The mouse before me is dead, its body emptied of organs. Dead but still innervated, so still blinking in this world.
I only harvest from their core—heart, lungs, liver, and the rest—but soon I will have to work with their brains. That organ requires a different skill set. There’s a postdoc in a neighboring lab who will teach me when the time comes. Experiments are still being discussed—I’m waiting for Vasco to give the go-ahead. When that study begins, I’ll spend more time down here and less time in the lab. The days of sitting at my computer, mining data and running algorithms, are behind me. I spend fewer and fewer hours upstairs.
My cell phone rings. It’s face up on the stool next to me, and that phone number—the sight of it—turns me cold. My sister and I have never been close, and after everything we have done to each other, I doubt this will ever change. It’s January. I haven’t spoken to Savo in over a year.
Savo only phones to berate me, and I always answer her calls, knowing full well I’ll be subject to an attack. Her anger is surrogate anger, joined so tightly to our father’s, the borders have blurred, so you never know whose country you’re actually lost in.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
I take off my gloves. The phone stops ringing then starts right up again. I turn back to the mouse still pinned to my dissection board and watch it twitch involuntarily, its death still fresh, still clinging to the air. I withdraw the pins from its body. A loud noise reminds me [End Page 126]
I’m not alone—behind me, Rowan has knocked something heavy to the floor.
It’s always Savo phoning from the apartment—never Sherlock, our father, not since he’d come to the conclusion that I’ve sided with my mother. It’s beneath him now to call me. Whatever messages he has for me come through Savo. She always begins the same.
You think you better than we? You cyant pick up the phone and call my father?
Always her father; never our father.
The lab has broken me in—I don’t so much as raise my voice within its sanitized walls. And yet I still need to feel this outrage. I need to lose control of my blood pressure to be reminded that I am truly my father’s daughter. Sherlock can survive off air and anger alone. He has. He’s cut so many siblings out of his life he verges on being an only child.
Now I rush to answer before Savo hangs up again.
“Hold on, hold on,” I say into the phone, pulling off my gown and stepping into the hall. The animal facility is in the basement of my research building. Service is shoddy. I walk the corridor, toward the locker rooms, to get a stronger signal. Finally her voice is unbroken, and because she has not stopped talking, I pick up with Savo mid-story.
I hear the strain in her voice. I know that things are bad between us—it’s been what? Three years since I’ve been home to Brooklyn, since our mother took off for Florida?—but Savo should’ve called me back when that first toe started to go black. Now our father is going to lose both his legs, and apparently they’ve known it would come to this for some time. That’s Savo—the martyr. It’s fallen on her to look after Sherlock, our mother’s job before her.
“He has sugar,” Savo says, meaning our father is diabetic. “I tell him, ‘You cyant just keep eating whatever you want.’” She mentions black cake and salara—Christmas has just come and gone. Savo can do that thing with her voice, that Guyanese thing of trapping all the anxiety in her upper octaves. She can sound exactly like our mother.
Savo manages an accent though we were both born in Brooklyn...