And it’s true in a cell and its true of the earth, because the amount of stuff on earth never really changes, not all that much. It just moves around. Same thing in a body really, except when you’re growing up and putting on mass. The difference between you and the earth is that you’ve got to put stuff in and get rid of stuff to keep that body running, because that’s what your cells have to do and you’re a cellular thing. All the earth really needs is sunlight. Unless we kill it, or kill the alive part. I’m sorry, my mind is wandering away from proteins. The bloody proteins of my body and news of the day are making me cranky. Frowney face.
Z: Sorry. Frowney. But what really blew me away was the connection between proteins and genes. DNA always seemed like such a badass molecule, with all the attention it gets. All it is is fucking code! The proteins, the enzymes, they’re what seem to be writing the code, or at least modifying it and using it do all the work! The only thing that DNA does is carry instructions for how to build proteins, it just sits there. In my world, that makes proteins way more important than DNA!
E: I beg to differ. This is what you miss when you don’t go to class. She found a sticking out of the tongue and wiggly fingers, thumbs in ears emoticon. The P says never to forget the concept of systems, that everything is interconnected, always, at every scale. When I asked a question about which came first in evolution, the protein or the code for it, she says she figures that one day an RNA virus met up with some amino acids and they decided to hook up and make replicates together. They set up housekeeping in a nice phospholipid shelter and the rest is history, you and me and the bacteria inhabiting the zit on my forehead. I have a giant fucking zit on my forehead. Frowney face.
Z: That sounds cool, but it just sounds like a story she made up. I can see all that happening spontaneously. Besides, where did the RNA virus come from? Didn’t we already agree that the bit about it not being alive was already kind of just a language thing? And enzymes are pretty big and complex, even if there were amino acids that were around in the ooze, it sure seems like the code for the enzymes would have to exist already for them to be built. And if they’re used to build all the stuff in cells, where did all the stuff to build the cells come from to make the first cell? It’s a little bit of a mind fuck.
E: There have been a few hypotheses put forth about the early earth and what it’s atmosphere was like and how things like methane and ammonia and other gnarly gases could have gone through reactions with water in the oceans and built lots of cool molecules spontaneously. It’s probably in about the middle of the book. Even god is a hypothesis, just not a testable one. Of course the P also mentioned that amino acids have been found on meteorites and that Francis Crick thinks DNA was seeded here from outer space, kind of like Star Trek says.
Z: Wow. Are you into Star Trek? I figured you probably didn’t even have a TV. I’m totally into Star Trek. Ever since I was like, ten, I wanted to be Picard when I grew up.
E: My Uncle Chuck is totally a Bruins fan, he has a TV. You and him will get along. But it seems to me that Picard never gets laid. Winkey.
Z: He does sometimes. Did you see that archeologist? And he could get laid whenever he wanted to, he’s just too cool. He’s got it all under control.
E. Control? A shocked emoticon
Z: He’s awesome.
E: You’ve got a man crush on him. A super hero Bromance. I like Data.
Z: Data? He’s a fucking machine!
E: And? He’s totally functional. And programmable. Winkey winkey winkey.
Z: Does that turn you on??? His turn for shocked face. He was getting into the emoticons, started thinking about them like gaming avatars.
E: Nah, I like Picard, too. I was yanking your chain. Smiley.
Z: Well I like Beverly and Troi and Vash and Ohura gave me my first boner and that really ditzy chick in engineering who was always messing up had really nice boobs. I would have done Troi’s mother, for sure. And the Scottish guy’s wife. Winkey.
E:Troi’s mother was like a hundred and three! Shocked.
Z: She was pretty hot. Grin with tongue out.
E: Testosterone. A lipid. Just like my estrogen. We’re supposed to be on proteins, not sex and lipids.
Z: I’m still thinking about my research question. Sex and lipids, that gives me a woody. Does it turn you on?
E: Oh, you’ve hit ten of ten a couple of times now since we’ve met, but not with thinking about lubrication. You just haven’t been paying attention.
Z: And I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me. Did I hit a ten today? I can’t pay attention very well from here. I’ve got a data sheet that has a whole bunch of facial expressions along with my impression of your turn on status on a scale of one to ten, and what led to those expressions. And stuff you told me, like the 8 for the shampoo. Do you Skype?
E: No.The eighty five year old matriarch at the commune forbids it. She has phone sex with her eighty year old boyfriend and says that if we ever get Skype he’ll figure out that she’s knitting socks and has him on speakerphone so her hands are free. I can’t get even think about interacting online beyond email without an image of that coming to mind. It’s one of the many reasons I don’t have a phone. I like in person. And yes, you hit a ten today. You have a transcript, that should be helpful for your data collection.
Z: I like in person, too. Why did you invite me into the shower when I’d been such a dick in terms of trying to win your heart? Why do you get sexual with me if you don’t want to have sex with me, if you don’t even know me?
E: Technically Z, I’ve never really touched you, other than taking your arm or giving you a kiss the other day. You’re the one that really gets all sexual about it. When I did that thing with whispering in your ear about the straw, I was just showing you that two could play at the flirtation game you’d been playing all along. When I invited you into the shower, I had two things in mind. First, I really needed a haircut, and I did’t want to spend twenty bucks on it. Second, I wanted to see you naked. Does it never cross your mind that girls might like to look at naked boys just as much as boys like to look at naked girls? There’s not much out there on the web for women. It all caters to gay men.Testosterone.
Z: You touched yourself, or at least your nipple. That was hot. I’m touching myself right now.
E: LOL. Have a good time. I’m off to class. See ya.
Zach put the book down on the desk, thought about a quick hop in the shower. Then he changed his mind and picked it back up. He could hardly wait for Friday, when he could get back to studying with Emily in person.
Zach emailed Em on Tuesday morning.
Z: Dad wants me to hit Cali with him for a few days, so we might have to play catch-up with organic molecules when I get back at the end of the week. Maybe we can do some more research on testosterone. He found an appropriate emoticon; cute, but not too girly or naughty.
E: WHO THE FUCK IS KALI, ONE OF YOUR FATHER’S BIMBOS? AND OF COURSE YOU WANT TO EXPLORE TESTOSTERONE, YOU’RE A FUCKING MAN! I’LL JUST BE HERE RUNNING FROM ONE CLASS TO THE NEXT, WRITING LIKE A MANIAC, STUDYING MY ASS OFF, DOING THE FUCKING DISHES IN THE BIOLOGY LAB, SIX THOUSAND FUCKING DIRTY BEAKERS AND FLASKS, TEN FUCKING PAGES OF NOTES ON PROTEINS AND NUCLEIC ACIDS AND EXAMS COMING UP NEXT WEEK AND YOU’LL BE OFF WITH YOUR FATHER FUCKING KALI! FINE. WHATEVER! She went with skull and crossbones.
Z: California? The state? Cali? He’s thinking about moving there, leaving the city, wanted to get my opinion, of the area and maybe my next step-mother. He’s met a woman from Marin. How you doing? Just a smiley face this time.
E: HOW AM I DOING? JUST FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF HAVING MY GONADS UP INSIDE MY BODY AND THIS FUCKING PIT FOR INCUBATION OF BABIES THAT YOU AND YOUR KIND ALL WANT TO POKE AT SO YOU CAN DELIVER YOUR IMPORTANT FUCKING DNA CARRYING SPERM, I’VE GOT TO WALK AROUND WHILE THE INSIDES OF THAT PIT RIP THEMSELVES APART AND COME OOZING OUT THAT TUNNEL OF LOVE YOU SO WANT TO EXPLORE! AND IT HURTS! IT’S LIKE THE WORSE SHIT CRAMP YOU’VE EVER HAD IN YOUR LIFE FOR TWO OR THREE FUCKING DAYS, ALONG WITH ANYTHING FROM A DELUGE TO DRIBBLE OF BLOOD, SOMETIMES BIG CLOTTED MASSES OF IT, FUCKING TISSUE LEVEL SHIT! THAT’S HOW I’M DOING. She decided on the rage face instead of the tears.
Z: Ah, your moon time.
E: MOON TIME?! MOON TIME?! WHAT KIND OF FUCKING RIDICULOUS PSEUDO SCIENTIFIC FEMINIST CLAPTRAP IS THAT? DO YOU WANT TO PUT FORTH THE HYPOTHESIS THAT THE HORMONAL CYCLES OF THE HUMAN FEMALE ARE TIED TO A FUCKING HUNK OF DEAD ROCK STUCK IN THE EARTH’S ORBIT? SURE, WE SYNCHRONIZE, WHAT THE FUCK HAS THAT GOT TO DO WITH THE MOON?
Z: There really could be some sound basis for a connection between gravitational pull in a given area and physiological responses. The woman of the tribe I stayed with for a little while in Amazonia seemed to think so. And if you get on the pill, it’s not so bad. Or at least that’s what the girls tell me. A winkie.
E: THE PILL? THE FUCKING PILL? SO I DELUDE MY BODY INTO THINKING ITS PREGNANT AND PUT MY PRECIOUS PUSSY AND THE PIT AND MY DISPOSITION INTO SOME STATE MORE SUITABLE TO YOUR FUCKING NEEDS? WHAT ABOUT MY NEEDS? I’D NO MORE POISON MY BODY WITH THAT SHIT THAT I’D POISON IT WITH FUCKING ORTHOPHOSPHATES! WERE THE FUCKING AMAZONS YOU WERE FUCKING ALL ON THE FUCKING PILL?????
Z: Orthophosphates? WTF, it was pretty clear there was no point in trying to communicate right then, and he sure wasn’t going to get into a discussion of her needs. He couldn’t imagine that figuring out what turned her on was as simple as asking, even if that had been her approach with him.
E: THEY’RE FUCKING PESTICIDES! DON’T YOU KNOW ANYTHING???? WTF, she went with the weepy emoticon, she was sobbing by that point.
Z: Probably not very much. Is there anything I can do to make you feel better? Frowney face.
E: Probably not. But thanks for asking. I have to go to class now. Bye. XO.
Zach got out the Biology book. He wanted to be ready for study with Emily when he got back from Cali.
“Can you drop me at the train station?” HIs sudden change of pace took her by surprise. They were just getting ready to make the turn toward campus, away from downtown. “I need to go home for a few days.”
“You need to catch a train to go home? Where do you live?” She hadn’t really thought to ask, she assumed he lived in one of the cheap rentals in town that catered to grad students, probably with two or three roommates. He was a little old to be living in the dorms.
“Nowhere, really. There’s a girl I’ve been crashing with, and sometimes I just sleep at the library or with friends. I kind of couch surf. When the weather’s nice, I mostly sleep outside.” He gave her that little boy grin.
“And I don’t suppose you worry too much about missing any classes or exams or anything.” Emily was a very serious student. This was her first experience in a regular school, and she wanted to do it right.
“Technically, I’m not enrolled here.” Another grin.
“Technically?” As she said it, he decided that maybe he had that look categorized; it seemed to go with a certain skeptical tone of voice.
"Okay, not at all. I have been a few times, but I ran into a few issues here and there and so just decided to do it this way instead. I go to classes I want to go to and scavenge books and study with students, learn what I want to learn and not what I don’t.” He shrugged his shoulders, did a palms up motion, a “what can I say” kind of motion.
“Ah, I see. And you need to go straight home to……”
“First, Northampton. I need to pick up some clothes at my mother’s house.” He was putting a few things in his backpack, including Emily’s biology book.
“Because your clothes are?” She’d figured out how to get to the train station after getting past his distractions.
“At the girl’s house, or at least they were. She might have dropped them off at the thrift store by now.” He gave her one of those puppies who’d been playing in the trash looks.
“And from Northampton?” She really did just want to learn a little more about him. He was interesting. Nah, who was she kidding? She totally liked him, like, totally.
“Why, the upper west side, of course. My father owns a building there, he’s got a little apartment in it. I can crash on his couch, unless he’s entertaining a lady friend. Then he can usually find somebody to put me up while I’m in town. I’ve got some other friends there, too.” It was another one of those things he was almost embarrassed about.
“You’re totally a rich kid, aren’t you?” She’d never really known one before.
“Technically, I’m twenty seven years old and unemployed and homeless. I’ve got about two hundred bucks to my name, mostly because I do things like tend bar part time, or write term papers.” He was giving her a very serious look.
“Technically, that doesn’t mean anything when you can crash down the street from Yoko Ono and Woody Allen.” Emily was kind of wary of rich people. At the same time, she was really in to art and culture and really wanted to go to the theater some time; she’d never been to the big city, and suddenly found him even more interesting. Damn it.
“Woody and my dad are pretty good friends.” He thought he’d name drop, wondered if that was a testosterone thing.
“La de dah.” He categorized another look. “On the turn on scale, that’s about a minus two.”
He smiled at her. “Thanks. I kind of wondered, as soon as I said it.”
She pulled on the hand brake as she stopped in front of the station.
“You’ve got my book.” She said to him, starting to think about class the next day, sad that he wouldn’t be around to talk about it with.
“You’ll get the lecture. And you said she always has the pictures from the book on the screen.” Tentatively, he reached over and took her hand. “And I want to do the reading. You said that the professor was totally into proteins, and that’s what comes next. I totally want to be prepared to do proteins with you when I get back.”
“You’re such a fucking dweeb Zachary.” She leaned over and kissed him. He kissed her back. “I want to do proteins with you, too.”
“It’s all about the shape of things.” He was giving her a new look of his own.
“What?” He had her confused.
“The molecules. It’s the shape, the configuration The direction of the monosaccharides determines whether or not the hydrogen bonding will occur to make cellulose instead of starches. That matrix isn’t two dimensional, it’s three dimensional, it’s all three dimensional at every level of scale, always. Some regions are going to be really reactive, some not so much.” He’d suddenly kind of zoned off somewhere, wasn’t even really talking to her.
“What are you talking about?” She’d not really thought about it that way all that much, but of course it was true. She was more into the relationships between the component parts, what brought them together. Zach apparently was into the fit, the shape of things.
“I got to thinking about it while we were kissing. I like the way you kiss, a lot.” He glanced down at his lap again. So did she.
She laughed out loud. “Well, I can see how that got you thinking about the shape of things. But you’re the one who’s the good kisser. Wow. Where’d you learn how to kiss like that?” It did kind of knock her socks off, both times now. She smiled, kissed her socks off, that man did.
“You taught me.” He grinned at her.
“Huh?” Kissing guys thus far had not been all that great an experience for Em. Nathan had been a real tongue lunger, damned near choked her to death. She’d sure never let him get his tallywhacker anywhere near her mouth after that. Josh had been kind of a dead fish. The few others she’d really made out with at all were so hot to get in her pants she just kind of gave up on kissing altogether. Mostly they weren’t very exciting. Zach was different.
“Well, maybe my dad taught me.” Zach hadn’t seen his dad in months; he have to give him a call as soon as he got on the train. It suddenly occurred to him what he’d just said when he saw the horrified look on Em’s face. Her first practice kiss had been with Melissa Klein, when they were both ten.
“The first time I really wanted to kiss a girl, and I mean really kiss a girl, was when I was fourteen. Her name was Heather, and she was just like her name, this perfect vision of flowery femininity, all soft roundness and sweet scents and everything that represented women and sex to me.” Zach was a great story teller. “So I asked my dad how to kiss a girl. I’d seen his lady friends, I saw how they acted with him. I figured he knew what he was doing.”
“And?” she was intrigued.
“He told me to let the girl lead. Just kind of see where she wanted to go and go there with her. Maybe lead her a little bit every once in a while, but only really, really gently. I didn’t try that, Heather was older. Anyway, he said that making love to a woman was all about discovering where she wanted to go, where she wanted to take you. He said it started with the first touch, and then the first kiss; you always wait for an invitation, and then you just keep waiting for them and pretty soon you’ll get let into some really nice places.” He smiled at her. “That’s why I need to go home for a few days. It sounds so much like what you said before it’s crazy. I’d kind of forgotten about it somehow. Too many women around here who don’t really know what they want I guess, they’ve been letting me tell them.”
A train pulled into the station, and Zach looked at his phone.
“I’ve got to go, or I’m going to miss the last train west.” He grinned at her. “See you in a few days?”
“What happened with Heather?” She was going to miss him.
“She fucked my socks off.” He blew her a kiss as he turned and swung the passenger door shut behind him and trotted off into the station.
It was far past time for Zach to start reviewing what was known about the topic of his research interest. Dad wouldn’t know about Em, but he thought maybe he’d know something about women in general. That was good old fashioned deductive reasoning. Start with some broad generalizations, and then see if they applied to the specific question at hand.
The weight of the biology book in his backpack felt like a connection to her. It made him happy to know that in a few days, once again, he’d be studying with Emily.
Zach was quiet all through brunch, brooding over their conversation about the different routes to the hearts of male and female. That was fine with Emily, she was shoveling down free bacon and eggs and home fries, a side of fresh organic sourdough with butter and local honey, all of it washed down with local apple cider. Heaven.
Zach refreshed his own energy reserves, but much more deliberately than usual. His was working his food mechanically, grinding away at each mouthful absentmindedly, staring into space, almost the way he’d been oiling Emily’s leg. He’d spent so many years around so many people who insisted that gender identity was a cultural myth, that he was wrestling with it. But not for the win so much. The idea that Emily thought wanting to fuck everything was perfectly fine and natural was pretty appealing. Finally he spoke.
“So when you asked me if I wanted to only fuck your socks off or every attractive woman’s, doest that mean you want to go steady? Statements of fidelity? Commitment?” He was still really just thinking about independent variables, not engagement rings.
Emily damned near choked on her cider. She did blow a little bit out her nose when he asked that, it surprised her so much.
“Dude, I’ve known you a week. No, I don’t want to go steady. You kind of missed the point of the part where I said I barely knew you and you needed to win my heart. Jesus, I’d never get partnered to a guy I hadn’t even had sex with yet. I was asking out of curiosity, to see what you’d say. I think lots of guys feel the way you do, they just won’t admit it.” Her view of relationships had formed in a commune.There were quite a few very open relationships there. Her father was in a couple himself.
“Do you believe in monogamy?” Both of Zach’s parents had been through quite a few relationships. Both had married, twice, and divorced, twice. His father, at fifty something, still chased women, had lots of women friends he both fucked and hung out with, and one ex wife and a couple of old girlfriends who would probably castrate him on sight, given the chance. He’d fathered three children after Zach. Mostly the women loved him, he was super loving and fun and didn’t try to bullshit them at all, not since the murderous ex-wife. It was the same way with Zach, except for the marriage and fatherhood part. He kind of took those things more seriously, at least in theory. Or maybe it was his hypothesis. That would be a pretty scary one to test.
“Do I believe in it?” She laughed. “Language, Z, language. I know it exists, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen some really healthy monogamous relationships, but neither partner was virginal when they got into them. I don’t think it’s natural.”
“Why not?” As much as Zach loved lots of variety in women, he also kind of liked the idea of finding the one who would be the one who would change all that.
“Well, remember what the P said about why sex is good? Because of genetic diversity? I could have four kids with one guy, or I could have four kids with four guys. Which would be better?”
She phrased her question exactly that way on purpose.
“Whoa, wait a minute. It’s the male who has all those great sperm. I could father a thousand children or four, which should I do?” He threw the challenge out there.
“Before you can father those thousand children, you’re going to have to find a thousand women, or at least a few hundred, willing to first fuck you and then bear and raise your children. And if you want for those children to survive, you’re going to have to be bringing home an awful lot of bacon, so much that you’re never going to find the time to get those women to fuck you. Besides, you think we don’t talk to each other? That we’re going to let you get by with putting the cake in the oven and not sticking around to wash the dirty dishes? And wouldn’t it be nice if I had four guys to clean out my gutters and shovel the pig shit?”
“Unless I’m a violent pig of a rapist and don’t really give a shit about women or children or probably even myself.” He suddenly felt a little nauseated. “Because they wouldn’t really have to be willing and if the kids didn’t survive I probably wouldn’t even see them starve to death because I’d be off looking for the next woman to rape.” Zach had never, since age twelve when he’d bust his first nut, felt so totally turned off by the thought of sex.
“Well, not to rub it in, you’d also probably have to do battle with an awful lot of other horny guys who all wanted to father a thousand children, too, or at least fuck all the women.” She smiled at him. “You watch the nature shows. Sometimes, while the big bad alphas are fighting it out, the more clever, less violent males are taking care of the business of baby making. You think we don’t talk about their cleverness?” She winked.
He sighed, and noted to himself how quickly humans tended to pick up each others’ little habits.
“So monogamy isn’t natural and every woman should have four men to father her genetically diverse children and clean her gutters.” He sighed again. “Sounds like one of my mother’s ex girlfriends.”
Emily laughed, and threw her cloth napkin at him as she stood and picked up the car keys. She held the door for him as they headed out to the car. She didn’t respond to him until she’d hit fourth gear.
“Monogamy in a sexual sense probably isn’t natural for anything. It’s really rare in nature. But for species like us, whose offspring require lots of care, it’s important for men and women to work together to ensure our kids will make it. In terms of sex and genetic diversity, we’ve got a pretty strong instinctive drive to seek out variety in sex partners.” She was back in road focus mode.
“Tribal culture takes care of that in a lot of ways. It takes a village to raise a child.” He knew all the good quotes from all the various movements over the years, he’d learned to read walking the halls of the women’s studies department at Smith. That and he’d lived with a tribe for a while, in South America.
“Let’s talk about testosterone.” Emily shifted gears.
“Sure, whatever.” Zach was tired. In fact, he was emotionally exhausted, wrung out. And he was going to have to figure out where he was going to sleep that night; he’d kind of killed what he had going with Amy over Em. He was ready for Em to tell him all about what a horrible beast his testosterone made him; he’d heard it all before.
“It’s a steroid hormone, a sterol, like cholesterol, a lipid.” She looked over at him. No more open book, he was leaning his head back, eyes closed.
“Um hm, back to lipids.” Low.
“It’s really one of the very few things that does make you different from me, in terms of genes and gender and all that stuff.” She paused. “You’ve got a whole lot more of it than I’ve got.”
“That and a dick. That thing that I think with, that tube to my heart.” Defensive.
“Well, I have my little joy stick, too! That switch you so much want to flip!” Offensive.
“It’s not the same thing!” Dismissive.
“It’s EXACTLY the same thing!” Aggressive. She popped the clutch and almost stalled.
“What do you mean?” He’d picked up his head and was looking at her.
“You and I started out exactly the same. We were eggs in our mothers’ bodies. Along came our fathers’ sperm and those eggs got fertilized, Dad’s DNA got let in.” She paused. “The gender thing comes about because your father’s sperm was carrying a Y chromosome, and my father’s sperm was carrying an X chromosome.”
“And both eggs had X’s. Yeah, I kind of remember that from high school.” He was waking up. He really liked talking with Emily about biology. “So you’re an XX and I’m an XY.”
“Yeah, but the point is that Y chromosome. Early on in development, you and I were pretty much the same. But then, since you had a Y chromosome, your little embryo started producing male hormones like testosterone, and that made you develop differently. Your little clitoris decided to develop into the head of Mr. Happy, instead.” She grinned at him.
“No way!” He looked down at his lap.
“Way.” She looked there, too.
“Yeah. And your balls are like my ovaries dropped way, way down. We’ve both got nads, just slightly different kinds, all based on our hormones. We’ve kind of got mostly the same equipment it lots of ways. Of course we women have got the womb, which is kind of the base state. When you look at most kinds of sexual organism, with the exception of fungi, you’ve got these wonking big female eggs that are going to eventually develop into the new offspring, and itty bitty sperm that are only there really to transfer genetic information.”
“It’s an important job!” Suddenly Zach found himself thinking about conjugation tubes again; he’d realized he’d been a little off with the bacteria in his reading. Then he started thinking about Sarah Sandusky’s butt crack again, and how great transfer of genetic information could be.
“Of course it is! It’s a fucking marvel of evolution!” She really did dig Zach.
“And if I remember correctly from Sex at Dawn, human males have pretty spectacular dicks, as dicks go!” His was getting all spectacular. ‘And being a good fuck is a great trait!”
She was getting turned on. She downshifted as she took a turn.
“So, let’s talk about testosterone.” She smiled the subtle one. “Besides sex, what else turns you on?”
“You mean when I’m in a generally well laid state?” He turned on the charm. Testosterone was pumping, he was oozing pheromones. “I like exploring in nature, really long hikes, sitting on the side of a mountain with a fire crackling nearby, looking out at the world with a cold beer and a fresh caught fish dinner in my belly and a beautiful woman….oh, wait.
Okay, you can stay home.”
Emily giggled. She could sense the pheromones, even if she was unaware of them.
“I’ve done lots of long distance back country by myself. It turns me on. Reading turns me on, fiction and non-fiction, I like stories and ideas and poetry. Some music gives me a fucking woody. Does that count as sex?” He grinned at her.
“I guess it depends on how much the music makes you think about sex in terms of the response.” All serious, but really turned on herself.
“A good bass line can do it. When the Bruins really start going at it sometimes I get kind of hard, too. It bothers me a bit. Depends on the play. If they’re just being assholes, I hate it. If they’re in the right, well…” he paused, starting to fear he might be exposing himself a little too much. Jerking off in front of a woman was one thing, telling her these kinds of truths quite another. He did his own gear shifting, into self help mode. He’d spent some time with a therapist or two, part of the program growing up in his world.
“Planning and finishing a project is a real turn on. I do some stuff with my dad sometimes, or have in the past at least. I‘m great with my hands, and not in the way you’re thinking, I know how to build things. Even being here at the university is kind of all about my own grand ideas about life. I’m really into deep social change, believe that being well educated is a good foundation for being an effective agent of change, but I so hate the machine I’m not willing to go the typical route. I like being my own man while also being a contributing member of society. And I like eating good food and hanging out with good friends and meeting pretty women and getting well laid.” He grinned at her.
“Back to sex. Testosterone.” She smiled back at him. He really was hot. “Most of those characteristics really are great characteristics. They all are, really. When it comes down to it, that surge of testosterone that you get when the Bruins are whacking away at their opponents could come in handy. Even the sex thing.” Her smile was mischievous.
“What do you mean?” His was kind of lecherous.
“Well, some day you could find yourself in a situation where you lived in a tribal culture with really open attitudes about sex and maybe twenty or thirty women would expect you to be servicing their teenie weenies of delight and fathering their children and bringing home the bacon. Heck, the might not even care about the bacon and the kids, what if you just had to service the sexual needs of a dozen or so women who wanted their switches flipped two or three times a couple of times a week? Or just two or three? Think you’re going to get to fishing with the boys? Your pecker that perky?” A new look, one he’d never forget.
“Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you should be monogamous. Maybe some day I’ll take you up to the farm; it’s kind of a mixed culture. But there’s a core group, most of my aunties and uncles, who’ve been with each other in most ways possible over the years. Most are in fairly stable pairs, and they’ve paid attention to the genetics of my cousins. They also have sex with people who come and go, and really, my dad fits into that category. Sometimes they have sex with people who are new, so I guess you could say strangers. It works, for the most part. For some people, it doesn’t. And there’s definitely been some pain and suffering involved. But that’s part of life.”
“Dad keeps his relationships pretty casual, ever since the divorce from the woman with the machete. So he kind of mostly hooks up now and then. Most of his dating these days isn’t about sex at all, he’s been friends with most of the women he sees for years. Of course he’s getting old.
“His twenty year old twin Barbie dolls are old friends?” Em hadn’t formed a clear image of Zach’s father yet. She’d been resisting the urge to think of him as kind of slimy.
It was his turn to give her a look. A brutal one, it kind of startled her.
“What makes you think Peaces and Cream are Barbie dolls?” He really sounded offended.
“Peaces and Cream? What are they, strippers?” Tactless.
“Actually, they’re up front of an incredible band out of Vegas, Chocolate Fudge with Peaches and Cream. They’re big girls, blues babies, bastard twins of some mix of albino European and African American. Daddy picked them up one night after their show, he likes all kinds of women, not in to any particular kind of look. It was pretty short lived. Oh.”
“Oh what?” She felt pretty bad, again, for having made false assumptions.
“That was kind of the problem. The twins weren’t in to each other at all, the siblings thing, but didn’t mind sharing. Of course you know how guys are, and well, they kind of starting getting into it with each other over him, and then he met this other woman……….Oh.”
Studying with Emily was teaching Zach so many things.
“Macromolecules. It’s kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it?” Zach had opened up the textbook as he settled into the shotgun seat of Aunt Jeannie’s old VW bug. Em had brought it down east with her along with the driver’s license. It mostly sat in the parking lot, the exception being for out of town trips like this one to nearby farming community.
“Scale. Everything is a matter of scale. They’re called macromolecules because they’re big and often pretty complex, and they’re made up of component pieces. Of course all the component pieces are made of of their own parts, probably infinitum, so you’re right, it’s another one of those silly language things. Since the component pieces offer a particular scale of interest to biologists, and the bigger organic molecules they’re built into usually have really obvious functions, I guess they become macros. Who knows? Once you get much past the scale of these big molecules, you’ve got a cell, right?”
“I guess. Those levels of organizational hierarchy that were introduced in the first chapter seem pretty organic. I mean, cells are made of molecules and molecules are made of atoms. When you’ve got a bunch of cells that are all the same doing something, you’ve got a tissue. And a bunch of tissues make an organ, and then you’ve got organ systems, like the digestive system, and organisms, whole living things. Those things aren’t exactly arbitrary.” Zach was pretty masculine; he liked structure, a lot.
“Yeah; I guess.” She shifted gears. “I’ll have to think about that. I mean, once you get past organism then you have populations and communities and ecosystems, and those demarcations are really, really arbitrary. I mean, I can call all the white pines on campus a population or all the white pines in New England a population, or all of the white pines in the world a population. Communities are even more random. One cubic meter of soil right here might have a totally different microbial community from one over there, but it would all be one community if we decided to look at a ten cubic meters. Same kind of things with patches of forest.”
‘But we were talking about macromolecules.” He went back to the book. “Or at least I think that’s where we are. Explain this functional group thing to me.”
“Well, all organic molecules have carbon hydrogen bonds, so a carbon skeleton.” She pointed at the picture in the book. “It’s these different functional groups that give them their unique characteristics. So, like, this OH group is really polar, so it’s going to make a molecule more water soluble. This amino group acts like a base, so it hooks up with protons, this carboxyl group like an acid, so it tends to give them up. Phosphate groups tend to form high energy bonds, and methyl groups tend to be pretty non-reactive and hydrophobic. They don’t react with water much, at all. This double CO bond thingie kind of varies depending on where it is, but it tends to make that particular part of the molecule a good place for bonding. When you look at the difference between the straight chain sugar and the ring form, and can see what I mean.” She found she liked practicing explaining it, it really helped her understand it herself.
“Ah, I see. And so these different kinds of monomers, the little subunits, are made up carbon chains with different functional groups on them, so they tend to have different kinds of functions.” He got it.
“Yes. And so monosaccharides, simple sugars, have this basic structure, with the carbons and the carbonyl and hydroxyl groups. Just Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen. And the simple sugars are what cells like to use as an energy source.” Em also knew a bit about nutrition, another big issue at the farm. “And sucrose, which is made up of two monosaccharides, is that stuff that you like to put in your coffee. It’s really not the best form of carbs to be putting into your body.”
“I don’t get it. If simple sugars are what my cells want, why shouldn’t I just eat them?” He did like his cookies, and yes, lots of sugar in his coffee.
She smiled, a really deep smile, so deep it picked his head up from the book, caused it to turn and look at her.
“What?” he asked her.
“Think of metabolism as a grand dance of life, an erotic quest, something like trying to elucidate what turns a woman on.” She smiled again, loved making up fun little analogies as she went along. “Evolution might have produced a way that we might just put on biomass more efficiently, or extract energy from our food directly, or even just absorbing the sun’s radiation. But no. Instead, we have the grand dance.
“A potato is made up of starch. That’s basically just really long strings of glucose, one of the most common monosaccharides, all strung together by those polymerization reactions. Those reactions remove water, they take a H off of one glucose and an OH off the other, and they get bonded together. See the picture?” She was a very attentive driver, and he was a very attentive student, so they did well together.
“And starch is how plants store energy short term. Cool. And this other molecule, glycogen, is how animals store it. They’re really similar molecules. Cool.”
“Yeah. And trees also store starch in their roots. When spring rolls around, they start breaking it down, via those hydrolysis reactions, back into simple sugars. That’s why we can collect maple syrup up where I live.” She smiled, thinking about the pancakes and bacon she’d make for breakfast the next day. “And when we eat the starch from the potato, first our body breaks down the starch into simple sugars, and it uses some for energy, and it uses some to make glycogen. Or fat.”
“And so a hydrolysis reaction is basically just the opposite of the polymerization reaction, it just puts water back in where it was taken out before. And the same thing happens in the human liver when we need sugars, we break down glycogen. Cool. So how does it all work?” It was getting more interesting all the time.
“Enzymes. We have quite a ways to go before we get to enzymes. They’re proteins.” She made a turn. “So those storage carbs, starch and glycogen, they’re pretty simple. They’re easy to break down, mostly used for short term storage. The structural carbs, like cellulose and chitin, they’re a lot tougher. We can’t digest cellulose. There’s lots of cellulose in turds.” She smiled at him, loved talking dirty.
“Cellulose is the stuff in fiber, right?” His mother always nagged him about eating fiber.
“”Fiber’s got even tougher stuff in it along with the cellulose, lignin. But all plant cells have cellulose cell walls, so all plant foods have lots of cellulose in them, unless they’ve been processed to death.” Another turn. “And chitin, it’s tough too. Fungi have chitin in their cell walls. And lobster shells have it, too.” If you look at the pictures, though, you can see, that there’s extra hydrogen bonding that occurs because of the arrangement of the monomers, so you get a structure that’s more of a matrix that a string, for both of these.”
“Yup, that’s really pretty simple, once you look at it. That would be a lot harder to break down.” Zach like good imagery along with good text, particularly with this kind of material. The pictures in lots of books just tended to add mass, probably to justify their weighty price tags.
“What’s this one, peptidoglycan? God, the words you biologists use are pretty awful.” He was glad he wouldn’t have to test on this stuff, not being enrolled in the class. He’d hate to try to have to remember all this vocabulary. Science had a language all its own.
“Bacterial cell walls; the monomers are more complex. I imagine there’s all sorts of variation, especially among the ancient ones.” She was getting restless, ready to be out in the sun working.
“So we probably don’t eat a lot of that.” He was, too.
“We probably contain a lot of that already. Remember those trillions and trillions and trillions of bacterial cells we have in bodies?” They’d arrived.
“Oh yeah. Man, I’m ready for some bacon.” The CSA had a cafe associated with it to help offset costs of producing food organically. “Let’s talk about fat.”
“Lipids. They’re kind of interesting, don’t really have any monomer subunits. They’re also pretty diverse. The only thing they all have in common is hydrophobic regions that don’t react with water.” They were heading toward the barn, where they’d pick up some tools and find out what needed to be done. Em hoped they’d be pulling weeds or harvesting; she’d mucked out a pig pen last month and hauled the slop to the compost pile.
“But there are still those dehydration and hydrolysis reactions, right? I seem to remember that bit about triglycerides being made of glycerol and fatty acids and whether the fatty acid tails were bent or straight and so why some lipids, like that wonderful olive oil, are liquid at room temperature, while others, like that lovely bacon fat, are solids.” He had paid attention to the stuff he could relate to in school, which wasn’t much of it. Food, he cared about, quite a lot.
“Yes, but they aren’t broken down as readily as the carbs. That’s why they’re good for long term energy storage. All those CH bonds represent really dense stored energy.” They headed into the barn.
“I still don’t really get that.”
“We’ll get there.”
They shoveled manure together.
“It’s the hydrophobic regions that are the thing.” Em was shoveling right, Zach left. Every few minutes they’d switch sides, practicing the balanced yoga of shit slinging. “So while oils and fats are great for energy storage, they’re also really good for water proofing. Same with waxes. That outermost layer on a leaf is waxy, kind of waterproof. Same with the oils in our skin.”
“I thought the cell membrane thing was the coolest, that phosphate head and fatty acid tail thing and the phospholipids in the water? I mean, I can imagine evolution happening, a cell being born just like that in the middle of the primordial soup!” He accidentally slug a piece of pig poop right onto Em’s cheek as he turned to switch places before finishing his toss.
She gave him the look.
“Does this look like some kind of skin conditioning oil to you?” She was actually smiling as she pointed to the stinky poo that graced her visage.
“Probably lots of cellulose in there, right?” He was working hard not to laugh, trying to decide if she was going to swing her shovel at him. “And billions and billions of bacteria, too.” He couldn’t resist a little Carl Sagan, it might be his only hope.
She laughed out loud.
“Let’s go eat, the wheelbarrow is full and so are the pigs, this is a never ending job and we’ve put plenty of time in.” She was pulling her gloves off, stretching her back in that way that now totally turned him on.
“You should probably wash your face first.” He’d try to keep his mind clean.
He had plenty of time to study with Emily.
“You give really good head.” Em was admiring the great job Zach had done on her hair, looking at him directly in the eyes via the bathroom mirror they were standing in front of.
“I shampoo’d dogs for about six months when I was dating a groomer a few years ago. I found I really got into it, and the dogs did, too. I’m pretty good with full body massage, too.” He was still playing with her hair, tickled at the infinity effect produced by the door mirror behind them. His ass looked okay. “Of course I haven’t really shown you yet what I can do in terms of giving head.”
“The haircut totally turned me on Zach. The shampoo was fabulous, it had to be an eight of ten, and I really dug watching you wash yourself. That was totally hot. You did a nice job between the wrinkles.” She winked at him, an incredibly lecherous grin on her face in the mirror.
“You’re not mad that I juiced my lemon on your back like that? You kept arching it when I was washing your hair.” His lemon, was, in fact, making its presence felt again against her left glute, albeit through the cotton of towel and panties. “And you were just a tiny touch provocative there…..do you always contemplate your nipples that way when you wash, give them that much lazy attention? They’re such a pretty shade of pink.” His breathing was getting heavy.
He suddenly stopped talking and started nibbling her neck, doing his own exploration of nipples through her t-shirt as he embraced her from behind. Pinkness immediately perked up, and she put her hands over his to stop him.
“But I want to flip your switch! I want to find the top turn on, the ten of ten!” He was looking at her in the mirror intently, almost whining.
“What makes you so sure that flipping my switch is ten of ten?” She had intent down pretty good herself.
“That’s my top turn on!” his response was so knee-jerk it shook him. Was it really?
“Is it really?” Em genuinely was curious. In terms of gender issues, the masculine and feminine, Mars and Venus. It wasn’t just Zach or Daddy or an awful lot of human culture. It was about the evolution of humanity.
“I don’t know.” He got very quiet. “No, I don’t think so. No. There are plenty of women I have no interest in fucking. I can flip my own switch damned near any time I want to. Sometimes it’s downright boring. Porn is so dull I never bother with that crap any more. It’s not real.”
“What is it about sex then?” She was turning it back into an intellectual discussion. It was a good place to go with Zach. “I can flip my switch really easily as well. In fact, I could do it all day, probably, if I didn’t get bored with it. When I first figured out how, it was pretty fascinating. It takes a really good fantasy to make it a really good switch flipping, though. At least sometimes.”
That was probably a nine of ten for him right there. So much for intellectualism.
“I want you to want me. I want to be with a woman who is healthy and happy and beautiful and strong and sexual, to pump my seed into her as well and as often as I possibly can.” He knew it was so. Growing up in the midst of ultra feminist culture had led him to admit that to himself long ago. “When I see an attractive woman, I want to fuck her brains out.”
“You want to fuck my brains out?” She smiled at him. She knew her brains were pretty hot, way hotter than her rather skinny body.
“No way, Sunshine. I like your brains, bunches. I want to fuck your socks off.” He looked down at her little woolen lamb socks one of her aunties had knitted for her, and at his big boner, once again invading her personal space. “I can be a good fantasy. I can be real life, really flip your switch.”
She smiled up at him in the mirror. “Ah, so you admit that Sol is a chick.” She did a little bootie rub against his bulge and headed off to get dressed.
“You’re driving me insane, Sunshine.” He called after her.
“Flipping my switch is not what your research efforts are about. They are about turning me on. You’ve made one of those mistakes that Dr. P warned about in her lecture, you’re looking for the answer you want and not the truth.” She called back in the tone of the school mistress.
“So you’re telling me that flipping your switch does not turn you on?” His voice was somewhat resigned, his magnificent member of manhood shrinking back down into clean wrinkles.
“Oh, not at all. Flipping my switch totally turns me on. But first I have to fall in love with you, that’s the challenge. You think just anybody can flip my switch?” She had an interesting tone to her voice, one he’d not heard before. Using all of his senses fully had become part his life experience since the one in South America.
“So, what?” He was completely befuddled.
She walked back into the room, looking fresh as a daisy in t-shirt and cut offs, a big floppy hat hanging from a string around her neck. They were going to work in at the CSA outside of town in exchange for some fresh, organic, eggs and bacon.
“Here’s my take on it. Very early on in our relationship, you started making your masculine play to have sex with me, correct?” She started slowly, she really had been working it out for herself for some time. “You didn’t know me at all, just saw a girl and starting hitting on her.”
“Well, yeah. First it was your look, then the book, then talking to you. You’re smart and pretty and fun and I’d like to fuck you.” He was straightforward, always. It drove his mother crazy, made his father proud.
“And you’re smart and cute and fun and I like you a lot. You’re physically attractive and you turn me on, you’re really good with your hands.” She smiled at him. He smiled back. He’d heard that before, plenty of times. “But I barely know you, really.”
“So, what, I have to be like a childhood friend before you’ll let me flip your switch for you?” He figured he’d get his mind off of actual conjugal sex for the time being. He wanted to make Emily shudder, the way she had him, just by arching her back that way.
“Not at all. What I’m saying is that you won’t be able to flip my switch for me until I’m ready for you to be. Neither of the other boys could, and they tried. I even tried to show them how, it was a mess.” What the hell, he’d seen her naked, he’d definitely exposed some of his own vulnerabilities pretty plainly. She might as well bare it all to him.
“I think it might go something like this. I’m not sure of you yet. For most animal species, and especially mammals and primates like us, it’s pretty important for females to be choosy about their mates. Males are way more open to spreading their seed far and wide, females want a guy who’s got something to contribute. Making babies is hard for women, it’s fucking easy for men, literally. Even though we know, intellectually, that we don’t have to worry about pregnancy and genes and child support, there’s something instinctual involved.”
“I can do it, let me show you. According to the anthropologists, being a really good fuck is a great trait for a man!” He started walking toward her; she help up her hand like a crossing guard.
“You’re not listening to me at all. I can do it, too, easily. Half a dozen times, in no time flat. Speaking of which, we’re due at the farm in half an hour. Unless you want me to drop you off somewhere.” That was another little problem she’d had with her other lovers. Once they got a taste of it, they never wanted to go away, they clung like vines, hovered like guard dogs, wept like babies taken from the breast when she wanted some space. Emily was a woman who needed her space.
The look he gave her was one of such crushing despair that she walked over and kissed him, gently, on the lips. She almost had to tiptoe to do so.
“I’m such a fucking dumb-ass.” His voice was fifty shades of puke green.
“What do you mean?” She was feeling horrible, which she always did when she hurt a boy’s feelings.
“I’ve never really properly kissed you yet.” His chin actually quivered, and a couple tears rolled down his cheeks. “I spooged all over your back and I’ve never even kissed you. My mother would fucking kill me.” He blubbered for a few minutes, like a child. She held him and back patted, let him compose himself and wipe his snot unobtrusively.
“Well, I don’t recall having invited you to kiss me properly before now. I did pretty much invite you to spooge on my back though.” She smiled up at him. He kissed her, properly.
Studying with Emily was awesome.
“I was thinking about sex last night.” It was Saturday morning and they were sharing coffee and weed, sitting on the floor with their laptops in front of the couch he’d slept on. Her bed was in a loft overhead.
“Dude, it seems to me you’re pretty much always thinking about sex. Or at least you think about it quite a bit.” She touched his left foot with her right, gave it a little nudge.
“That’s not fair. I’d forgotten all about sex for a couple of minutes when we were talking about water the other day, until I suddenly realized it’s all the same thing.” He tone was very serious, and he was focused on the laptop, stayed there for a few beats before shutting it down.
“What do you mean it’s all the same thing?” She shut hers down as well. The world hadn’t ended yet based on her morning email and Facebook check-ins, and she spent as little time as possible in cyber space. She liked the real world a whole lot more.
“Water and sex. Polarity and gender. Atoms coming together to make molecules and people coming together to make babies.” He paused. “Gender questions have always been huge in my world, and biology and women’s studies definitely have some language issues going on when it comes to gender and sex.”
“So do you think all things are gendered and all relationships sexual?” She was grinning at him, apparently liked this line of discussion. “When Oxygen pulls those two Hydrogens in to make water, is it like your dad with his twin blondes?” She nudged his foot again with that one.
“When a mass of tiny electrons are orbiting a bunch of big old positive protons, do those opposite charges correspond to gender? And then what’s the role of the neutrons?” Zach’s night had been completely dream filled, chemical, biological, sexual, primally human dances with sperm and egg on a dance floor filled with swirling stars and classical music, re-arranged with a funky backbeat.
“Biology would say that gender, and that’s the term used to describe the chromosomal status of sexually reproducing organisms, is not a characteristic that we can attribute to things like atoms or planets or other heavenly bodies. Gaia is not a female.” Em was pretty comfortable with that stance.
“But the sun is kind of a gendered entity, it provides the energy so the earth can bring forth life using air and water and soil. Earth as mother, it bears the life, sun as…….” he hesitated.
“The patriarch?” She gave him that look. “Oh, no, I don’t think so, no.”
“But the sun is the real power to the whole show………” he really screwed himself there.
The stare got pretty intense.
“But of course nothing could happen in terms of life without the earth and her….um, its nurturing womb and…….” he was fumbling. With fucking words, he was fumbling. He was a master of words.
“And would the poor little female earth just hurl herself into the fire of the sun because of the magnificence of his gravitational attraction?” She turned to face him full on.
“What, you think Sol is the girl?” He was tempted to grab his phone and start Googling the crap out of anthropological sites he knew. It suddenly occurred to him that he’d just implied that he wanted to hurl himself into her magnificence, he was going to have to be careful.
“Prokaryotic organisms aren’t gendered. That passing on of genetic information to the next generation does not require a partner, not even passing along of unique genetic information. Even plants can do that. Hell, it’s getting pretty apparent that even our genes change during our lifetimes, Lamarck was a whole lot more correct than the textbook gives him credit for.” Gender and sex were so integral to evolution, that Em had indeed studied both, at least a little, from the perspective of biology.
“How do you know all this? And surely you haven’t read the whole textbook yet!” He was not accustomed to not being on top of the material in his study groups. He liked being on top.
“Like I said, I’m unschooled. And lots of academicians passed through over the years. And last year’s copy of the three hundred dollar textbook can be had for two bucks at the thrift store, or online, or for free if you know people.” College was, indeed, turning out to be less than she’d expected in lots of ways, more than she’d expected in others. She loved the diversity of people she’d met, especially among the professors. The system itself, not so much. The classes were kind of a joke, at least a lot of them were.
“But even bacteria hook-up, right? Conjugation tubes? I seem to remember thinking about conjugation tubes and transfer of DNA and Sarah Sandusky’s butt crack while we were watching a video during lab one day when our teacher was hung over and couldn’t do class.” The faculty at Zach’s exclusive prep school had been a brilliant yet mostly broken lot.
“Horizontal gene transfer. Hell, bacteria pick up DNA from dead stuff lying around. Transformational Learning at its finest. They seem to know what they’re looking for. And they don’t seem to care a whole lot about anything to do with gender when they share what they know.” She gave him the eyebrows.
“Wow. Just like memes. In the noosphere, gender doesn’t matter at all. We can ramp up evolution without worrying about such silly shit.” He was, once again, beside himself as he sat there beside little Emily. That was it. He’d gotten so caught up in their intellectual interaction and exchange of ideas and information, that for a little while, he’d forgotten about her gender. “You know, I almost forgot how much I wanted to juice my lemon all over your legs, which was was the talk about pH had gotten me thinking about when you started talking about polarity and water and my mind kind of wandered back to that boring old textbook and the ideas I’d had while reading it. Definitely a different perspective.” He nudged her back with his left foot. WTF, the call and response thing had been good the previous night.
“Thing is, Z, you and I are gendered. You’re totally masculine in most ways, but I can tell that you spent most of your life around women. While I’m definitely female and definitely heterosexual, I’m not very feminine at all. I’ve always like playing with the boys.” She nudged him back, a little more aggressively.
He totally shocked her with a move of his own, a quick shift and straddle. He was facing her, supporting himself on his lower legs so that she was trapped, but comfortably.
“You do like playing with the boys, don’t you?” She could tell that his mind had definitely made it’s way back to lemon juice and oily legs by the weight and warmth of the mass on her belly. He was wearing a pair of her sweatpants.
“Only when they play fair.” She gave him yet another new look, another mystery to ponder.
He took a deep breath and stood up, giving her a perspective not unlike she’d given him the night before, before moving away to take their coffee cups to the kitchenette. She sighed, having just had the same response he’d had the night before, thinking about nakedness, both mental and physical.
“Remember what you said about water being sacred?” She called out to him as he rinsed their dishes, finding this easier while he was farther away and occupied.
“Yeah. Why, should I turn it off?” He quickly did, having had more than his share of wounds from well meaning eco-warriors. That made her laugh, and foiled her plans for making this less intimate than it was probably going to be. She had her intimacy issues, it was part of being an orphan of sorts.
“No. But I feel that way about sex. I mean real, get down, get naked, and do that thing that makes babies.” She found herself back in the trapped position and he came back and sat right in front of her. She’d shifted to half lotus and was no longer pinned down.
“Oh. Okay. Are you a virgin?” He’d asked that question way more than once.
“No. That’s probably why I do take it so seriously. Sex changes everything, or at least it always has. Boys are funny that way.” She really was just a kid, and her sexual experiences were few. That didn’t make her ignorant, she’d grown up in a commune. She’d seen what sexual relationships could do to love.
“Guess what? Girls can be pretty funny that way, too.” Zach had fathered one abortion, and it bothered him. A lot. Mostly because he knew that his mother would have done the same with him had his father not been so insistent. She’d lied to him, told him she was on the pill when she wasn’t. When he told her he’d support the child but not marry her, she aborted it.
“Of course we can, sex is serious. So are love and commitment. Hearts get broken. STD’s can have really nasty consequences. I’d almost think it’s better to have sex with a stranger if all you want is release, or masturbate. Making love is something different. And the two get all mixed up sometimes.” She wasn’t coming across with her usual self assurance. That’s because she was feeling totally confused about the whole thing.
“There are condoms.” Of course there were, he had a six-pack in his back pocket. He’d even considered a vasectomy; the world was kind of a messy place to bring kids into these days and he wasn’t the least bit fond of latex and the other distractions of birth control. But he knew that STD’s were a reality, so like a good boy scout, he came prepared.
“I’m not the least bit fond of latex. But it’s more than that. I’m quite fond of you. I was quite fond of the other boys I had sex with, too, I wouldn’t have had sex with them if I hadn’t been. But afterwards, our relationships changed. We’d been friends before. We’d all been friends. Now none of us are. Nathan even left the commune as soon as he got old enough, and lots of the older generation have had problems because of sex.” She sighed. “But you do turn me on, too. I’m confused. I probably shouldn’t juice your lemon that way.”
“But you said it was fun.” His lemon was getting its protons up.
“It was fun.” She could see it.
“And you said you liked the foot rub.” It did a little twitch in the sweatpants.
“I loved the foot rub.” She was blushing.
“I like when you juice my lemon.” He gave her that smile.
“Can you trim my hair?” Her sudden change of topic threw him for a minute.
“Huh? Well, yeah, probably, it looks like it’s basically a straight line. I passed scissors and crayons years ago.” He train of non-thought was kind of derailing again.
“You’ll need to wash it first.” She did the eyebrows.
“A shower would be good, we did get pretty sweaty dancing last night, didn’t we.” He did his, too. The lemon was growing into a lemon tree, very pretty. He was pretty sure the lemon flower would be sweet, hoped like hell the fruit would not be impossible to eat. Time for some homework.
Studying with Emily had just reached a new level of educational.
“That was quite a lesson the other night.” Zach showed up at Em’s dorm room in his freshly laundered best no brand jeans and Red Sox hoodie over a no message t-shirt. He had on his dancin’ shoes, a pair of ancient black high top Keds. They were headed out to a club to listen to a band.
“It was fun. Really, what I told you about the straw, it wasn’t all that far off from what I wrote in my notes, what the P said in class. I spiced it up a little bit, and of course the decreased distance between us and change in resonance frequency of my voice probably did a lot to elicit the apparent hormonal and physiological responses that it did. That and my oily leg in your hands.”
She grinned at him.
“Fun? Jesus, you go from fun and spice to science and rationality so cold it could kill any kind of fire and confidence a guy might have building up and them go right back to an image of the water on your leg in like, half a second.” She rather kerflutzed him, and he’d not been kerflutzed by a woman in a very long time.
“The leg and foot massage was really nice. I liked it. A lot. It rather turned me on, that’s why I decided to tell about water in that fun little way. Your independent variable elicited a response.” She grinned at him again. “Did you like it?”
He laughed, shaking his head.
“It was pretty fucking hot. I’m not even quite sure what you did, some kind of voodoo thing or something. You never even touched me, not really.” He was still basically standing in the doorway, and she was several meters away at the kitchenette counter.
“And I can tell by the attention you pay to things like my feet that you’re probably a very nice and careful lover.” She’d switched quickly to that less playful mode. “But it’s important to look at all of the responses that your independent variable bring about. Some might have confounding effects on your interpretation of the data. Human subjects are touchy.” She smiled again, the Mona smile.
He’d have to start thinking about those response variables, how to categorize them. They seemed to perhaps be continuous and not discrete variables. And undoubtedly there were a gazillion interactive effects to consider. He loved and hated mathematics. And so far his efforts in playing scientific method with Em left him confounded, clueless, at least to some degree. As he understood it from some of the grad students, that was often the case.
“Shall we go?” Em came out from behind the counter wearing a pair of old 501s and a pretty wool sweater, her hair down around her shoulders. Her dancing shoes were a pair of scuffed up old suede black boots, her cool weather dress up shoes.
“You sure you’re going to be able to get into a bar?” Zach was looking her over appreciatively. She looked great, but also young, and this was a college town. The bouncers were pretty tough.
“Sure. I’ve got Aunt Jeannie’s driver’s license. She never drives. And she’s really my aunt, daddy’s little sister, only five years older than me. We look enough alike and I never flinch with it.” She pulled out the license. Sure enough, it was pretty good. He’d let it slide for sure, especially if she stared him down. She had a pretty good way with non verbal communication.
The walk was a fairly long one, but the night was cool and clear and the harvest moon was blazing as they made their way across the old New England town.
“Proffo P. started right on in talking about language this morning.” Em started in, taking a second to synchronize her walking and talking pace. “The term organic. To the chemist it’s about CH bonds, to the grower about bureaucratic regulations and the USDA, to the folks back home on the farm it’s about systems ecology and biodynamics, and to two people talking about education, it can be me describing mine to you in a way that has nothing to do with any of the other definitions, not really.”
“That’s how language is sometimes. When I think of organic though, I do think ‘alive’.” Zach was good with using imagery in language. “That’s pretty consistent, right?”
“Not at all! Nylon and PVC are organic compounds, at least in terms of their chemistry. So are most of those things that Monsanto makes. Plastic is totally organic. That’s why language is so important. Gotta be careful when the lawyers get ahold of it.” She really was quite cynical for one so young.
“You know a tomato is a fruit, right?” He asked, just in case.
“Well duh. I grew up on a farm.” She was, indeed, a little offended.
“Well legally, it’s a vegetable. Did you know that?” He offered it up as a bit of a challenge.
“You’re kidding, right?” She hadn’t known.
“Well duh, I guess you did grow up on a farm. Hey, you didn’t grow up in a barn, did you? My grandma used to ask me that all that time!” She was no longer smiling, so he thought he’d change course.
“Well, as a matter of fact, I did.” Lips at flatline, first time he’d seen that one. Not good.
“Oh. How was it?” He smiled at her, that really irresistible little boy smile.
“Not too bad. Quite nice, really. Uncle Bob is super handy, and he apprentices lots of the young guys. It’s place full of love. There are several old barns converted to living space there. They have all the amenities, nice wood stoves and big tubs and great hearths and kitchen spaces.”
“Sounds great. No, tomatoes were really legally declared vegetables once upon a time for trade purposes with growers south of the border. We have a much harder time producing tropical fruits here, so we’re more open in our trading with fruits. We like to tax vegetables differently, because we can produce them more easily up here. So the law says screw the botany of it, a tomato is a vegetable.”
“And the USDA comes up with a set of rules that mean something is organic. For the most part, it’s a good thing, at least it deals with things like pesticides and herbicides and GMOS and hormones, and it certainly has grown up during my lifetime.” Food production had been huge at the commune; learning how to do it in harmony with the land was not easy, and required as much sound knowledge as hard work. Emily knew her stuff. “But even that’s not enough, not over the long term. The way we produce and distribute food has to change pretty drastically.”
“Did you learn all this in class today?” He was teasing her a little, getting her back on topic. They’d agreed that the best way for her to learn her stuff was to talk about it after class. They both liked it. A lot.
“No, silly, I learned all that the hard way. I did my homework.” She took a breath as they rounded the corner into town. “Today we basically learned about how big, complex organic molecules like carbohydrates and proteins are built from smaller, simpler subunits. We learned about carbon backbones and the functional groups that give different kinds of organic molecules their structural and reactive characteristics. We learned about polymerization and hydrolysis reactions. We learned about monomers and isomers and sugars and polysaccharides and storage carbohydrates and structural carbohydrates. We learned about lipids and hydrophobic and hydrophilic regions of molecules, and fatty acids and bent tails and straight tails and glycerol and oils and fats and waxes. We learned about cell membranes. We learned about steroids. Or at least she told us about all of those things pretty hastily. I’m glad I read those chapters first.”
“What, you mean all three of those chapters in one class?” Zach had done the reading; he liked reading. He found he was getting it, to, kind of like the structural aspects of chemistry. The functional parts he wasn’t quite as sure about yet, even that giving up and accepting of protons or hydrogen ions or whatever it was that pH was all about wasn’t quite clear to him.
“Yup. She said she likes to spend more time on proteins and nucleic acids, because of enzymes and ATP and DNA and all that fun stuff. She seems to really be into the proteins, although she does keep emphasizing that it’s all one big system.”
“What is?” She’d lost him on that one.
“Life. Whether you’re talking about a cell or a body or a community in a town or the biosphere, it’s all one big system, all a bunch of nested subsystems, from molecule to planet. It's also all online, in a PowerPoint.”
“Wow. I like that. All of it, in a PowerPoint. And what do you know, we’re here. Is our lesson over for today?” He offered his arm as they headed for the door. She took it.
“Well, gee Z. I thought maybe you’d teach me how to dance.” She smiled up at him. “I’ve got to warn you, I’m pretty bad at it. I’ve never been much of a follower.”
“There’s a few easy rules to dancing. Number one is, you gotta kind of like the music, it’ll call to you. Number two is, you look for a beat, usually it’s pretty easy to find, and try to move to it. Number three, and most important, have fun. If you can’t find a beat, that’s okay, as long as you’re having fun. Even if you don’t like the music, it can still be fun. If you’re not having fun, well, you probably shouldn’t be dancing. I find even if I’m not always having fun right away, eventually the dance itself grabs me and fills me up.” He actually bowed as he offered the chair he’d pulled out for her. The table wobbled a bit and the floor was a little sticky, but the place had atmosphere. And a funky rock jazz blues band that made music they more than kinda liked and a beat real easy to find.
They had fun.
Studying with Emily was becoming a totally organic education. He got what that meant now, he was learning.
“Basic atomic structure, periodic table, chemical bonding, electronegativity and polarity, water, and pH.” She was reading from the syllabus. “All in one day. Un-fucking believable. It took me years to learn this stuff.”
“Well, yeah, this is kind of how it’s presented. It’s how it was presented from middle school on, or at least that’s how I remember it, kind of an insane dash through all of biology in a semester or two.” He paused. “No, actually first we probably did all of science in a semester, and then all of some sub-discipline after that if we wanted to, maybe one or two classes.”
“And there’s nothing much in this book about the importance of scale and complexity and systems and emergent properties and interactive effects of, well, everything on everything at every level of complexity, at least not that I can see yet. I sure am glad Dr. P. talked about that stuff, at least a little bit. Of course it made it all the more a mad dash through far too much stuff. I’m glad it’s not all new to me.” Emily sighed. She’d been amazed by the deer in headlights looks all around her as the basics of biochemistry were spewed out by the pacing banshee at the front of the room for exactly 100 minutes.
“Yup. That’s kind of the way of it. Quite a few of the people in that room have not a clue what she’s talking about and don’t really care. Of course this is a pretty good school, so most of them can probably do a binge and purge for exams and pass the class, depending on what kinds of exams she gives. No doubt she gives exams, right?”
“Oh yeah, it’s pretty much required. All these syllabi have so many consistent lines in them and such consistent criteria, that I imagine the myth of academic freedom is mostly just that. They’re legal contracts. This is a business.” Emily was quite worldly for a farm girl. Over the years, lots of different folks had come and gone, only the core extended family had remained intact. Lots of academicians had passed through.
“So tell me about atoms. Or sub-atomic particles. Or whatever turns you on.” He was starting in early that evening. They were having a beer, technically contributing to Em’s delinquency, but since it was her Uncle Ren’s home brew, that was kind of a sticky technicality.
“Oh, she didn’t get quarky or anything, just down to the nucleus and electrons, enough to make sense of electronegativity and energy shells and atomic decay and radiometric dating, enough to make sense of electron arrangement and the periodic table and ions and bonding.” She sighed. It was a habit she was picking up from her newly favorite professor. The women she’d looked up to at the commune growing up, her aunties, had generally seemed to be more contented with life on the farm than Dr. P. was; it was a little sad.
“We’ll have to talk about up quarks and down quarks and karma and decision making and fundamental forces some day. I’ve given those things some thought. But right now I’m thinking we should stick with biochemistry, maybe focus on bonding.” He did the eyebrows and smiled.
She tried hard not to; failed.
“Elements. Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Sulfur………a few more, but really, these are the biggies for life. Even on a cosmic level, it’s rare to find an atom of a chemical element all by itself, unattached to anything else for any great period of time. Bonding just wants to happen, it almost seems to me that it’s the very nature of matter to want to come together, that’s what the fundamental forces are all about.”
“Whoa. This is what your professor said?” Zach was flabbergasted. Not only was this line of thinking really appealing to him, it was almost more erotic than his stupid little pun had been.
“Well, maybe not in so many words, but kind of.” Em smiled at the memory. She could tell that Dr. P really did love teaching the stuff, even if most of the class seemed far more interested in their cell phones. “She covered the basics, you know, proton number, charge, electrons and the valence shells of atoms of different elements and why….if I may say why….chemical bonds form, and bond angles and how they affect the shapes of molecules and how strong or weak bonds might be and about energy storage and polarity. All in like, fifteen minutes at most.”
“Kind of crazy, you’re right. I read the book, it’s pretty boring and doesn’t really bring it into context for me much. Of course I’ve never really had to think about any of this stuff, I only ever really barfed it back out on test day. But I think I basically get it.”
“My Auntie Kay taught me the basics of soil chemistry years ago. We had some pH issues with our compost, so we started learning about that. Hydrogen is pretty basic to the whole show, and it caught my attention early on. Water is even more cool, and Dr. P. did a great bit on emergent properties when she talked about water.” Em really had learned science organically.
“Water is sacred.” Zach suddenly took on an odd solemnity that Em had not seen before. It was compelling to her in a slightly uncomfortable way. His experiences down south had been perspective altering, and he had a certain vibe to him, something a little different. It was not unattractive.
“Okay, well, the cool thing was how she talked about hydrogen, and how cool it is, you know, in the sun and everything, even in terms of cosmic evolution, then about oxygen, and how cool it is, with it’s pull on electrons, then about what happened when they came together to make water, polarity, the emergent properties of water and how freaking awesome it is. And of course all three of those things, water and hydrogen and oxygen, interact in ways, do all these dances and moving of electrons and bonding and building and breaking down and……”
“And it’s sacred! Do you like to dance? Can I have another beer? This is really good beer.” He belched.
“Yes, it’s really good beer, and I’ll have one more, too, thank you, and yes, I like to dance, but only when the music wants to dance me.” She liked Zach more all the time. She could hardly wait for him to start his personal exploration of winning her affections. Or for him to step up his pace a little bit at least, get past the one liners and get serious. Perhaps her own sense of humor and his joy at making her smile was slowing him down a little. The joy in the smiling was awfully good though, she had to admit that. Awesome foreplay. He was cute and smart and lots of fun, and really into learning. She liked that, it’s what she was there for. Mostly. It was what he was there for too. At least a little bit. She supposed the same could be said of life.
He plopped down in front of her on the floor at the base of her recliner and handed her a frosty mug of beer, having found her glass stash in the freezer when he served up the first round. He turned and leaned against the folded up footrest, pulling her legs down over his shoulders to rest on his chest, so as not to disturb the laptop she was working on. He took a long pull on his beer and belched again before setting it down. He rubbed some of the olive oil he’d brought in from the kitchenette into his palms and went to work on Emily’s left foot, starting at the ankle.
“Tell me about water.”
He smoothed oil first down onto her foot from the ankle, spreading the slippery stuff around quickly with a few quick motions. Then he moved upward, slowly, sinuously, tracing the line of her calf, first up, and then down. He moved back to her foot and got down to business with her toes, giving each its own full body massage.
“Water.” She croaked it out. She took a sip of her beer. Foreplay indeed. She took a deep breath, and focused on the sensation in her foot, then just let the sensation be in the background. She took another breath, and went on.
“Because of oxygen’s big pull on electrons, little old hydrogen protons are hanging on one end of water, sticking their positive proton asses out into the cosmos, just hoping for some energetic electron negativity to come on by and hook up, even if only loosely. Hydrogen bonds. Since the big old electronegative oxygen end of water is hogging all the electrons, they go looking for positive proton asses sticking out to hook up with. When a whole bunch of water molecules get together, it’s like a freaking orgy. When things get hot and individual water molecules start moving around like maniacs, some of them jump off into space and make vapor. When it’s really cold, they get like all totally rigid, and set in tight bonds because nobody is moving around, and it makes totally crystalline ice. Of course between 0 and 100 C, it’s liquid, molecules are moving around and bonding and unbonding, and things are, well, fluid.”
“What’s that got to do with biology?” Zach was actually just prompting her. Maybe; he was definitely learning a lot himself.
“Well, water also hooks up with anything that’s polar like that, and most organic molecules tend to be, at least to some degree. That’s why water is so important in metabolism, it reacts with darned near everything. And even it’s not reactivity with some things, like lipids, is super important.” She paused. “That’s totally huge in all of biochemistry.”
“Okay, that makes sense.”
“But that scale thing is super important, too, and even those state changes, you know, from liquid to solid to gas. It takes a really long time for water to heat up or cool down relative to air. That’s because heating up and cooling down are all about molecular motion, and hydrogen bonding affects molecular motion. It takes more energy to jiggle water than to jiggle air.” She smiled, he laughed. He kind of wished she’d jiggle, but no such luck. She continued. So at the landscape scale, how close you are to a big body of water makes a big difference in terms of the climate you’ll experience. And sweating. It takes a lot of energy for water to evaporate, and that’s what’s happening when you sweat, and the energy is coming from you. It cools you off.”
“Same idea with climate effects. It’s not only how much of a buffer water is in terms of temperature changes, it can also cool the air a whole lot on a pretty big scale.” Zach’s dad had gained an interest in green development long ago, and use of plants and water in urban spaces to help reduce heating was a big part of that.
A long silence followed that.
“What’s wrong?” He turned to face her. She was staring down at him.
“Aren’t you going to do the other leg?” She was giving him a new look, one that he’d have to ponder for a while. He turned back around and repeated the beer, belch, and brain adjustment needed to get back to the task at hand. Somehow, he’d managed to get distracted by their conversation and had lost his focus, even if it was apparent by it’s shine and healthy flush that he’d not been remiss in what he’d been doing without much thought. How, he wondered, had this woman’s words managed to distract him from that lovely calf? He turned his attention right, and started again.
Each toe enjoyed its tender tug and tussle. Her arch was so high it had few rivals. Her heel, well, it was something that had spent some time barefoot in the grass, for sure. He’d like to get it into the bathtub with a pumice stone, he’d have to add that to the list of independent variables he was working on.
“What else?” He’d see if he could maintain focus as he moved up this time. The calf was definitely a lot nicer than the foot in lots of ways. Of course he liked the foot, too, funky heel and all.
“Well, you know how water is, it’s sticky”. She leaned forward and touched her cold beer mug to the side of his face. “The water sticks to the glass on the side, it doesn’t run straight off. And it sticks to itself, each droplet is millions of molecules all stuck together.”
With perfect fluidity, his hand moved from leg to mug and back to leg, bringing some of the cold water from its surface along to bead on the oil he’d already rubbed in.
“Yes, I see.” He was still focused on the leg, and focused on the water, too. Both were turning him on, big time. She leaned down and whispered in his ear.
“And when I put a straw in my mouth, when I wrap my lips around it and apply some negative pressure with my cheeks and tongue, some gentle sucking, and start in motion a pressure gradient that pulls on the uppermost little water molecules, drawing them into my mouth, all of the other little water molecules that are sticking with their friends and sticking to the inside of that long tubular space inside the straw come rushing out with their friends, pulling those still downing the depths of the glass along behind them, and they empty and empty and empty until my sucking stops or they are spent.” She blew in his ear and retrieved her leg from his very limp grasp and stood up,leaving him facing her at thigh level. Her denim cut offs concealed far more than he care for.
“It’s the same way with trees. There’s water coming out of the top of a fifty meter tree, no energy expenditure required. The atmosphere is literally sucking water out of the earth, right through the trees. Unless the trees shut down to it that is, and lots of times, they have to. Water’s really, really important.” She stepped away, gathering the empty beer mugs as she went.
Zach was a bit dumbfounded as she tidied up the space and made the motions that indicated day was done. She’d just blown him away, mind fucked him, and he wasn’t even sure she’d really liked the toe job. And he’d really given her a great toe job. She’d done some nice responsive flexing, but since he wasn’t facing her and she’d been talking, he’d not been able to pick up a lot of stuff that might have been apparent otherwise. So much for his data collection efforts.
Studying with Emily was going to be challenging sometimes.
Linda Brooke Stabler, Ph.D.