The Dude With The Million Dollar Microscope

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Kara came over to my apartment before going to meet the neurobiologist I had a crush on. She had just finished teaching piano lessons and upon her arrival, for some reason, unloaded two coconuts from her backpack. “We have to figure out how to open these,” she said. “What should we use? Hammer? Knife?”

I started looking through my cabinet to see if my roommate had any tools. “I don’t know. Probably a machete,” I said, wishing that I hadn’t left my toolbox six hundred miles away at my parent’s house. When I looked up from the cabinet, I saw Kara swinging a medieval sword around in the hallway. Then, remembering that this was Kara’s first time visiting my apartment, I became overwhelmed with excitement.

“Isn’t it great? That’s Adrian’s- we have Beebe guns too.” I pointed at two enormous Beebe guns resting on the coffee table. Adrian, my roommate, had taken them out of the closet last week after hearing a terrible, violent, male cry in the middle of the night.

“Imagine how satisfying it would be to kill someone with a sword?” she said, theatrically jousting.

“Yeah, and look!” I said, pointing to a circular absence of glass within the door of the bookshelf, “Adrian shot the door of the bookshelf.”

Kara was only interested in the medieval sword. She continued swirling it around- her long blonde hair mimicking each fluidic movement of the point. I went back into the kitchen and thought about types of sustenance to offer her. I produced a barley-rice-soy sandwich with roasted red pepper, and a pill of acetyl l-carnitine, to help prevent Kara from getting Alzheimer’s.

We didn’t try to open the coconuts with the sword, for some reason. We just ate in the kitchen, while Kara told me about her recent invitation to play a concert in Paris. After eating, we smoked weed and shared the remainder of an old bottle of red wine.
“I’m sorry this tastes like piss and grape juice,” I said.

“I don’t drink wine a lot,” she replied.

We sipped our glasses, grimacing in silence.

“How old did you say this was?” she asked.

“I don’t know- two months?”

We theorized about the decomposition of wine until we decided to Google it. I skimmed a few forums that said red wine should not be consumed after three days of opening.

“Fuck opinions, we need facts,” said Kara.

We looked at each other militantly. After a few minutes of reading an indiscriminate disorganized alphabet, I realized that I was too high to conduct research, and wanted to do other things instead.

“Are you ready to go to the show?” I asked, putting on a sweater.

“What show?” she said, startled.

“My friend’s band- I told you about- the neurobiologist-”

“Oh,” Kara laughed. “I thought you meant, like, on YouTube.”

We started laughing about the misinterpretation. I realized that I hadn’t specified anything about the show, and made plans on her behalf entirely within the privacy of my own brain.

“It’s at Divan Orange, I’ll pay your cover,” I said. “I really just want you to see it.”

She nodded with a light, peaceful expression, as if she were easily reconfiguring the trajectory of her night. Then she laughed to herself, “Am I dressed to go to a show?”

I thought about offering her clothes to wear, but realized that this factor was arbitrary. I felt selfishly/shamelessly curious about what Kara would have to say about Adrian’s band, based on her formal education in music, and sophisticated aesthetic taste, and needed her to come to the show.

“You should come to the show,” I said. “The singer of the band is really crazy. I really want you to see it.”
Then I began mimicking the sound of the singer’s voice- like a soprano opera singer mixed with fingernails on chalkboard.

“No, no, I want to come,” Kara assured me. She scrambled to the bathroom saying, “I just need to refresh.”

I repeated the word “refresh” to myself, because it reminded me of the intern. She left the door open as she checked her hair in the mirror.

“Shall we walk?” I asked, looking at my iPhone for the time.

“Yeah, let’s walk!”

We left my apartment, initiating a one-hour journey down Sherbrooke Street. The skyscrapers along the horizon, southeast of the mountain, were shrouded in an incandescent fog. We were expecting it to rain again but welcomed it with a single black umbrella.

As we passed by some of the high-end fashion boutiques near my shitty, misplaced apartment building, we began speculating about the lifestyles of rich people within the neighborhood.

“Look at this UGG store- oh my god,” Kara said, holding her hand to her mouth.

“Do you think they’re actually comfortable?” I asked.

For a moment we stood hypnotized by the merchandiser’s colorful UGG composition.

“No,” Kara replied, still seeming fascinated, “They probably feel very flat on the soles of your feet.”

I wondered what it would be like to wear UGG’s, both from an orthopedic and socio-economic point of view.

“How do these people live?” she asked, in chronic disbelief.

“They just buy things,” I said, seriously thinking about people in the neighborhood. “Like, that’s all they do all day. Is just buy things.”

Later as we passed by a public park, Kara’s boyfriend, Brian- who was a geothermal researcher and spent many weeks out of town due to his work- called to see what Kara was doing for dinner. I wondered if Kara missed Brian and wanted to spend time with him instead. While she spoke tenderly into her iPhone, two males dressed in business attire, smoking weed next to play equipment distracted me from their conversation. I laughed and Kara turned to me, which made me realize that I hadn’t said hello to Brian yet.

“Hi Brian,” I said, in an excessively shy tone.

Kara then told Brian that I said hi “shyly.” This made me wonder why I hadn’t behaved more boisterously.

“Brian says ‘hi Kara’,” Kara informed me through a devilish smirk.

“You should invite him,” I said, and then more loudly, so that Brian could hear me, “The show will be VERY NICE.”

Kara and Brian negotiated whether they would meet up in an hour or in several hours, while I started to wonder what it would be like to have a boyfriend. Almost immediately, I felt discomforted by the idea. Whenever I imagined my ideal romantic relationship, it appeared to me as polyphasic. I knew that I was territorial about my personal space, and liked spending time by myself. I wondered if this was why I still felt marginally attached to Adrian- the neurobiologist who plays guitar/not my roommate Adrian- because he also seemed to enjoy spending time alone. Secretly, I hoped that Adrian would never find out I was living with someone who was also called Adrian.

When Kara got off the phone, I inquired if Brian was going to come to the show. Kara said probably not. Then we talked about registering for a computer programming course, because we both had free time and the propensity to learn. We made plans to study together.

Shortly after, we found ourselves in front of a mysterious castle beside the Museum of Fine Arts.

“Look at these bushes,” Kara laughed, pointing at the obsessively trimmed and yet indecipherable shapes. “What is this place?”

“I think people live here,” I said.

We both looked up at the exquisite architecture towering above us. Each window was like an eyeball of an enormous and powerful beast.

“Let’s go in it,” Kara said, seething with mischief.

I peeked my head around a fenced off courtyard where some males dressed in waiter uniforms were smoking. “Do they have their own private restaurants or something? Like slaves?”

“Probably!” Kara exclaimed.

“I’m scared of this place, I hate it,” I said, while paradoxically leading the way to the front steps.

We walked up to the castle door, and eerily, as if out of a children’s mystery movie, it began to open before us. We looked at each other, mouths agape. “Sensors,” we said in synchronicity, high.

We walked into the first entrance, which had bright red carpet on the marble flooring. Its ceiling was concave and ornate. Then another giant door began opening automatically. We looked at each other again, this time with a sense of mockery. In the next room there was a spectacular red chamber door, and a bearded security guard dressed in a tuxedo, sitting behind a gold-accented desk. Kara walked into the center of the room, staring up at the ceiling. I looked at the security guard, who looked humorously out of place, like early-career-Seth-Rogen at the Oscar’s.

“Hi,” I said, almost feeling entitled to ask if he was okay.

“Hi,” Kara joined.

“Can… I help you?” he asked sourly, but also maybe intrigued.

“What is this place?” Kara asked, twirling around slowly.

I took a couple mental snapshots, and stepped back toward the exit, feeling uncomfortable.

“It’s condos,” said the security guard.

“Oh,” Kara replied, still basking in its design. “It’s beautiful.”

The security guard said nothing.

“Alright well, thank you,” Kara sang.

Trekking down Sherbrooke, newly energized, Kara said, “Can you fucking imagine what it would be like to live there?”

“It’s probably fucking insane,” I said. “They probably throw insane parties and talk about insane things.”

I became invigorated with the idea of dressing up and somehow sneaking into one of their private parties. “WE SHOULD-” I shouted, and then immediately thought about the logistics of this. “Never mind.”

“No, we should!” said Kara, as if we shared the same imagination.

“No, it would be awkward,” I said. “We’d be, like, the ‘poor girls’ and all of our social interactions would involve this passive undercurrent about how destitute we are.”

“You think so?” she said, in a high-pitched voice. “Maybe we would just be, like, the cool outsiders or something.”

“No, no,” I said, and for some reason very confidently, “It would be funny for five minutes and then it would get, like, intensely disgusting.”

Kara went silent for a moment. “One time,” she began. “My dad’s friend got into a fight at a rich-people-party.”

“Really!?” I said, evoking the story purely for its entertainment value, insensitive to how disheartened she sounded (or maybe subconsciously ignoring her tone as an effort to make her feel better about the disheartening memory?)

Kara proceeded to tell me about her father’s friend- an aging motorcyclist with a typical, aging motorcyclist’s style- who, at one of her aunt’s business-related parties, physically fought with a white male wearing Lacoste clothing and an expensive watch. The fight evolved after Lacoste made passive-aggressive comments about their class differences.

The story reminded me of the time I owned two fiddler crabs and watched them fight almost incessantly. Then that memory reminded me of the time I watched Nicole’s ex-boyfriend repetitively punch another friend in the face, in the sauna, for no reason, while everyone was naked, until there was blood. Then that memory reminded me of watching UFC last weekend and finding it both indulgently hilarious and extremely “gay.”

“Have you witnessed a lot of fights in real life?” I asked, as if it were some sort of barometer for being human.

“Yeah,” Kara hummed.

We walked through McGill’s campus cutting across to Saint Laurent Street. The buildings were old and nestled safely into the mountain. Kara looked down at the pavement as she recalled the time her ex-boyfriend fought.

“Did he win?” I asked.

“No.”

“Did you break up with him after?”

“Yes.”

“Was it because he didn’t win?”

“No… It had been building up for a long time.”

I remembered when Nicole and her ex-boyfriend fought together- “Rihanna-style,” I secretly referred to it as. Sometimes I felt that I could really understand Nicole/Rihanna’s point of view; that, in their minds, they were powerful equals chosen to combat a troubled entity and perhaps even heal them. I tried to imagine what it would be like to trust the presence of someone who was easily capable of losing control in that way. I imagined what it would be like to sleep next to them, or furthermore to wake up next to them after dreaming. I figured I just didn’t have the predisposition to be in that situation but could honestly imagine feeling sexually excited by it. Thinking about this problem solidified my idea that being alone was probably for the best.

We turned onto Saint Laurent Street and saw that there was a show going on at Barfly- a dive bar that plays old punk music, and usually contains an array of German shepherds within it. Outside of the bar, I recognized Craig’s unmistakable silhouette.

“Oh my god, is that Craig?” I asked Kara, like some sort of college girl at Starbucks, or something.

“Oh… my…” she said, reciprocating the tone.

Craig smiled when he saw us, and Kara immediately declared a “group hug.” We were friendly, talking about our plans for the night and what we had been up to in life. The last time we all went out together though, two years prior, Craig got very drunk in an obscenely short amount of time, took off his pants, fell in the snow, and called everybody mean names. Brian had to help carry him back to my place, where Craig proceeded to fall over and ruin everything. Still, despite the obnoxious side of Craig, I always felt an affinity for him and enjoyed seeing his face/hearing his voice/missing him a little.

“We should all hang out sometime,” Craig said, as Kara and I disengaged. Then walking down Saint Laurent away from Barfly, I felt the need to sigh exaggeratedly.

“I love Craig,” I said.

“You do?” said Kara.

“He’s such a sweetheart.”

“But why does he feel the need to act so ‘badass’?”

“I don’t know,” I said, privately theorizing about his psychology.

We arrived at Divan Orange, where Adrian was outside, standing with a group of people, looking almost exactly like the scene at Barfly except everybody was dressed plain and the music was softer. Adrian smiled at me and everything else kind of went blurry even though I just wanted it to be normal.

“Where’s your ‘music friend?’” he asked, quoting me from an earlier Facebook chat.

I pointed to Kara who was blindly walking into the venue.
“B-lining it?” he said. “To the music?”

I laughed and excused myself to follow Kara.

Realizing how disorientated and high we were, we stood in front of the doorman for a few seconds, trying to interpret all the stimulus. I handed him some money and inaudibly moaned something.

“Woah, I’m really high,” Kara said to me.

I laughed and sighed, “Yes.”

“Where’s your friend?” she asked.

“Outside.”

“Oh, really?” she said, sounding surprised. “Well, did you say hi to him?”

I moaned something again and wandered off to the bathroom, thinking about how I felt very awkward but “okay with it.” I realized upon seeing the urinal that I had accidentally gone into the men’s bathroom, but again, felt okay with it. While peeing, I thought about how I wanted to be celibate forever.

“Is Adrian here?” Kara asked again, as I rejoined her at the bar. She had gotten us two pints of cider while I was in the bathroom.

“No. I don’t know.”

“Let’s go back outside,” she said, placing a menu on top of the pints.

I assumed this was to prevent someone from putting Rohypnol in our drinks, but secretly I hoped someone would put Rohypnol in our drinks.

When we went outside all of the people had vanished, including Adrian. We stayed outside anyway, enjoying the fresh air and quiet. We were talking about the tree that was standing in front of us when the bassist from Adrian’s band sat down and started smoking. We introduced ourselves.

“Both of your names are Kara?” he laughed.

We laughed and nodded.

We continued to talk about tree- hypothesizing that the reason its branches were so weak and its bark was falling off, was because it just soaked up all of the bad alcohol-vomit-infused air on Saint Laurent. When the bassists eventually went back inside, Kara looked at me with puppy eyes and said, “He’s so cute.” I shook my head, trying to signal to her that he was not my friend Adrian, but felt too discombobulated to correct the glitch and trusted that it would solve itself anyway.

When we went back inside to finish our ciders, we sat at an enormous rectangular table, both on the same side. Then as if he had materialized from thin air, Adrian emerged from the darkness and sat down on the other side of the table.

I introduced Adrian to Kara, and we all laughed because we have the same name. I observed the scene, excited to show off my exciting female friend to him. Kara asked Adrian what he did for a living, which cascaded into a series of interview-style questions.

“Do you look at human neurons?” asked Kara.

“We look at this one black lady’s neurons sometimes,” he said. Then he looked at me playfully, “Oprah’s making a documentary about her.”

I laughed at the idea of Oprah, specifically, of factual discrepancies inevitable within pop culture- a topic that he and I often scrutinized together on Facebook chat.

“What exactly are you are looking for?” asked Kara.

“We’re basically working on Alzheimer’s,” he said. “A lot of people think that electricity underpins the mechanisms of memory, but it’s actually, like, a swarm of molecular activity.”

“BEES,” I interrupted, immediately regretting it.

“What?” Adrian asked, cocking his head at me.

Kara, with a strong sense of duty, continued, “What kind of machinery do you use?”

I looked at Kara with a smile.

“It’s like a million dollar microscope,” he said, sounding as if he was about to drool and ejaculate and explode into silk confetti.

“That’s cool,” said Kara.

Later, on stage, while Adrian was setting up, I watched him plug in eight different pedals for his guitar. I thought that Adrian’s excessive collection of guitar pedals was endearingly integral to his character, and remembered someone once calling him a “gear head.”

The singer in Adrian’s band didn’t sound as flawless as a previous performance I’d remembered. When I looked over at Kara, she was illuminated by the pristine white-blue of her iPhone. She looked at me and wiggled her eyebrows, smiling deviously.

“I don’t know how I’m going to get home tonight,” I said.

Kara and Brian lived around the corner.

“Take a BIXI bike,” she said, as if it were obvious.

In my brain, I compared spending five dollars to rent a bike versus two hours to walk on foot.

“I’ll rent it with my pass,” she said, as if she’d heard my thoughts aloud. “It’s free.”

I watched Adrian grip his guitar sternly, which sort of reminded me of masturbation.

“Okay,” I agreed, feeling positive and negative at the same time-maybe neutral.

Kara unlocked a bike for me later and I rode into the mist, waving goodbye. All the way home, I pedaled through puddles, not realizing that I’d left the umbrella at the bar, just feeling comfortably distant from cognition. When I got to my bed, I immediately put myself to sleep, and I vaguely dreamt of ephemeral faces- of loved ones, friends, and Adrian- all of them fading into a familiar absence which had already existed before them. TC mark

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