I thought I’d be an astronomer—a scientist of huge, unfathomable things. For my eighth birthday, I asked my father for a telescope. He got me a microscope by accident, and so I became a scientist of small, inconsequential things instead.
I work in a forensics lab for minor crimes. I learn people through hair strands, the oils their hands leave behind when they’ve touched something, however gently.
This month, we have a new intern. At lunch, she heats leftovers and sits next to me. Her name is Denise Yoon, she says, and are we always this stiff around here?
No one answers.
Denise asks my name. Faith, I tell her. Ironic, she says, for a scientist.
She asks if I’m into any of the guys in the lab and smiles when I tell her, not really, no.
The next day, she brings a container of strawberries for lunch and offers me one. Her eyes expand and contract like lenses while she watches me eat.
At the end of the day, she pulls me aside in the hall as the others go ahead.
It’s going to bother me all year until I know, she says. Are you …?
Her eyes search mine intently for something I don’t think I have.
You are, right?
There’s a pressure in her words I wish I was strong enough to push back against.
When she leans in, her lips on mine, I think of trees.
Under a microscope, saliva can form fractal patterns that resemble fronds and branches, bacteria and proteins and hormones bursting everywhere like leaves. A forest blooming in our mouths.
This is what I imagine as she kisses me—with my eyes closed, it’s like no one else is there. Just antibodies and enzymes. Just a microscopic riot of trees.