It was a cold dark night. The trees seemed to sense a danger that was present. I went on. Not knowing what danger lay ahead for me. Me- some word to describe myself, a hot shot molecular biologist. True. There was glory in this work, the type that loose women can't resist. But there was also danger. Real danger. That was what faced me tonight. How could I have landed up in such a situation? I don't know. I only know a that it had to be faced- and I was the one to deal with it- getting later and-not getting any better for me. Well- this was something I had to do. I started to get myself ready for the task that would soon confront me. Everything was in place I had all the angles covered. There was no turning back now. The seconds ticked away on my bench timer. Only three more minutes left. I looked around nervously at the four walls that surrounded me. Three years I've worked in this place, and nothing like this had I ever faced. I stared at the plexiglas apparatus. 250 volts surging through the liquid. Enough to kill a man. You hear stories.
Only two minutes left. I reached for a Coke but the can was empty. This one I had to face by myself. That word again. Me, myself, I. What did it all mean? I don't know. Maybe I should have stayed where I was at. Took the easy way out in life. No. I had to go ahead and train for the life of a scientist. It wasn't easy. There were no shortcuts. No easy experiments- but I guess we all find our places in life. no matter how hard it is to get there. Only one minute left- it seems so much longer. I checked everything again, it was all set up.
The seconds ticked away, this was the critical moment. I waited-it seemed like a small eternity, and then even a little longer. Then the timer went off. I leaped into action. I turned the master switch to off, the control panel-went dead. No lights- no volts, no current. Carefully I disconnected the slender dark wire leads, then I removed the fragile glass tube. This was it the thin cylinder of glass that contained my future. I carefully put it down in the grooved plastic holder. .The real danger was yet to pass. I cafefully raised the hammer. And in one swift clean swing. Shattered the glass tube- leaving the gel cylinder intact. Or did I? I carefully washed away the fragments of glass and looked. I was almost afraid to look. Hell. Thats one reason I'm in this place. To look at danger right in the eye. It was OK. Now I had to pick this fragile piece of work representing three long hard years of my life and place it in my soaking dish. Now for a break. As I stepped outside on the balcony. I popped the top of a can of Jolt and let out a long breath of relief-the first part was over. The lights seemed to dance in my head. The high of success- no matter how limited, it is a moment to be enjoyed. But the real danger was still ahead. It was the dreaded second dimension.
A lot of people ask me why I became a biologist; sure the money had something to do with lt. I mean where else could you make this sort of dough? The women, well, them too; but there is something more, something you feel deep inside like when a ligation works, or you get real results. But why did I become a biolgist? It started back when I was young, real young; and I dissected my first cat . Ok, so it was alive at the time. But that started me . Then it was rats. dogs. Anything that moved. Then one day my parents took away my scalpel. I vowed to get even. I took off on the road. Playing my trade wherever I could; Detroit, Cleveland, New York, London with the Philharmonic, Bussels, for the High Court in Peking, Hong Kong. Hong Kong- it was there that I met her - black hair - not just black, but black like a raven at night. Dark deep eyes that seemed to have a soul of their own. A face that would make anything else seem tame by comparison. Long legs. This was it . The small furry animal of my dreams. I set upon it and dissected it in nothing flat. That was when I felt a purpose in life.
Now look at me here in this lab, trying to unlock the secrets of life, sort of like balancing my checkbook. Nothing is easy. Oh yeah - where was I, that's right, the second dimension- yeah- let's get started. The plates. Where are the darned plates? Over there in the sink - that's right. You can feel it already. The nerves. The nerves, the nerves. They say it happens to the best of them. Sometimes they act up it. It happens when I drift back to Hong Kong. But that's past, I need to focus on the present. The glass plates, the spacers the grease. It all seems so simple. Funny isn't it how things work out? Three years ago I wouldn't not have been able to do this. But look at me now. Me, that word again. It always comes up when I talk about myself.
I move on relentlessly, every experimental step fraught with danger. That's what they're paying me for, to do the tough work that others can't handle. But no matter how many times you do it, you can never relax. You have to move slowly, creep up on the apparatus, and slowly pour the neurotoxic liquid. But not too slowly; more than one careless researcher has had their solution polymerize prematurely. It's not a pretty sight. So you pour, and you wait. It takes time.
You wonder will happen in time. There are very few things that have value all the time- its all a matter of timing- the right thing at the right time means a lot, at the wrong time it ain't worth a nickel cup of joe. What does it all mean? I don't know, I don't have the answers. I just ask the questions. The gel, oh yeah, the gel- well it hardened before it leaked. That's the way some things work out. The rest is a piece of cake. Everything moved along, and I started the current. I had to call it a night. so I turned off the 30 watt bulb over my desk and headed for my car. It was late.
It was a cold dark night. The trees seemed to sense a danger that was present. I went on to the parking lot- not knowing what danger I was approaching. Suddenly as I reached for my keys- I heard a sound- quicky I turned around and came face to face with ....... the PI.
"Leaving early again?, You'll never finish at this rate" he said.
He didn't have to remind me that when you have a hot project, there are others that are close on your trail. Especially the teams at the biotech companies. They play for keeps. Winner take all, no holds barred. Take no prisoners. My kind of science.
"Hey, some people have a life", I replied.
I'd never personally met any of these people, but I had heard rumors they existed in other departments and out in the real world.
As a parting shot, he reminded me that while I was sleeping, Hoffritz at EMBL and Nomura at Chugai would be working. He was right. I didn't really need sleep now. The goal was too close to stop and rest. I headed back to the lab. If I turn up the current, I could have results by morning.