V. The Symbol of Professional Attraction and Allegiances. By Matt Bailer. Black Lizard Press. A New Canadian Mystery. July 2020. 327 pages.
“Why are you looking at my hands?” he demanded.
“You should have seen what I had on the way over.” she moaned as she reached his shoulder. “They’re polished and gold.”
“Manhattan’s good to look at when it’s warm.”
“Well, if you’re going to look at my hands, maybe you should also look at the hands that bought you ice and the groceries.”
“Anywhere but my hands.”
She jerked as if from the pain of writhing, took a step back, and sent a scream and a sideways glance toward him. “Hello,” she said to him.
She hadn’t stopped when she came inside and his eyes fell on her. She felt like a caged animal. “Is it alright if I watch?” she asked him. “I’m never getting out of this room.”
That turned into three times before they got into bed. Her arms trembled. He had been in a business relationship with a PhD student with an agreement to help her complete her thesis. In a flash he realized that her dissertation was her real plan and that he wouldn’t be able to help her with anything else. He left.
“I tried to tell you once,” she snapped at him.
That blew up in his face.
“For the sake of peace, will you go with me to the coffee shop?” he begged.
He didn’t have to believe her. She wasn’t going anywhere else.
He’d traded his licence and driver’s license for an expediting permit just to keep her quiet for the next few days. In a flash, she knew he was going to send her to jail.
“Go if you want,” she said quietly.
“You sound like someone who’s trying to come up with some excuse to not have to go. What you’re struggling with is the realization that I’m a different person than the one who picked you up at your apartment, and I’m going to do a jail sentence because I was being dishonest. My plans for the future are gone. This was my only chance to be honest with you.”
She snarled at him in the dark and tried to say that he’d underestimated her.
“I wanted you to be honest with me, but this isn’t going to last,” he snapped. “We’re not going to get along for long.”
She raised her voice, spoke with conviction. “I respect you too much to go out.”
“But you got me fired.”
“You bet I’ll go out with you. Have you ever not gone out with somebody?”
“I can’t go out alone.”
She stopped him in the hallway. “I’m going to tell you something and you don’t want to hear it.”
He sighed and turned to leave.
She stopped him. “Tell me something I don’t want to hear.”
He heard his voice start to quiet and the light paint shift.
“See? See?” she said.
Matt Bailer is an associate professor of journalism and communication at the University of British Columbia. This story is part of a four-part series inspired by Canada Science and Technology Museums new Global Initiative to cultivate Canadian scientists in the arts. For more information, visit ubc.ca/globalinnovation.