The line of people quickly begins boarding the bus, while Ale remained still and unmoving. He takes a glance upward, a deep breath, and leads me to the seat in the far back. His decision is clear. “I’m up for this than the death of my sister.”, he replies delayed.
“Does she know her diagnosis?”, I inquire. She didn’t appear to have the faintest idea amidst the fountain’s droplets, yet children tend to be more resilient towards their mortality than adults.
“No and she won’t know, until the day I can cure her.”, he exclaims.
“Or until she starts losing hair or whichever symptom más. You can’t hid her illness forever. Children handle this news better than most adults. You’d be surprised.” I watch as he grips his fists into a ball firmly and cries again.
Ale may be religious, but he’s not a dumbass. I watch attentively for our next stop while wrapping my arms around him like before. His sadness appears deeper than that of my mom. A sadness that transpires what is inflicted against only one person. People feel a deeper sadness for the ones they love than themselves in these situations.
I know Ale will try like hell to hide the face from Lola. It not isn’t logical, but it’s not moral. He will put his heart into playing the scientific game of guess and check, but ever scientist knows the probability of discovery and within our souls we accept this endless search to advance humanity.
Ale and I get off the bus. He nearly falls onto the pavement face first from being in such a hurry. I jog a bit to catch up bracing myself for this new adventure of hiding my studies, yet trying to harvest this newfound resource. He peers into the microscope down at the stem cells. “The church can never accept stem cell research. But, the very resource of God rests in this forbidden tool.”, he explains as if trying to justify the sinful science, he decided to embark on when he applied for my internship.
I nearly rejected his Catholic ass day 1 in the interview, when I saw his grasp his pendant around his neck. Why didn’t I? I can’t rightfully say, but I imagine it was his tolerance of me. Alejandro sat nervously across from me, while I held his astounding credentials. But, all the applicants had credentials that could make a head spin. I pulled out one of those pamphlet style Bibles that those damned religious freaks pass out, as if people would graciously accept them like icr cream on a hot summer day. He looked at it with a confused expression, then one of horror as I burnt it beneath the flame of a Bunsen burner. Mockingly, I said, “Now, that we’re done with that. Shall we begin?”
Alejandro didn’t shout nor defend his precious book. Simply, he adjusted his tie and explained his intent. He knew how much passion and drive he would put into stem cell cresearch. Siz am coffees and staying up until three in the morning multiple times with apparently no progress proved my sixth sense right. He never failed me, despite repeatedly questioning me. I never asked for a servant like some head scientists with the privilege of operating their own lab. I wanted a scientist, which I got a burnt holy book later.
“Antigone! I said hand me a clean slide for the third time. I don’t have time for your laziness at this moment.”. Ale remarks. I look at the clock approaching midnight. I suppose his loyalty has earned mine in return. But, my doctorate degree will never allow a bachelor’s degree place me as an inferior in a professional setting.
“Excuse me?”, my voice deepens.
“I don’t believe I stutter.”
“Who’s lab are you using?”
“What are you going to do kick me out? I have one thing on my mind: Lola. If you don’t, then I suggest you get the hell out of my way.”, he challenges continuing to glare straight at me. I am unsure if accepting the power shift could destroy lab dynamic or not. Instead of trying to usurp him, I hand him the slide as his trembling hands speak of his intimidation from his bravery. He releases a faint smile continuing onto his study.
“Antigone, can you help me decipher this?”, Alejandro glances up at me timidly. I knew he could not keep the I’m-an-asshole-ready-to-destroy-the-world persona up for too long. I debate if it is a good decision to ignore him to prevent future mishaps between us or act as a family member, because that seems to be what he needs right now. Cautiously, I approach the microscope. We both have the same desire to help people. Granted, I plan to progress humanity and Ale to preserve the last family member he has.
“I started Science to make meaning of this chaos after my parents’ death. All the prayer in the world could not answer all the mystery of our body. I remember the blood, the car, and the endless hospital visits that led right up to their funeral. Before, they died. My mother handed me the guardianship papers. I was 18: fucking fresh out of high school. I was accepted into an English for my dainty poems about nature with perfect rhythm and rhyme scheme. But, the mystery of life does not lie in some sentence structure. I spoke to the priest.”
“The priest told you to study Science?”
“No, the priest told me to pray, observe a flower, and write my story and feelings. He wanted to express God’s creations.”
“I did. I broke the rules and wrote about how vital that red liquid that flows is. My poems were morbid, lacked luster, and I followed not one literary rule. My professors were furious seeing their star pupil, suddenly begin delving into Sylvia Plath territory.”
“She irrelevant. The point is I built my own direction to help and understand that fucked up mystery of my life. You burnt a Bible. Congratulations, it doesn’t make you any superior or inferior than me. God doesn’t want us to acept the mystery. He wants us to work towards understanding it. He led me into your hands to learn from your knowledge and experience. More than likely, to save the only thing that matters to me: Lolita.”
He winces stronger into the microscope. I know he is intelligent with more time; he will be on my level and then what? It can help to have somebody in the dark. On the other hand, Ale might help if he had the light to feel his way about.
“I love her, too. Don’t you doubt that.” I say through a tear. She is my niece essentially without the blood connection. I have taken her to big time science meetings on any day related with daughters or mothers using them as an excuse.
She would dress up, but like a pretty pink princess or anything ridiculous. Maturely, she would elect a faded flowery top and black dress pants. Eventually, she begun taking on my style after asking for a feminine tie with tiny flowers sprinkled all over it. She reserved the faded flowery top as a church shirt drawing the line between religion and Science quite deliberately. Always bringing a notebook labeled “Science with Aunty tía”, she sat attentively ready to absorb information at those meetings or lab visits. I know a ten year can’t understand a lick of the complexity of biogenetics. Yet, there she sat in my laboratory grinning ear to ear with the scientific world ready to bow at her feet. Ale didn’t necessarily approach of these excursions distracting her away from school. Once he avidly looked through her notebook full of lab equipment carefully drawn out and labeled by color, he decided he could consider them life field trips. A daughter is a strange concept to me, but a little lab assistant niece seems quite the contrary. Lola was my mini me.
I’ve seen her console her sobbing brother more times to count. He is her rock, but he’s still human like my mom. But, I’ve seen her break down to bend down and give her a hug because sometimes there’s nothing we can do, but stand by and watch. When two people have each other, they learn to become a team and how to cope with each other’s downfalls. It doesn’t destroy the image of strength we have for the other, but instead creates a web of support making both people stronger than people. They mold together in symbiotic relationship, both species leaning on the other for survival in this harsh natural world.
Alejandro needs Lola. She is all he has to come home to. But, how will he react if I reveal my newfound drug? That is the problem. The world is not smart enough to handle immortality, shit they can barely handle guns. Yet, people tend to believe that a gun is our right to protection amidst dead school children, government corruption, and wars. If the right to have the capacity to shoot another person is our right, how will people react about a fountain of youth capsulated in a pill?
The slight change in stem cells can repair damaged cells and destroy deformed cells like cancer. People can’t accept mortality, which is why we have God. We can’t accept the guilt of our mistakes so we have Jesus.
Ale leaves to use the rest room. Twenty minutes pass by; I’m beginning to get anxiously worried. “Ale, open up please!” I yell nearly frantically. I hear his sobbing and pound stronger to grab his attention. Instead, he ignores me. Dropping him as an intern might be better for both of us, but it would destroy our friendship completely. This is precisely the reason that I try not to get emotionally involved: each friendship brings complications. Unfortunately, I have developed into a connective person. Science and logic cannot obliterate emotions. This fact is both beautiful and ugly like a ying-yang sign.
“She’s not going to cure herself damn it! I’m coming in.”, I give my final warning before busting the door open. He has a scalpel to his wrist. He is certainly not mentally stable. His face turns into a look of self-induced shame and quickly he hides a crumbled up piece of paper. “Give me it.”, I demand. Is it a suicide note? I hate invading his privacy, but it’s only for his safety. Deliberately, he ate it like a child defying their mother. “Ale, what was it?”
“A poem not meant for you. I know what this looks like.”, he manages to mumble. I know I hurt his pride, so I take his word for it. I didn’t want to shame him, especially not being in his shoes. But, I can’t lie that this does scare me. I went through it with my mother and it’s never an easy road.
He exits the bathroom with a determined look on his face and says, “It’s time to get to work.” It seems like nothing ever transpired in the bathroom five seconds before. But, my thoughts went to Lola’s wellbeing and an unstable guardian.
“Ale, I think it’d be best if Lola stays with me for a week. You know so you can start seeing a therapist and pick yourself up. You wrote that poem a while back, I assume. Yet, you carried it in your pocket. Why?” He ignores me, probably to keep his cool with my suggestion.
“I’ve sent an order in for 100 lab mice. I’m going to inject them with blood cancer. I know it’s not logical. But, discoveries are made on chance, not logic. We can’t use logic, until we discover it.” No, it’s not logical. But, Lola has blood cancer. She will start seeing the symptoms rear their ugly head within a month, if that’s the case. He ought to be thinking on a crazy vacation. Lola doesn’t have much time. Lola’s always wanted to see the rainforest. I could purchase the tickets and them give him to her as a gift. He could not reject the trip then. Concentrating on some dead end study like every other scientist will only waste valuable time. The worst part is it’s not his valuable time to waste: it’s hers.
“What do you suppose we’ll do with 100 dead mice?”, I ask sarcastically.
“You don’t trust my scientific abilities by now? You think I’m a damned fool just because you saw me with a scalpel to my wrist. Just as two positives repel each other, I used two negatives to accomplish the same feat. You think I’ve gone mad!”
“If the shoe fits, I’d be an idiot to say it didn’t. We all have our low points in life. I’m not judging you, just trying to help.”
“Sign the lab request, if you have any trust left in me. And never ever mention me taking a break from my sister again.”
“I just–“, I attempt to explain myself before being interrupted.
“Now.” His command resonates in my ears. I grab a pen reluctantly to sign away the lives of 100 dead mice. Ale will need this opportunity of power anyhow for some degree of condolence in the end.
He peers again down at the slide’s contents motioning me over eagerly. The stem cell upped the immunity against the invaders. It is progress. Unfortunately, it was the same path I headed down those 8 years ago with Molly. I decided against releasing the study when I learnt the irreversible direction in would head.
AIDS, HIV, and lupus could essentially be wiped out with this step. But, immortality is a curse. Look, at the world’s population multiplying! It is wiping out other species and ecosystems gradually. Is our species worth it? They’re just a percentage of us, I suppose. Instead of my logical skepticism, optimism grasps Ale’s heartstrings and plays it like a harp.
“Immune system diseases are eliminated!”, he lifts me up twirling me about the open space, as I fake a smile of excitement. Ale writes down every control and variable with a steady hand eager to take on the probability of death. It took five years to find the other half to this formula. This half was used on a beautiful horse that calmly trotted people with mental disabilities around so gratefully and peacefully. The owner was prepared to place a bullet in the mare’s head; once the diagnosis was determined her immune system would disintegrate. Molly is this horse and she leads my mom through the countryside after a grueling therapy session. My mom entered such a panic attack, when the program director said she’d have to switch horses. Of course, the other horses could serve the same quiet trot through the worn-down path in the woods, but not to mom.
Molly developed a deep through cold or something. Her body began to buckle under the lack of a strong immune system. I needed a subject to confirm what I saw under the microscope. Granted, I could inject some innocent mouse with a drop of AIDS to confirm my prediction. Yet, this horse seemed more worthy. So, I crawled beneath the fence with an injection in hand. The owner was waiting a week to put the horse down, because he had a connection with her and was on vacation. The Sunny Side of Life Ranch sat completely abandoned. Molly looked at me startled, yet with the familiar scent of my skin she calmed down. I whispered to her as if she was an old friend. “You will confirm my study, honey. Luckily, you’ll know how to keep the secrets of it until your grave. Hopefully, that’s later than sooner.” Her weakness showed in her lack of reaction to my needle. I didn’t have a horse-sized shot, so I pried open her mouth. Proportionately, I had to give her six consecutive shots. As I placed the first shot into her squishy tongue, I felt a tear trickle down my cheek. Eventually, a stream of tears flowed onto her glossy beautiful coat as my head rested upon hers. She never moved her head to knock me flying around the stall, despite my flimsy body being unevenly balanced on an old wooden stool.
I felt the surreal realization my study save a life. The next weekend, I received an enthusiastic call from my mom: “Come see Molly! You won’t believe it. It’s a miracle. I prayed all week in church and by golly, it certainly paid off.” I hurriedly put my shoes on in anticipation to see the fruits of my labor. In my jeans, I slipped a syringe in my pocket to further my studies.
When I approached the wooden fence, Molly entered a crazed gallop. My heart skipped a beat. Was she attacking me from a memory of immense pain? I couldn’t decipher, if her throat whinnied in excitement or anger. My mom gasped in fear and hid behind my frame. Gratefully, intelligence shined through the horse’s eyes as she came clumsily to a stop. The owner stood with a bewildered expression. He exclaimed: “I don’t know what’s gotten into her. My apologies, her recovery must’ve given her a reserve of energy.”
“I’d imagine we’d feel the same if we came back from the brink of death.”, I replied entering the enclosure. Molly knelt her head placing mine on top of hers in a strange reenactment of the stable’s events. I smiled warmly and started reaching into my pocket taking a chance. Her eye caught a glimpse of the shiny, silver syringe and I could observe her body language changing. Worst-case scenario, I lie and say a bee stung her, after getting flung across an open field. Within five seconds, the blood is extracted with no difficulties. Molly looked at me, slightly unnerved, but cuddled up to me realizing I wasn’t going anywhere near her mouth.
My mom and the owner observed the spectacle giggling at the strange series of unexplained events. I exited the enclosure, anticipating my newfound breakthrough. Every scientist gets this rush with little results, but I got it with the cure to immune system diseases. I just didn’t know how much distrust I’d have for humanity afterwards.
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