I hear the sound of innocence getting louder. There are gentle knocks on the outer face of my office door and allow her in. It’s no harm, or so I thought.
Caramel curls peek through the door and emanate gold. They’re elegant but unkempt and like her, so beautiful and pure and full of life. Sunlight radiates from her doll-like face as she taps my left shoulder. A wide smile immediately paints on my face and I feel it from the corner of my eyes. It causes my face to ache as if dry clay was being remoulded. However, I feel like I’m looking into her world. I feel so distant although, I’m physically so close. Perhaps it’s work placing unconquerable stress on my shoulders. I feel absent in my own life.
Her light-hearted voice frees me from my rigorous work schedule. She stutters as she’s searching for the right words to express herself. A little hand grabs the uncreased fabric of my trousers. She struggles onto my lap, guilts me with her greatest pout and asks me for a unicorn and she never does ask for anything. So, I start on it right away.
I’ve been researching it on my breaks, trying to note the basic principles required to crossbreed between species. It’s a fascinating concept that I haven’t had the privileged to explore till now. Over the years- at conferences or in papers- passing comments on the topic have sparked my curiosity for sure. But, now she depended on me and I have nothing. I have failed her. Again.
I haven’t taken my eyes off the screen in hours; hours that go by like seconds. Time’s standing still as the hands on the face of the clock seamlessly rotate as an indication that great amounts of time have passed.
My legs start to cramp so I stand up to open the window. As I stretch, my joints harshly click and the satisfying feeling washes over me. Hues of warm orange paint the sky like a masterpiece before my mortal eyes. The sky is a unique canvas: a photo could never capture its insurmountable beauty and as each second passes its composition changes. I feel honoured to witness the last glimpse of the sun before it descends for the night.
The glare on my spectacles reflects the navy sky. Shit. Her recital. And just on cue, she opens the door and enters as a beautiful ballerina. The sunken look on her face feels like a boulder in the pit of my stomach. I can’t apologise enough. But, I explain that I do it all for her. Trust the process. ‘One day it’ll be worth it, I promise.’
Rapid knocking on the door startles me. The door creaks open and the piercing sound wakes me up. I smell a hint of Dairy Milk on her: no wonder she’s so hyper. Her little hands tug on my arm and lift me from my worn chair. She really just did the impossible because I haven’t gotten up in hours -maybe days- and I wasn’t planning to. As a result, there’s a sinkhole in the centre and the backrest has a deep curve structure like a weak spine. She has her mother’s smile; pure and full of life. I slowly saunter with her in my sinewy arms and drop her outside the office door. As I close the door, I turn the other way before I’m forced to see the despondence on her face. ‘We can play after I finish. One more hour. I promise.’ I hesitate. One hour turns into two. And that number continues to double as the night goes on. I find a promising lead and it leads to another and another. Then, a dead end.
So. Work called today, asked why I’ve been distant, distracted, said I’ve been conducting some research of my own, what research? I couldn’t tell them what it really was, right? They’d laugh in my face. But when I create that magnificent beast we’ll see who’s laughing. I’ll be a god.
I rub the sleep out of my watery eyes -probably hay fever because I had more than enough sleep. I wearily sit up at my desk, unsure as to why I slept in the office but warmed by the blanket she put over me. She’s never stopped looking out for me. I close the laptop with a smooth click, I shut down the PC- its screen was probably blackened for hours -and pick up my keys. We need a night out.
I immerse myself in her laughter but all actions seem fake. All noise drowns out and I’m the only one in the rink. I see possible design ideas and I see their flaws drawn into the ice floor. No matter how hard I try, work never seems to leave my mind. I take a break, say I’m getting a drink but I open my notes app before I forget any of my visions. It’s possible.
She grabs my clutched hand. It thaws. We glide on the ice.
Today I wake up in a bed with an angel to my side. I don’t want to leave.
‘daddy’ ‘daddy’ ’daddy’
She strides into the office and jumps into my arms. I ask about school and she asks about the impossible. She wants to help- she gets that from her mother- so I let her stay a while. I lay out sheets of bleached white A4 paper along with colours but it’s not long before I take her to her own room. I need quiet. I need to focus.
I order samples of animal tissue. They should be here soon.
Not here yet so I can’t start experimenting.
I decide to distract myself in the meantime. I start at the school. From the outside, you see families, friends making happy memories. But when I really listen, there are hints of teasing and tantrums. I then decide to get lunch. I formulate my plan for the rest of the day on a series of napkins in blue crayon.
I see a glimpse of beige on the porch and walking turns to pacing.
I wipe the layer of dust off the electron microscope.
The pages in my notebook wear out as dark ink runs from the pens. Diagrams lose their precision as lead smudges on my palms and they turn grey. My slender fingers swiftly record my observations onto the page.
Before I pass out I attempt to shut the notebook but the vast annotations force gaps between the previously blank canvas.
I feel a vibration. I wonder what it is. Is it a warning? Is it a sign? I must be close. The longitudinal waves reflect off all surfaces. Like an alarm. My head pounds. My stomach: hollow. But, i could’ve sworn i had just eaten. Now i hear a different sound; it’s softer and gentle. ‘Come have dinner with us. I haven’t seen you in days. You can tell us about your research.’ I couldn’t go out there. I have nothing. I sink with my back to the door. I’m sorry honey. ‘Maybe later.’
After a few minutes, I feel a warm sensation in my lower back. I pull the door open to the smell of a home-cooked meal.