It was the spring of my sophomore year of college, the first Monday of the first week of classes. I was a biology major, but I was required to take one more semester of organic chemistry, which anyone can tell you is a bitch. By far the worst experience of many a college career, renowned killer of GPAs, the crucible that separated the truly hardcore from the mere mildly-inclined. I was about to face the dragon that guarded the sleeping beauty, and I was armed with only an AP credit of one semester of introductory chemistry.
I walked morosely into the classroom, my head down, not even looking at my fellow academic prisoners. I grabbed a seat near the back, and prepared my brain to be assaulted by equilibrium constants and electron orbital diagrams. I recognized a few faces as everyone shuffled into the first few rows – a couple people from my intro biology course, and another girl whose name I couldn’t remember who occasionally worked in the biology department greenhouse with me.
“OK class, let’s get started,” called a voice up at the front of the class. A woman’s voice. A young woman’s voice. “My name is Lin Sakayumi, and I’ll be your TA for this class. Everyone sit down.” An Asian name, but not an Asian accent… interesting.
And as the stragglers and chatters sat, I got my first glimpse of Lin. She was tiny, maybe five feet two, and slender, maybe a buck ten. She was younger than I expected – though to be honest I would have expected an older man, perhaps one who had been teaching this class for thirty years – late-twenties I guessed, though sometimes I had a hard time telling age with Asian women. Her black hair was cut just below her chin, and pulled back behind her ears to frame her round face. Her eyes were wide, and her mouth narrow. She was wearing a fuzzy maroon sweater and a denim skirt underneath her unbuttoned lab coat.
I’d never really thought of myself as having a thing for Asian girls – my previous girlfriends had all been white girls – but Lin struck me as beautiful. Not necessarily like a supermodel or anything, but she seemed genuine. I mean, I was kinda turned on, and she hadn’t even done anything more than introduce herself. And as she began to go over the syllabus, I noticed how gracefully she moved. I just sat there, watching her mouth, not even listening as her lips opened and closed, her tongue darting between her teeth –
I started, looking around. Almost everyone was turned around in their seats, looking at me. I felt a wetness on my chin, and realized I had literally been drooling. I dragged a fist across my mouth, wiping my face dry.
“Are you Joe Connors?” Lin asked slowly, eyes wide, perhaps questioning my grasp on the English language.
She checked my name off the list in her hand, and kept on going. Taking attendance. I blushed, and tried to hide my flush by bracing my elbows on the table and resting my cheeks in my palms. So much for first impressions.
For the rest of class, I kept my eyes down, taking notes, not drawing attention to myself. Lin was actually quite a good lecturer, not moving too quickly or too slowly, but giving a good review of various functional groups and standard organic chemical naming protocols.
At the end of period, she passed out a signup list for duties to perform and equipment to maintain for the hands-on lab portion of the class. And of course, since I was at the back of the room, I got the last job available – refilling the liquid nitrogen for the cold trap.
“You win the prize,” Lin told me as I brought the sign-up sheet back to the front of the class while everyone else was packing up and filing out the door. “The liquid nitrogen has to be checked every 8 hours on the dot, and can never be allowed to dry up. It gets too hot, oxygen condenses, BOOM – no more lab, no more building, lots of lawsuits.” She moved her hands animatedly while she talked. I was almost overcome with her adorableness. “You’ll need to come by the lab tonight at midnight so I can show you what to do.”
I just nodded, avoiding eye contact, desparate not to make a fool of myself again. I wrote down the room number and the time I was expected to meet her, and booked it.
It was 11:45, and I had to run out of my dorm to make it to the chemistry building. I’d accidentally fallen asleep, and only my roommate staggering back through the door and knocking over a stack of books kept me from missing my appointment altogether.
He grunted in apology for knocking over my books, and immediately flung himself onto his bed and started snoring almost before his head hit the pillow. I looked at the clock, jumped up, and dashed out the still-open door, shutting it behind me.
The chemistry building was halfway across campus, about half a mile away, and I ran as fast as I could, stopping thirty seconds away to catch my breath before I walked in the door. I caught the elevator up to the güvenilir bahis fourth floor, and opened the door at 12:02.
“You’re late!” Lin called from the back corner of the lab. She was sitting on a stool with a notebook in her hand and a purple pen tucked behind her ear, wearing square glasses with thick black frames that she hadn’t been wearing earlier. She had also changed her skirt for a pair of what appeared to be hospital scrubs, rolled up around her ankles so they wouldn’t drag on the floor. The nerd factor was astounding, and I felt a stirring in my groin just looking at her.
The lab was fairly small, maybe ten feet by fifteen feet. A lab bench met the center of the wall to the left of the entrance and split the room down the middle, forming a U-shaped walkway around it. The outer walls were cluttered with writing desks and cabinets full of papers and various reagents. On the opposite wall, at the end of the lab bench where Lin sat was a glovebox, an expensive piece of equipment. It was an airtight chemical hood workspace for reagents that could not be exposed to regular atmosphere. There were arm-length gloves protruding inside out from the front of it, so that you could put your arms in and work inside the enclosure.
Lin hopped down from the stool and waved me over to a row of horizontal pipes at eye level over a bench full of labeled reagent bottles and empty Styrofoam buckets. She put on a pair of thick rawhide gloves as she approached.
“This is the cold trap,” she told me. She unscrewed a metal canister hanging from one of the pipes and showed it to me, basically a hollow thermos with vapor rising from the bottom. “You can’t see the liquid nitrogen because it’s almost empty, but it should be at about this level, where my finger is. What you’ll need to do is refill the canister from this dewar here in the corner. It’s heavy, so try not to lift it, just tip it as far as you’ll need for the liquid to start to pour. And be careful, don’t spill any – if you get it on your hands or spill on your feet, you could lose them. This is routine work, but still dangerous, so don’t lose focus. That’s how people die in laboratory accidents, they get complacent.”
She took off the thick gloves she had on, and passed them to me. I put them on, and the insides were still warm from her hands.
“Now, set this thing on the ground, and let me see your technique. That’s right, nice and slow. Careful, don’t let it overflow! Ok, now pick it up and screw it back in right there. Good.”
I was kind of enjoying the way she told me what to do. I thought to myself, I could get used to taking her orders. I took off the gloves and set them on the lab bench, looking down at her face. The top of her head came to about my mouth, and she had to tip her neck up to make eye contact.
“I think you can do this, Joe. Just don’t forget to check it every eight hours – eight AM, four PM, and midnight, every day for the next week or so. We’ll be switching duties every week, so no one will be stuck doing the night shift for very long. Let me know if the dewar gets low, or anything looks wrong, or if there any issues. I work here in this lab every day, so you can probably find me if you need to. Questions?”
I shook my head.
“Then I’ll see you Wednesday in class.”
For the next two days, I was up at the crack of dawn (or the crack of 7:30, which is too damn early for a college student anyway) so that I could refill the liquid nitrogen canister in the lab. Every time I popped in, the place was deserted; if papers on the desks hadn’t been shuffled, the trash cans slowly filling up, and the reagents moved around in the glove box, I would’ve wondered if Lin really worked there.
Life went on, and I stayed marginally busy between reading for O-chem, my biology class (entitled Prokaryotic Genetics, woot woot), and the required introductory English and foreign language classes (God bless the liberal arts).
Class on Wednesday came until I even caught a glimpse of Lin again. She looked a little pale and puffy, like she hadn’t been sleeping well. She still gave an excellent lecture though, on Michaelis-Menten kinetics and how they could be used to experimentally determine optimal reaction parameters. It was riveting, let me tell you.
As we all prepared to leave, Lin called out, “Hey Joe! Stay here just a second, I need to ask you something.”
Curious, I grabbed my jacket and bag and moved up towards the front of the classroom. I had fun for a minute, imagining the things I would agree to if she only asked…
But instead of my racy daydreams, she simply said, “Are you doing okay with the liquid nitrogen? Have you run into any problems, do you need any help?”
“No, Dr. Samayuki,” I answered. “Everything’s going fine, no problems.”
“OK…” She flushed a little. I got the feeling that she was working her way up to asking me something. And then without warning türkçe bahis she just burst out, “I need you to do me a favor.”
Were my fantasies really that far off-base? “What do you need?” I asked, sitting on the edge of the table, imagining that I looked suave and sophisticated.
“I’ve been swamped writing this grant application, and I’ve run into a bit of a problem. I need to do another experiment ASAP, because the deadline is Friday. Tomorrow there’s a demonstration scheduled in the lab, so I won’t be able to get in to work. What I need is to pull an all-nighter, tonight.”
“OK…” I was confused. “What do you need from me?”
“I’m technically not allowed to work alone in the lab. It’s a safety issue, if anything went wrong that late at night, there would be no one around to help. I was hoping that since you’d be there at midnight anyway, you could stick around for awhile until I finished the experiment. It shouldn’t take more than two or three hours,” she pleaded, biting her lower lip and looking me right in the eyes. “What do you think, can you lose a few hours of sleep to help me out?”
Not exactly the way I’d prefer to lose sleep with Lin, but it sounded easy enough, and I could probably get some reading done. My body seemed to prefer staying up late anyway, I almost never got to sleep until 1:30 or 2:00 AM anyway.
“I think I can swing that,” I answered with a small grin. “Do you want me to get there early too?”
“If you don’t have anything else going on, I’d be grateful for all the time you can give me,” she answered. “I’ll even supply the caffeine.”
“Sounds good, see you tonight around eleven?”
“Thanks a lot, Joe. You’re saving my butt, really.”
She grabbed a stack of papers and as she walked in front of me out of the room, my eyes never left her ass. Not exactly what I wanted to be doing with your butt at night, but it’s better than nothing, I thought, smiling.
At 10:30, I got out of the shower and put on a nice, un-wrinkled button-down shirt that passed the smell test. Not that I thought that Lin would be smelling me, but hey, I could dream. I brushed my teeth with my finger for a few seconds, ran a comb through my hair, then immediately put a knit grey hat on. I grabbed my biology textbook and an energy drink and locked the door behind me, whistling to myself.
It was snowing pretty fiercely outside, so I couldn’t see much farther than fifty yards in front of me. The large stone buildings loomed around me, materializing from hazy shadows to less hazy immovable giants. There were no lights on in any of the academic buildings, and I didn’t see a single car on the walk to the lab. It was like the whole campus was in hiding, braced against the winter weather.
The building was unlocked, but the hallways were deserted. I deposited my energy drink on a filing cabinet outside the lab entrance (chemistry does not mix well with ingestion of food or drink), noticing that there was a cardboard holder with two steaming cups of coffee. I guessed Lin wasn’t joking when she said she would provide the caffeine.
When I walked into the lab, Lin was already there, sitting at a desk beside the glove box, typing furiously on her laptop. She was wearing her glasses and loose scrubs again. She looked up at me, gave me a quick smile, and turned back to her work almost immediately. I took that to mean that nothing more was required from me than my presence, so I sat down at another desk and started to read.
Something something… expression vectors… blah blah… endonuclease restriction enzymes… yada yada… DNA replication origin…
No way was I going to get anything out of this, not right now. I closed my eyes and let my mind wander. Imaginary DNA strands were playing through my brain… ACTGTGCATGCAACTAAG… random chemical names… mercaptoethanol, dithiothreitol… a short Asian woman with a tight sweater and a short skirt, nerdy glasses and a bright smile… she unbuttoned her shirt and bent over slightly, puckering her lips… she dropped to her hands and knees and started to crawl towards me… she slid her cheek along the inside of my legs, then buried her face in between my thighs…
I started. My forehead was resting on my crossed arms on the desk. I guess I had dozed off. Looking at the clock, it said 11:58. Lin was working in the glove box, her arms all the way in the gloves inside the chemical hood, so that her chest and face were pressed against the glass. She was holding a clamp in one hand and a glass beaker in the other, and she had turned her neck as far as possible in order to see me in her periphery without being able to move her shoulders.
“That’s what the coffee was for, Joe,” Lin said, her voice dead-pan. I couldn’t tell if she was reprimanding me or joking around. “Grab a drink and then come back here. You need to refill the liquid nitrogen, and then I could use your help with something.”
Fervently güvenilir bahis siteleri hoping I hadn’t muttered anything in my sleep, I jumped up and walked outside the door. I took a quick sip of the coffee, which was only lukewarm now, and then went about refilling the nitrogen canister. It only took a couple minutes, I had the routine down by now. When I was done, I walked over behind Lin at the glove box, wondering what she needed me to do.
“I tightened this screw too far, and the clamp broke,” she explained. “I need you to grab another one and feed it through the airlock while I hold the reaction vessel in place.”
Easy enough. Assuming I could find another clamp. I looked around on the lab bench, on top of the filing cabinets, under a pile of paper towels, but didn’t see anything.
“I think there’s one on the other side of the bench,” Lin said. “Just squeeze past me here and grab it.” Now that someone was actually using the glove box, I saw that it was a tight gap between her and the island lab bench, so I would have to squeeze by her to reach the other half of the room. She sucked in a bit (which didn’t make any difference, seeing as she was already so slender), and turned her head sideways to press herself as close to the hood as she could manage.
“Good thing I’m skinny,” I joked. Trying to be casual, I slide first one leg, then the other around the corner of the lab bench, the fronts of my thighs pressing gently up against her backside. I caught a whiff of her hair as I did – coconut shampoo. Oh God, delicious. I stumbled a little and did an awkward hop-skip maneuver to the other side of the room, which made her smile a bit as she watched.
Grabbing the clamp in my right hand, I repeated the dance back to the other side of the glove box and the airlock. This time, there seemed to be even less room, and I pressed a little harder against Lin. I took a more determined sniff of her hair, and I could feel her warmth against my legs. My groin twitched just a little, liking what I smelled and felt. I couldn’t blame it.
If Lin felt anything, she didn’t blame it either, or at least she didn’t let on. I unscrewed the airlock on the outside and deposited the clamp. Then Lin unscrewed the door from inside the box, took the clamp out, and started to put her setup back together.
“So what classes are you taking this semester?” she asked me conversationally as I sat down at the desk beside the hood, watching her work.
“Just yours, an upper-level biology course, and some required English and Spanish,” I replied. “O-chem is the hardest by far.”
“Sorry about that. I’m trying to make it easier, but it’s a really complex subject. This is only my first time teaching it, too.”
“Really?” I asked, surprised. She had seemed so confident and professional delivering her lectures this week. “You’re doing a really good job so far.”
“Thanks, but hold your appreciation until we hit the harder stuff.” She turned her head and grinned at me again. I could get used to that smile. “I’m only a post-doc, and they usually wouldn’t let me near a classroom, but apparently the regular teacher is indisposed.”
“Sick?” I asked.
“You could say that,” she said. “Apparently he’s being sued for inappropriate relations with a minor, and they’ve suspended him pending the outcome of the trial.”
“Ah. I see.” I looked back at her hands, deftly maneuvering the beaker into the new clamp. “I guess we’re lucky then, cause you really seem to know what you’re doing.”
Lin flushed a little, obviously pleased at the recognition. She rubbed her nose against her shoulder.
“So where are you from? Or where were you before you came here?” I asked, trying to keep the conversation flowing.
“I was born in Japan, but I was raised here in the States. I finished grad school in California, and spent about a year at the NIH before I got the call about this opportunity,” she answered.
“Wow, quick career advancement,” I said, and she blushed again. She rubbed her nose on her shoulder again. I quickly did some math in my head. “So you’re what, twenty-eight?”
“Twenty-six,” she corrected me, without indignation. “I skipped a couple grades, and worked my butt off to finish my thesis as soon as I could,” she finished proudly.
“Wow, you’re so young to be our professor,” I muttered. She rubbed her nose again.
“God, I hate these things,” Lin said abruptly.
“Glove boxes,” she replied. “It takes forever to put these gloves on, and I can’t put all this stuff down, so I need to keep my arms in the gloves, but they’re so sticky with sweat that my skin feels like I’m suffocating, and I itch everywhere but I can’t scratch! It’s driving me crazy!” After this explosion she immediately rubbed her nose on her shoulder more furiously.
I laughed. “Oh.” I thought for a second, weighing pros and cons, before I extended my right hand with two fingers held stiff in a curved position. “Need some help?”
It was an honest offer, and she also seemed to think for a moment whether it would be appropriate before she responded. “Sure. If you could just scratch my nose a little bit…”