The light is blue and dim, flickering as the lecturer flips from slide to slide.
“You should try it,” murmurs Delphine out of the corner of her mouth. Her hand scribbles lazily, elegantly, pen dangling from the tips of almost-straight fingers, against the surface of my notebook. She’s got long cellist fingers. They could be so multipurpose. My breath follows the twisting, waxing and waning shapes formed by the line of the pen and the curve of finger and hand.
Delphine wears a white blouse today, with sleeves rolled short and cloth billowing over her skinny shoulders like the petals of a lily. I have always thought lilies looked sort of ravenous - tiny suction cups ready to ensnare any buzzing bumblebee brainless enough to wander near. But no - carnivorous plants isn’t till Tuesday. I haven’t even done the pre-lab. And that course - that course has the misfortune to be absent ravishing ravenous lilies murmuring, “You should try it.”
The Venn diagram of our lives is so broadly spread and multichromatic that the only overlapping slice of purple in the middle is titled in neat, blocky letters - “Physics 212”. Two hundred and twelve, that’s the number of hours per week I spend doing homework for that goddamn course. Though to be certain, it might go faster if I didn’t stop to smell the lilies along the way. But where’s the fun in that?
I whisper, husky - because it’s dark and Delphine is close, as are thousands of other breathing beating bodies, but they aren’t glowing white-blue in the dampened light, and they don’t have brewing coffee eyes like hers - “What’s it called, again?”
Delphine’s pen taps the paper. Her eyes dart down to the find the URL, scribbled moments before by that very pen and that very hand. Her hands could be so multipurpose. Pens, too, I suppose. I swallow dryly.
“You really,” whispers Delphine, a playful damning smile coming slowly into being around the corner of her mouth. “Have made it into graduate-level biology? With a - um, what is it - an attention span like this?”
“That’s me,” I say thickly. I’m aware that my voice is louder than all the other noises of the room - the quiet buzz of the projector, the lecturer’s disinterested drawl, Delphine’s hushed and breathy whispers. I claim, “I’m a goldfish.”
The students around us begin to pack up their books, despite the lecturer’s protests. Be quiet, please, he says. I’ll take questions in the last ten minutes. The students say lunch friends phones classes homework no time for questions we must assume and not ask or surely we’ll be late to something very important. We are scientists; we know everything. The only questions of relevance are can we re-take the midterm if we fail and what is the point breakout for this class.
I glower down at the crowd filling the ampitheatrical lecture hall. That’s Scott, my dear friend, asking likely an incredibly provoking question which I can’t hear because of all the din -
Then my attention, too, turns away from Scott as Delphine exclaims, “Oh! I forgot. Here, also, is my user name.”
The shape of the pen and finger and ink and paper makes curling cursive letters, of a standard-issue, hit-your-fingers-with-a-ruler, variety still found in French schools: the-oracle.
“The oracle,” say I, voice cracking with half a chuckle.
“Of Delphi,” finishes Delphine. “Because my name -“
I grins teasingly. “I know.”
“Oh,” Delphine remarks pointlessly, flushing. “Not that I thought you wouldn’t -“
“Just shut up,” I giggle, pulling her white-lily arm which is not so fragile as it looks, and not-dragging the girl (for she goes willingly, only playing at being a dead weight under my eager hands) out into the midday sunshine for a cup of tea or coffee and a slice of free-speech-and-apple pastry.
Then we lie, half in dappled shade and half in light, in the lee of a building that is a monument to science. BACTERIOLOGY looms in giant, marble-cast letters over our messy heads. At Columbia they have that library - I remember from my oh-shit-I’m-almost-eighteen tour of the country’s best colleges - decked out in the names of old dead white guys. Here - I breathe in the sweet green air and hold it, as if smoking - here they celebrate science and not people. The important things. BACTERIOLOGY. PHYSIOLOGY. PSYCHOLOGY. None of that Plato business. It is grand and warm and if the lawn looks fine, the marble looks finer.
We celebrate Science, and Friday, and we celebrate PHYS 212: The Physics of Microstructures. We celebrate the purple in our Venn diagram for one slow, sweet green-and-yellow hour.