Despite wishing to behave professionally, the assistant to the Swiss-Italian scientist entered the tiny examination room, with a grin. The experiment’s subject sat on the examination table, his enormous feet flat on the linoleum floor and his back to a one-way mirror. But for the crêpe paper covering his lap, his nakedness reminded her of David in Florence.
The paper crinkled as he lifted a hand. “Another failed blood test.” He indicated a fingertip cut. “Never bleeds.”
Circulation issues, the assistant ticked on her tablet. She checked a skin graft—few successful.
A single long hair, loosened from the chignon she wore, fell onto her tablet. The subject had earlier hinted at an attraction for loose hair—but she wasn’t there to allure.
“Memory function?” she asked. “Muscle?”
“Left leg twitches. Like a dreaming dog’s.” One cheek twitched, too. (Facial palsy: left side.) The subject touched his unparalyzed cheek. “At some time, a kitten licked me here, and I can recall clipping my toenails.” The subject rubbed one bluish foot over the other.
The assistant ticked two items on her list.
The subject’s tapped his thighs with stiff fingers. “I’ve played piano,” he said. “I can still tap ‘Greensleeves,’ ‘Für Elise,’ ‘Trois Gymnopedies’ from memory—mais, comme un automates mécaniques.”
“French,” she murmured. Language fluency, she noted.
“Vous parlez aussi le français”
True. Her language skills had helped her secure this job. Her boss, a stern, elfish man in round Bauhaus eyewear, had a reputation for being brutish and abrupt. She saw through that: Europeans are just different than Americans. He’d praised her—a rarity—for being good with his subject.
“You were hired for your looks,” a coworker had chided.
She blushed at the memory and got back on track, asking the subject, “Any scent or taste memories?”
“As many as Proust.”
The subject had previously mentioned À la recherche du temps perdu, but this wasn’t the time or place to discuss books.
His gaze drifted to the mullioned window overlooking the campus rose garden. “Most memories are more pricking than pleasant.”
Mental memories: pain > pleasure.
He brushed her wrist, and the overhead light flickered as charged by his touch. The paper covering his lap lifted. The tablet trembled in the assistant’s hand, and she hoped her boss wasn’t behind the two-way mirror—for once.
But no, the door to the tiny room banged opened. Her boss greeted the subject. “Adam.” He held out his hand for the tablet and told the assistant, “Your job here is done, ja?”
She took an early lunchbreak. Upon her return, her access card failed to unlock the lab door. Her boss didn’t answer her messages or phone call.
Had she been fired? That couldn’t be!
She ran into the rose garden. Adam’s colossal figure looked down at her from the examination-room window. He placed a hand on the glass, and she took hold of her hair, freeing what she could.