I thought my life was supposed to be a milquetoast rhapsody of chemistry and laboratories. Underneath where I never looked I secretly wished for love, sex, kids and a home in the suburbs; but life had already shown me that a person's dreams should not exceed his grasp.
I am chemist, respected and complimented; I make the perfect lunch table companion. That's about it unfortunately. I came from a city school where geeks were easy targets and intelligence was something to be beaten out of the poor slob possessing any. I survived and that survival is still a sense of pride. College was surreal because, well, geeks were targets there as well, only they didn't use fists. The cruelty was much more subtle - sharp tongues, sneers, and outright rejections.
Graduate school was a relief for grad students are not expected to have a life outside of their schooling. At the time though I dreamed of going into food science, a lucrative field of chemistry that had created magnificent inventions like the taste of the McDonald's hamburger, which tastes the same no matter where or when you bought the product. Yummy.
As with so many other of my dreams, I earned my credentials from a mediocre school under a second-rate professor, and found that those laboratories that line the New Jersey turnpike had no openings for mediocrity. There were bills to pay, so off to the barnyard pharmaceutical labs I went; my dream wasn't entirely misguided, I was in Jersey. Many would surely be pleased with such a career, it does pay well, but the atmosphere of these industrial giants is brutal - it is hardcore greed and pity the poor bastard who delays, denies, or drops the proverbial test tube.
My company liked me. I didn't go home until late in the evening and a productive employee was a good one, a keeper. I had no one to go home to and little tolerance for TV. Life was routine: I would generally leave by 9:00 in the evening and grab dinner at a diner I passed on the way home to my dumpy little house. Dinner had to be done by 11:00 at the latest because the place would fill up with people coming off of the second shift at the area hospitals and factories. I told myself that the noise was annoying but in those quiet moments of confession I knew that I was jealous, lonely and bitter.
Hell, even the waitress, who was about my age or possibly younger, would ignore my smile when I looked up to order. It must be the perpetual library tan that hides the inner beauty. Ha.
My company does not produce Levitra; we lost that race by a full six months. By the way, that warning that if your erection persists for more than four hours you should seek medical attention is real. Sweet Jesus, be careful what you pray for. My lab was assigned the task of exploring the possibility of adapting these medicines into a female libido enhancing product.
The Chinese invented the first male libido medicine 2000 years ago. The first ingredient is 60 liters of male urine, which is slowly evaporated leaving white crystals of salt and minerals behind. The Chinese recipe was in those white crystals. When I suggested to my boss that we boil down 60 liters of female urine and start from there, he roared with laughter at my fine joke and suggested I start with the synthetic hormones we already had in house. I wasn't joking but took the credit for the humor anyway.
Tuesday night I thought I had cleaned up and stored everything. Coat in hand, I glanced at the table and noticed a tray that I had set aside and forgotten that was half hidden by an instrument. I tossed my coat and taking a shortcut of not putting on latex gloves, I picked up the tray to store it in its cabinet. Obviously it had been jostled, one of the vials was tipped partially sideways and when I jerked the tray a bit too fast, the poorly placed cap toppled and a drop of liquid fell on the back of hand.
The drop evaporated before I could put the tray down safely. No big deal, I knew the tray contained combinations of hormones, nothing dangerous or scary. I disposed of the now exposed sample and put the tray away. I passed the janitorial staff on the way out and the security guards at the entrance. All of them bade me goodbye and turned back to their own thoughts.
I stopped at the diner as I always did and sat at the booth I preferred, grabbing a menu and waving at the waitress as I made my way. She gave me a few minutes and made her way over. Staring down, I caught sight of her sensible white rubber soled shoes as she approached. I waited for the ritual words "what would you like this evening" and was mildly surprised when the silence continued for several beats. I looked up and she, well her tag read "Katy", had a puzzled look on her face.
"Do you smell something funny?" she asked me.
I sniffed and told her that I didn't smell anything. Maybe my cold wasn't completely gone after all.
She sniffed a few more times and then took my order. She came back with my decaf and announced that it only smelled peculiar around me. I could only offer a shrug.
Katy brought my dinner quickly and I noticed that she had unbuttoned her blouse one or two buttons.
"It's hot in here," she declared, "Aren't you hot?"
"No," I answered back wondering why she was even exchanging these few words with me. The routine was that she ignored me.
I finished my sandwich and even the chips quickly and pushed the plate back towards the other side of the table. Katy came tearing out of the kitchen and walked quickly over to my table. She looked terrible; her eyes were bloodshot and her hands were shaking.
"Are you done?" she asked in a trembling voice.
When I nodded 'yes' she said "good" and grabbed my hand. I started to protest when she pulled me from the seat and started to drag me toward the back of the diner.
"Hush!" she commanded and steered me into the Women's restroom and locked the door.
"Fuck me! Fuck... me... now!" she hissed at me in a harsh whisper. I stood frozen in shock and unmoving.
"Must I do everything!" she exclaimed with anger and grabbed at my belt and unbuttoned my pants and shoved them down.
She took hold of my cock and stroked it hard and it quickly became erect. She yanked down her panties, bent over the sink and reached back and pulled me by my cock. I pushed it in and began pumping by instinct alone. I felt nothing, every extremity was numb. She started making these animalistic grunting sounds that echoed off the faded tiles. I shuddered involuntarily.
"Not enough, goddamit," she spit out with frustration. She shoved me back and turned around. "Suck my cunt you bastard," she commanded. She grabbed the hair on my head and yanked me down until I fell on my knees. Katy jerked my head forward with both hands and forced my mouth into her pubic hair. The smell was overwhelming and I just opened my mouth and licked. I found her clit and just licked and sucked as the food curdled in the pit of my stomach.
Katy moaned and writhed with a frenzied energy until she cried out "enough" and pulled me up by my ears and demanded that I fuck her until she came. She dropped one hand and guided my cock into her orifice and began to bang her pelvic bone against mine. Her breathing became short and staccato until she bit into my chest and screamed out her orgasm.
To my shame, my body responded to her and I felt myself spurt my speed deep inside her. With her passion seemingly spent and her frame sagging against the sink countertop, I grabbed my underwear and pants, slipped them on with panicked speed, and ran out of the restaurant.
My first thoughts were that I had been raped. 'Men don't get raped, ' I kept telling myself. 'They get butt-fucked in prison but men don't get raped by women.' I was shaking when I walked into my house. I rushed to the bathroom tossing my underwear in the garbage and set the spray on stinging hot. I breathed in the billows of steam trying to purify my body inside and out.
"Hell of way to lose your virginity," I muttered to my reflection in the mirror. Yeah, I was a 32 year old virgin, emphasis on "was."
As I sat on the toilet lid drying my legs, my demeanor began to return and the questions of what happened popped into my brain. She said there was a smell; it was only around me; she got a hot flash; and then the attack. Did the drop of liquid from the lab smell? None the janitorial staff or security mentioned it but then again, they were all male. Like me they were all male and never mentioned a smell. Could it have been the libido drug?
I tossed and turned all night relieving the attack and the next day I felt the same tossing and turning in a wakened state. None of the female staff could identify an odor from the samples tray. It occurred to me later in the day, much later than it normally would have had I been able to concentrate, that there may have been a chemical reaction with the oils on my skin, but I sure as hell didn't want to test that hypothesis.
The sun had gone down and the lab had emptied hours ago. Sitting in my car, my hands were shaking again and I knew that I would not be going to that diner ever again. I cut across to another artery and pulled into different diner that I had been in a few times. The old man sat me in at a small booth off to the side and out of the way because single men like me are bad for business.
As I sat waiting for my meal lost deep in my thoughts, I vaguely heard the front door chimes tinkle as another customer entered. A shadow fell across my table and a body slid into the booth. I looked up and Katy stared me right in the eyes.
"I knew that I would find you eating somewhere, you prick. What did you do to me last night?" She demanded.
"What did I do? You fricking raped me!" I yelled in the loudest whisper I could muster.
She sat back like I had slapped her in the face. "I raped you?" she sputtered, "you raped me, you asshole."
It was my turn to sputter. "You grabbed me. You dragged me to the bathroom. You threw down my pants. You jerked my cock from its root and it still hurts. How can you say I raped you?" I charged. My guts were trembling behind my belt.
"You did something to me!" Katy accused. "That smell, what the fuck did you cook up in your lab?" My mouth dropped open; heartbeats later I remembered to close it and swallow.
"How do you know I work in a lab," I asked meekly.
"You never take off your stupid badge, idiot," taking a swipe at the dangling badge with her hand. I cringed.
I stared at the crusted salt shaker with mock fascination and took a deep breath. "There was an accident last night," I started, "a drop of synthetic hormones fell on the back of my hand and I wasn't wearing gloves."
The woman was utterly silent, not even breathing so it seemed.
"It was nothing dangerous, just hormones. Drink it and you probably wouldn't even get a stomach ache. Besides, I passed five people and no one smelled anything. My staff tested the stuff today and didn't smell anything or show any symptoms." I finished in a miserable whisper.
"Well, I did," and she started to sob. I felt completely helpless with no clue what to do when a woman cries. She thinks I raped her and I know she raped me and as my world spun all the more out of control, I only felt more helpless.
"We didn't use protection, you know. I could be pregnant. You could have given me HIV or something."
"No, no," I tried to assure her, "you won't get any diseases from me, I'm clean."
At this point the waiter came by and asked if the lady wanted something to eat and I told him to give her the same thing I ordered.
"What did you order?" She asked with a pained look.
"I have no clue, I wasn't paying attention for obvious reasons."
There was silence on both sides of the table. My attacker sat on the other side of the table and I was conflicted because she was acting far too human. I wanted to lash out at the vicious animal and found only an angry, frightened woman.
"I got fired last night; I have no money to pay for a dinner." I shook my head and told her not to worry.
"This is your fault," she started up again and my heart sank. "It was your accident and you've got to help me."
"Help you?" I blustered. I looked both ways to see if anyone else in the restaurant was paying attention.
"Look at me," she pleaded. "Everything is swollen, my eyes, my throat, even, uh, down there. and I ache like I have the flu."
I checked out her eyes which were bloodshot, her ears were red, and I reached out to feel the nodes under her jaw. She jerked away momentarily and then let me inspect that they were indeed swollen. I told her to wait a moment while I fetched something from the car. She started to panic so I took my badge from around my neck and tossed it at her.
'She thought I was going to run off, ' I mused wondering why I didn't. I retrieved my satchel from the car and brought it in. I dug into the bottom of it and pulled out a nose spritzer and bottle of liquid cough syrup.
"I was sick with the flu last week. This spritzer is a steroid and it is used to shrink tissues like mucus membranes."
I pointed to the brown bottle: "This is cough syrup but the active ingredient is codeine and it will alleviate the aching sensations in your lymphatic system."
She reached for the spritzer and snorted the medicine up both nostrils. Without measuring the liquid, she took a swig of the codeine syrup.
"How long will it take?"
"Five minutes for the spray to spread; twenty minutes for the syrup to digest if your stomach is empty."
We sat in that booth fidgeting for several long moments when, thankfully, the food arrived. I looked at the meatloaf special with the mashed potatoes covered in a plastic looking brown gravy that I knew was produced by immodest amounts of hydrolyzed corn syrup and modified food starch. My stomach lurched.
Katy looked up at me with a face that confirmed my own thoughts. My eyes widened as I realized that the red had receded from the rims of her eyelids and her eyes, a soft brown, had cleared up as well.
"You're feeling better," I announced. She blinked once and nodded.
"This is disgusting," she stated staring at the plates in front of us.
"I could send it back," I offered. "Order up some eggs."
"Don't bother. They pour the eggs out of carton. It's not even eggs, they call it egg product."
I brushed off the gravy with the side of my fork and picked at the meat. Katy followed my lead and did the same.
As my stomach attacked the meal with glee I finally got up the courage to ask, "what do you want from me?"
"An apology," was the simple reply.
My knee jerk reaction was to attack and accuse her for the crime against my person, but I couldn't. There was no energy, no power left to rehash last night.
"I'm sorry" came out in deadpan.
"I'm sorry, too." came from across the table and my head popped up from my chest to look at her. I nodded my acceptance.
"I need a job."
I shrugged. "I'm a scientist in a lab; I'm not management. It's not even in my building."
"What if I'm pregnant?" I shrugged again.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," was the only thing that popped into my brain. It seemed to satisfy her.
"I don't understand last night," Katy concluded. "You're not even my type. You've got no muscle tone and you're pudgy around the middle." With that she scooped up the meds and her jacket and walked out.
'Pudgy? She called me "pudgy", ' I mulled over in the car on the drive home. It was then I realized that she had never returned my badge and the quiet panic set in. What was her name? I never got her last name but she had mine and my place of work.
Two weeks passed and life seemed to return to normal. I even stopped scanning the restaurants I haunted at night to make sure her face was not among the denizens. The only changes I made were to join a gym and watch what I ordered for lunch and dinner. Just as I relaxed and settle back into a routine again, a call came for me in my lab. It was security telling me I had a visitor at the front desk. My heart sped up as I made my way to the front.
My stomach constricted into a grotesque knot when I saw Katy's face.
"Can we talk privately in your office," she asked.
I explained to her that I didn't have an office but that I have a laboratory with a desk in the corner. The security guard looked amused when I ushered her into the coffee room where we sit salesmen and visiting managers. I sat her on the couch in the farthest corner.
"I'm not pregnant," she blurted out as soon as we sat. I started breathing again.
She was wearing a black outfit that was cut low and emphasized her cleavage, which wasn't that much but drew my attention.
She followed my eyes and smiled. She told me this was her new uniform, that she had landed a job as a bartender at a bar/restaurant one town over. The bar was known as the place for lonely divorcees and people over thirty. It paid better, much better she explained with hope in her voice.
"I had expected you to be a total shithead," she said breaking into my thoughts. "But you apologized instead. You weren't supposed to do that. I believe, now, I think, that what happened was an accident."
She glanced at me and tilted her head. "Are you working out? You look better."
"Yeah. 'Pudgy' is not one of those words I particularly like to hear, if you know what I mean."
I paused and looked her hard in the face. "Your symptoms have all clear up," I concluded without asking her. "My scalp feels normal again and the bite mark on my left boob has cleared up too. I guess that night will fade as well," I concluded only half believing myself.
"I'm okay; better I think." She hesitated. "I serve at the bar until 2AM. If you ever want to come sit and have a drink, you're welcome to come."
"Gosh," I said trying to scramble, "I don't usually go to bars; but then again, I didn't go to gyms either." She was confusing me all over again, in a different way, a good one even, and I didn't know what to do. I gave her a small smile and touched the back of her hand as it rested on her knee.
I made the excuse of getting back to work and showed her to the front door. My lab was abuzz with noise as I approached it and fell strangely silent as I walked in. I guess I was the topic of conversation.
Friday night the gym was eerily quiet as all of the regulars left to follow their weekend plans. I debated with myself as the weights rose and fell and the reps counted off. With one final clang of the weights as I brought down the bar too quickly, I decided to take Katy up on her invitation.
Katy's face lit up as I took a seat at the far side of the long bar; it had been a long, self-consciously painful walk to reach the other side and her recognition was a welcome reward.
"What are you drinking?" She asked in her bartender's voice.
"Rum and coke?"
"That's a kid's drink. How about a martini?"
"I hate gin. How about, uh, bourbon."
"A manhattan it is" and I watched as she expertly mixed the bourbon and the vermouth, plopping in a cherry as placed the drink before me. I watched the normal people of world talk and carry on as they tried to find love and companionship. Katy kept mixing drinks and pouring drafts as I slowly sipped my way through the martini glass. No one approached me nor did I move from my seat but when my glass was empty, Katy refilled it and we passed a few comments. I was satisfied.
As the night wore down, I made ready to leave. Katy noticed my stirring and asked me to stay awhile longer, she was almost done for the night and didn't want to walk to her car alone. She gave my hand a squeeze at the car and took off into the dark.
Every Friday night, I took my seat and my drink. Katy and I exchanged remarks as she worked and I watched the people swirl around and through the room. As the weeks wore on, the insight slowly dawned that the people in that bar were at least as insecure as me, many were desperate, while more were just jaded, washing their bitterness down with alcohol. But when Katy could spare a moment to come over and talk, the room seemed a bit brighter, a touch lighter. That night she kissed me on the cheek in the parking lot.
Security called me Wednesday afternoon to tell me I had a guest waiting. Puzzling over who it could be, I found Katy pacing the lobby.
"Is there anything wrong?" I asked. The security guard looked as interested in her answer as I was. Taking her hand, I led her back to the coffee lounge and sat us down.
"I need a favor, a big one," she stated flatly. My guts started to tighten again in anticipation of something awful. "My building is being fumigated tomorrow, by order of the health department, and I need a place to stay for a week."
I looked at her with askance. Katy exhaled with frustration at my lack of response. "Can I stay at your place?"
"My place?" I squeaked.
"Your place. It's not like you'll see me, you work all day and I work most of the night."
"It's dirty filthy. My God, this is embarrassing. I don't know," I trailed off.
Tears welled in her eyes and she jumped up to run. I grabbed her arm and told her that she could stay, I had an extra bedroom but the place really was bad.
"Do you want me to clean your house?" She asked with a bit of sarcasm.
"No, no," I protested shaking my head and my hands, "just don't judge me by the mess." I gave her the address, my phone numbers, and promised to leave the back door unlocked.
I picked up my clothes, stacked my books and ran the dishwasher and the washing machine that night. Nevertheless, Katy called me just before lunch to let me know just how accurate my description of the house was and that I owed her $40 for cleaning supplies.
Friday night Katy took extra time at the bar to fill me in on just how filthy my house had been, on how thick the dust bunnies were, and how many layers of scum peeled off of the kitchen floor. I took her critique with humility and an extra manhattan. We followed each other home and fell in our respective beds asleep.
"I forgot to ask you last night," Katy asked me around midmorning, "where is your TV?" I looked up from the newspaper.
"Don't own one and never really thought about buying one. Why?"
"How have you survived this long? Hello, this is the 21st century and you are an anacra, anacra..."
"An anachronism?" She threw a pillow at me that my raised newspaper couldn't block. Thus began a discussion that ended with a trip to the store and a purchase of a plasma TV and a DVD player. She convinced me to order cable as well. Of course Katy had to go to work and left me to figure out the installation. I watched two movies that night and got a taste of what I had been missing.
Sunday came and I waited for Katy to get up. I was actually looking forward to having someone to talk to besides work people. She stumbled out of her room and emerged from the bathroom wearing a sleeveless number that dropped really low in front and showed her cleavage; I popped an erection in my sweatpants and kept the newspaper in place on my lap to hide it.
With a mug of coffee in hand, she sat across from me in the stuffed chair. She pointed at the books and asked me why I didn't have anything normal to read.
"What's normal?" I asked dubiously.