The morning did not strike her. Meat fried in trucks, radio talk shows and backup generators hummed. A line of steam drifted through a manhole cover and past the intermittent flash of welding. A pigeon rocked, one-legged across the hood of a taxi. Undergrads beyond the gate blinked. And voices fell away from her like, ―Well you here’ve nice fresh melons today for…
Or, ―I know what you is, you is a dirty little bitch who wants what I can, can you…
Or, ―Spare any spare change for a veteran of the ghetto… God bless. The exchange of second, then third-hand smoke. The marbled whining of a child. She pushed by in a feigned mettle, the effectiveness of which she could not think to know.
She hopped over an orange puddle at the sidewalk’s dip to the curb and strode through the gateway, around the chapel across from the business school, past an unmanned golf cart to the life sciences center. She opened a door, and another to the hollow echo of her steps down the basement stairwell.
On the door of the department lounge, someone had taped a three-panel comic strip of a dog holding a martini. She skimmed it: words: evolution, microcosm, genotype, butt. ―Good morning Ellis, to a man inside. He nodded, placing an egg salad sandwich atop the latest peer-reviewed scientific journal chiefly concerned with the study of microorganisms and their relationship to plants, animals, humans, bioethics and technological advances.
She had forgotten the coffee, and, pivoting, could just see into the adjacent office where Lattner opened an identical copy of the journal. He read his name in the table of contents and googled why am i falling asleep all the time + male. He had investigated and abandoned the first three results, and was preparing to click on a fourth, when he heard footsteps approach. Ellis knocked on the door frame, ―Dr. Lattner?
―Are you busy?
―Just looking at email.
―Do you mind going over some sample analysis?
―I, didn’t we just…
―I mean to help prepare, uh, it has to do with the conference.
―The keystone symposia or the…
―The one in Berlin, in January.