I want to thank Melissa Gannett for her help with the experiments.
So I drive to her apartment.
Her apartment is in Royal Oak, on Julip Crossing, which dead-ends before the service ramp to I-696. I park behind a Chevrolet Cavalier. There are nine cars spread unevenly along the curb.
From my point of view, standing flat-footed and arch-backed at the entrance, I interpret her apartment building as a greenblack cairn rising up and pinching into the low woollen Michigan clouds.
The door is unlocked.
I walk up the stairs. Some ill-defined atmospheric reaction irrupts the chestnut paint along the walls. I am open to sensation. The banister: German? The quality of light: Sargent? The worn depressions in each dark marble step.
Reaching the third floor, I am winded. At the end of the hall, which ends in a muttoned grease-thicked window, a boy mops. I knock on the door of Apartment 3-F. The boy is small and weak. He dips the mop into the bucket and must use his hips to jam the mop around the resistant floor. I knock again. The loose "3" of Melissa's "3-F" leaps and swings from the concussions delivered by my proximal interphalangeal joints.
I really want to thank Melissa Gannett for her help with the experiments. She was a big help when it came to getting the experiments done. A research student, Melissa was instrumental, experiment-wise, in facilitating my accomplishments, for the success or failure (let others judge) of which I want to acknowledge the exquisite assistance of Melissa Gannett.
I miss her terribly. She and I collided radiantly on mundane occasions. She and I monitored the eight hours of simulated fluorescent daylight necessary for the African violets, which she bought--with her own money at a 24-hour supermart--to defy the laboratory realities of concrete pallor and plastic impotence. Breaking one professional and two rather conservative but still active social conventions, she and I spooned in a sleeping bag in the lab office.
Then: I smelled India ink behind her ear and old campfire smoke in the nylon.
Now: I smell the lemon beeriness of diluted soapy water.
The boy has been called in by his mother. The hallway is wet and quiet and sticky with light. I want to thank Melissa Gannett. I want to thank her for her presence, without which she and I could not have been together, and for her participation, without which my overtures would never have been interpreted, and for her vivid and persistent residence (in my memory), without which I would never have resolved to come to her apartment.
I would like a new hypothesis for me and Melissa Gannett. I would like a new experiment. I would like another grant.
I am not a fool. I am a man of science. I must simply acknowledge those who have made significant contributions to my life, such as, in addition to Melissa Gannett, Thurv Kline, the janitor, who tidied and sang and watered the African violets when we forgot and once locked the door against an administrator spot-checking our lab on a night we'd fallen asleep in the lab office and who expertly mopped up stains of cresyl violet, luxor fast blue, cabernet sauvignon, and India ink, and who never disturbed the apparatus and who always knocked first and with whose beautiful family I have spent a holiday or two since my sharp and neat divorce.
The loose "3" of Melissa's "3-F" is unmoved by actions taken from either side of the door upon which "3" hangs.
I touch the door.
I feel the reptilian texture of the moldings.
I press my hand to the chest of the door, and the feel imparts to me the belief that this is a good solid door, a good door and a solid door.
There it is.
I search for keys in my pockets. Surely it must be late by now. The quality of the light has changed. Perhaps she does not live here anymore. I will have to thank her another time.
I hope she understands.
I want to thank Thurv Kline for cleaning up all those nights. Thank you, Thurv. Thank you for all my clean nights.
About the author:
David Barringer lives in Michigan. His most recent book is The Human Case (Brainpan Publishing). Later this year, Word Riot Press will publish a collection of his fiction, We Were Ugly So We Made Beautiful Things. It includes an introduction by Steve Almond.