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.
Linda Brooke Stabler, Ph.D.