Getting to Work

Haven’t posted in awhile. But I attempted at prose! I may make this a series. Maybe haha. Feedback appreciated!

Time to Go
A series of short essays

1: Getting to Work

I did not think I would be left to do some procedures on my own so soon. After all, it had only been a week since I walked into the lab where I would be doing research for the entire summer. Numerous chemicals, white plastic containers, clear vials, and machines with red numbers on them covered most of the black lab benches that ran across the two walls that created the rectangular lab space I would call my desk. I knew it would take some time before I knew what everything did. I needed to be patient with myself, which, always seemed to be the hardest thing for me to do.
Prior to being accepted into Mercer’s summer research program, I had none, zero, absolutely no research experience. The first I got into the lab I looked around to see if I knew anything at all. The myriad of containers and glass bottles with labels made me a little anxious. I cast a quick smile when I saw a bottle labeled “methanol.” Hey, I know what that is! I thought to myself. Besides the methanol was a thing called Coomassie Blue, which I thought sounded like some exotic alcoholic beverage from Europe.
After teaching me about the materials we would be using to run the necessary tests, my professor told me that I would be able to come in here and run all the tests myself. Well damn was what I wanted to say, but I just shook my head and smiled. A little over a week later, here I am carrying extracts through the halls of the medical school to start the day’s tasks. When I returned to the lab, I saw the cornflower blue lab coat on the chair next to mine that had in italic white letters MUSM, which stands for Mercer University School of Medicine. My cold, brown hands caress the white letters that tell me that I am doing is real.
A summer ago, I was not doing anything related to lab work. In fact, I did not even picture myself getting involved in any type of research. I just knew that I was going to do something in the medical field and that I would eventually happen. Last summer, the only thing on my mind was getting a job. It sucks when you open up your wallet and find nothing but a quarter huddled between some receipts from Target, Wendy’s and a coupon for a haircut.
I was determined to find something. It did not matter what I had to do. Turns out, so was everyone else. Everywhere I went there was competition. I even applied for a job at Wells Fargo only to learn that I was the only person in the entire group interview who had never had a job. Not only that, but I lacked something called experience. Is volunteering at places like a hospital not work? I may not get paid, but it is not easy helping patients and ensuring that people get the attention they need. Is being part of an organization not experience of some sort? I explained how I almost got a job, but chose to do Cross Country and be a part of the International Baccalaureate Program at my school. I thought fitness and a desire for higher learning was valuable. One thing I did have though was a rejection letter the next week.
I stared at it when it came. It was just a tiny sheet of paper telling me thank you for having interest. I had been rejected before, so the feeling was not new. Life is not perfect without its ups and downs. You also cannot win or succeed in everything that you do. I could not give up. I had to keep looking. I had to keep trying. One must always have hope or life becomes dreary. I needed a break first.
So what better place for a break then at a friend’s house? I went over to my friend Logan’s house the next day where he had gotten a job at a creamery called CamiCakes. Apparently they desperately needed people he told me while smashing the ping-pong ball onto my side of the table. “You should apply Mike. I’ll pick you up tomorrow to deliver the application. It’s online. Print it, fill it out, and we’ll go see what happens,” he said as we both looked for where the ping-pong ball went.
After filling out the application I was ready to turn it in. I was nervous. It is always hard to get that confidence back after facing humiliation. When Logan arrived the next day, he told me that he could not work there since he could only do part-time; they needed someone now. I met the human resources employee and the next thing I knew, I had to be tested for drugs so I could start as soon as possible. I did not think it was going to be that simple, or quick. Regardless, I took it because if I did not, who knew if I would find a job.
I drove home the minute they told me I was not a crack head or high. Finally, after years of just sitting at home and playing games, I could say that I had a job. A feeling of entitlement and adulthood flowed through my blood and into my heart creating a new Mike. I was going to put everything I had into this job. Who cares if I was just serving cupcakes and ice cream. I was going to be the best damn customer service representative at Camicakes Creamery. I was going to try and make someone’s day or make someone smile. I was going to advertise like no other. I was going to say that this ice cream is homemade and will fill you with a sweet sensation that you will flutter and squeal of joy after that first bite like a child experiencing their first Christmas. I was going to love my job. If people were passionate about everything they did, misery and melancholy would seize to exist. Everyone has a purpose and the ability to make a difference, no matter where they are in the world. I was going to impact people that summer by serving ice cream and cupcakes. I decided all of this as I walked into the shop dressed in my all white attire and went to get my pink apron and cap. Sexy, I know.
I began making the solution that would be tested through a process known as gel-electrophoresis. Although it was the most common thing in biochemistry, it was really exciting. I had only heard about it before, but it was cool to actually carry out something that you read about in textbooks back in high school. I had made a few errors the first time but things were going smoothly as I pipetted the solution slowly into the wells. I felt like I was a marksman readying aim at a target as my eyes and hands never faltered from the action at hand. It was amazing how much my professor had taught me in such a short span of time. All I had to do now was make the transfer buffer and prepare the nitrocellulose to transfer the proteins and I would be done for the day. Thank goodness I took notes and watched how he did it first. It is much different when you have to learn something with little guidance and through trial and error…
“Excuse me, but this is barely anything and you gave her more,” a customer said while holding her cup of ice cream in front of me. I was told the amount to give, but I guess I still needed to perfect my skill.
“I’m sorry miss, I didn’t realize that I had given you less. Allow me to fix that.”
“Please do,” she scoffed.
I took her cup back and began giving her more. I would not blame her for getting agitated. Shoot, if I was paying that much money for a cup of ice cream I would definitely want a lot. At $3.50 and tax I could buy myself lunch. Add a dollar and some change and I can get a foot long at Subway. These people deserved to have as much as I could fit if I was having these thoughts about food. If anything, they were thinking the same exact thing.
As I was scooping I caught a quick glimpse of this lady. She had fair skin that seemed really hydrated based on how it appeared in the sunlight that shone through the glass window. She had straight black hair with curls on the end and stood in a way that accented her curves. I could not get a good look at her eyes because they were fixated on the little oreo that was about to correct my misdeed. The sound of her nail on the glass indicated that I was doing good things. After grabbing a napkin, I handed her the creamy, domino colored sphere of ice cream as she left the shop. Attention to detail was necessary; it would prove useful in reading different people and my surroundings.
Almost instantly after she left, another woman of around twenty-four came into the shop. As was routine, me and my co worker looked at each other to see who would get the customer. Tara had been there longer than I had, and after the last customer, I volunteered to get this woman. She also gave me that all too familiar stare that women do when they want you to do something, so I guess I had no choice to begin with in the first place. I was the only male employee that summer so I became really good at recognizing that stare. The woman that had come in was different from the last one that wanted more ice cream. She was slightly taller, maybe an inch taller than I was, had blonde hair, and seemed like she had just come back from the gym. However, she did not have that flair one has after completing a great workout. Her shoulders were slumped over and her demeanor was somewhat timid. Her smooth, beautiful face and blonde hair though made her stand out from most of the women I saw that day. “How may I help you today? Looking for anything delicious? You’ve come to the right place!” I said enthusiastically.
“Um… give me a second,” she quietly said. Tara could tell that something was wrong too. I had to approach this delicately. I gave her some time to ponder while I made a pink box that we put cupcakes in. After a minute, I knew how I would approach the situation.
“Would you like to sample any of our ice cream? They are homemade right here and are bound to send your taste buds on a trip,” I told her.
“Yes please. May I have some of that yummy looking brown one?
“Of course miss. That is a new flavor, it is called apple pie.” I got her a sample spoon and scooped out a small portion that had some of the apple bits. A tear nearly rolled down her eye as she sucked on the spoon.
“It is so sweet…”
“Why yes it is! As sweet as you are miss” I said chuckling.
“You really think so?” She said as she looked into my eyes. Her vivid, sapphire glowing eyes appeared as if they were peering into my soul. She was stunning, but something was clearly wrong. Her pinky that held the spoon was shaking a little.
“Certainly miss, the ice cream suits you perfectly, but it is clearly no match for you. I think you deserve this though after the hard workout you seem to have done.”
“That’s so sweet… But I have not done a workout at all. Do you think I need one? Tara shot me a look.
Aw hell… I thought I had just screwed this one up.
“I’m sorry to put this on you… But…” Turns out, she had just been rejected by a man who criticized her for being outspoken at work and thought she was too loving. She looked flustered because she had just finished crying and needed something to calm her down. She wondered what was wrong with her.
My body started to heat up as I could see the end of the work day. All I had to do was put the gel onto the nitrocellulose and I could leave. The gel came out looking nice, and I could not believe that I had just done all of these experiments by myself. I looked over at my notebook and wrote down my observations and what I had done for the day. There was just enough transfer buffer left to fill up the container so that the test could be carried out. I leaned up against the bench and nearly knocked over some glass bottles with some mango colored liquid in it. With gloves and precision, I put the gel with the nitrocellulose and packed everything together to run the experiment. A smile came across my face as I connected the wires black to black, red to red and turned on the machine. First independent day completed. I wanted to dance and run around, but realized that I could probably knock something over. I collected my things and said bye to the other research student, Gina, and proceeded to walk out the lab. I started to feel that I may just belong here.
“Am I worth it? I always thought…”
“Miss, that guy is an idiot,” I said as I put the ice cream scoop down. “You are so much better than he is and he frankly does not deserve a woman like you. You are radiant, and full of passion and love that any man would be lucky to be with someone like you. Never question if you are worth it, because you are a ray of hope in a place where love has really become absent. To be outspoken also takes courage and poise, which you most certainly possess. Never let someone put you down and tell you things that you are not. You are special, and people should question if they are worth your time.” I almost started reciting poetry at her but realized that I was at work.
“That’s… really sweet. No one has ever told me that before…”
“Miss, I hope I at least help you feel better. Now forget him, have this cup of mouth-watering apple pie ice cream that will light up your taste buds.” I scooped her out good portions this time and a little extra. The timid aura that surrounded her had now become a smile. I offered to pay for her, but she instead paid herself and even put some money in the tip jar. I leaned back on the counter and watched her walk away. A warm feeling began to fill inside me as the sun began to set, changing the shiny white interior of the shop into a golden peach on that Wednesday in June.


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