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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Time-consuming (02/24/11)

TITLE: Lab Chat
By Emily Carlson


I slid quietly into the small plastic chair in the corner of the lab. At least, I thought I was being discreet, but Matt must have heard. Without even turning his head to acknowledge my presence, he greeted me. “You’re back? What’s wrong now?”

“Thanks a lot, Four Eyes. After what happened last night, I’ll bet even you’d be a little bit shaken. I just need someone to talk to.” I kicked the lab counter to vent a little of my anger and bewilderment. I couldn’t even begin to unravel the emotional cocktail I was feeling, even after being awake all night, drawn up in self-analysis. The thing I’ve discovered about self-analysis is that after a certain point I cease to become more self-aware and I either think myself into confusion or I fall asleep. The happenings of last night had overwhelmed me—the kidnapping, the burglary—it all made no sense. I wanted to hash it out with my family, but no one was answering their phones.

The reality was I didn’t have anyone else right now but Matt, the stalwart nanotechnological engineer I’d known since childhood. So he’d have to do.

“Matt, last night is going to ruin my career. The manuscripts are gone; your lab partner is gone! And I can’t do anything about it until the police leave. I feel like this is all my fault!”

Matt seemed to have forgotten I was there. Or maybe he was ignoring me. Aside from the slight shifting of his weight every few seconds, he was motionless—engrossed in his research.

The orange chair I sat in groaned with my every miniscule movement, as if the very atoms that held the chair together were going to split apart. I wondered if that was what Matt was working on—splitting up nanoparticles.

“Matt can I talk? You’ve always said I can talk to you anytime.”

“Sure! I’m listening.”

“But you never say anything.”

“Heidi, you’ve known me your entire life. You know I’m an introverted guy. Whenever I go through something traumatic, I hole up in my mancave and think about it. But I have two ears, so talk away.”

I vented about how the theft was sure to ruin my career as a sociolinguist. I complained about the difficult people at work and how confused I was about the mystery surrounding the religious texts. I expressed concerns, fears, and even hopes about my latest case and the joys and frustrations of my job. I must have rambled on for almost two hours, and Matt didn’t say a word. In fact, he barely moved.

“Why don’t you go play your violin, Heidi. Do something different for a while. It’ll help you.”

“I haven’t played in years, Matt.” I kicked the counter again.

“Knock it off. You’re acting like a sulky kid.”

“Can’t I do that for a little while?”

“Sure, but you’re just wasting time. Feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t help you. It’s catharsis that leads to inertia.”

“That sounds scientific.”

“It’s not, it’s just common sense.”

I sniffled. Tears started to well up in my eyes against my will. The harder I tried, the more they tumbled down my cheeks and into my lap. In less than a minute I was out sobbing and mopping my face with Kleenex.

Matt heaved a sigh and turned around. He took off his goggles, walked over to me, knelt down, put his hands on my knees and looked at me. I hadn’t seen him that close for a while. I could smell his aftershave under the lab chemicals. “Go home, Heidi. When things are going wrong and you can’t fix them, stop worrying. Try picking up that violin. Let God work out the problems.”

I smiled a little and looked back at him. Then I stood up. “You’re right.” I whispered. I bent down to pick up my purse and when I came back up, Matt had tears in his eyes, too. He reached for me and enfolded me in a white lab-coated bear hug. I returned the embrace. A minute later we dropped our arms, our awkwardness apparent. I didn’t mind.

“Meet you for dinner at Schuester’s? 7 p.m.?” he asked.

“Sure!” I was delighted.

He waved me on. “Go on home, Mountain Girl.”

I took the scenic route home. When I got there I took out my violin and played until 6. I don’t know where the time went, but my heart was much lighter. Time well spent.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Mildred Sheldon03/04/11
Very interesting story. Poor Heidi was so lost in what if's I call them. What ifs are not productive and they are time consuming. Good job and keep writing.
Joanne Sher 03/06/11
Really enjoyed the dynamic between these two. Wondered what would come of it. Nicely done.
Brenda Rice 03/07/11
Nicely written, and very interesting. Thanks for sharing.
Leola Ogle 03/08/11
Great writing, nice story. Love your writing style. God bless!