A belated Valentine’s day post. A truly horrid attempt. However, we cannot simply discard poor posts when all around people are throwing out so much cardboard, vegetable matter, and insincere sentiments.
It was two days after Valentine’s day. Harvey was finally ready. He had purple flowers and everything.
At first they had only exchanged quick greetings in the hallway, and it took several of these encounters before he would look at her face and not his own shoes. The first time he did so, he was struck by a slightly asymmetrical smile and green eyes behind thin lenses. When she said “Hi Harvey. How are you?” He could only manage a quick “yep” before he completely lost his nerve and fled. After such failures he would smack his head on the lavatory wall.
He looked her up upon the university website. Her picture was next to a description of her research into producing computer simulations of mating lacewings. He thought it sounded wonderfully inapplicable. The photo wasn’t very flattering, as she was leaning into the webcam and had a large shadow across half of her face, but Harvey still looked at the page at least once a day.
He wanted to engage her in conversation, but didn’t have an excuse. He had noticed some anime characters on her desk, and had once noticed her watching a video of Yuja Wang energetically playing some concerto with some orchestra. Soon he knew all there was to know about the show, Yuja Wang, and the basics of lacewing courtship, but still did not have a way to get a conversation started. It was about this time that he started to eavesdrop on conversations in the hallway and the lunchroom, just in case there was any talk of a boyfriend or anything else of use.
Whilst decidedly unmanly, and against the grain of everything one took away from the romantic comedies churned out by Hollywood, he knew he would surrender to any competitors. He felt his indecisive nature, wide hips, and sensitivity probably already marked him out as an inferior male. No amount of musk, big Ts, or guitar cases would change that. He imagined he was like those little runty males in natural history films, with poorly developed sexual displays (such as carotenoid-produced markings that suggested an effective forager, or melanisation indicative of a strong immune system), that were swept aside by the big hairy alphas overflowing with testosterone. Even when they did get females, it was often by stealth, or by masquerading as a female. He couldn’t do that. He didn’t want to deceive anybody.
At the beginning of the second year he had finally thought of a way to open the lines of communication. He brought her a midge to identify to genus. When identifying insects, she assumed a very solemn expression, lifting her glasses to her forehead as she looked into the microscope, and moving the specimen carefully with her forceps to look at the structures that betrayed the insect’s identity. Harvey adored that ‘microscope face’. He thought she resembled Madame Curie with her frizzy hair in a bun, vigorous eyes, and lab coat hanging over her shoulders. After this initial success, he started collecting any insect he came across to bring to her. She must have imagined he was working on some grand comparative study, he thought.
One morning she asked him if he would go with her to get coffee. It lasted three minutes, and she did all the talking. Still, when he returned to his office chair he resembled Caravaggio’s depiction of Saint Francis in ecstasy, or Bernini’s Saint Theresa. He hummed Nice work if you can get it, before he was told to be quiet by Derek Ginsberg, an uptight muscle physiologist that sported thin blonde hair in a neat bowl cut.
Now he just needed to ask her out before that jerk Dan, who always bragged about the fact that he consulted the zoo on the care of peccaries. Dan, hardly a Lothario elsewhere, did well in a building full of introverts. He was the dominant elephant seal bull, with a harem full of submissive cows, and only a few timid rivals. Harvey decided that he simply must make his feelings known on Valentine’s day. Then that he must ask her out the day after. Then the day after that. He just needed to finish fixing this rat pancreas.
Specimen preparation done, Harvey walked to his car to pick up the remains of the purple roses he had purchased two days before (it was her favourite colour), this was probably not the best spot, but he was embarrassed to be seen with them. In fact, even now he was tempted to cover them with a towel. He began walking back towards her lab when everything suddenly went black.
In the moments before his head made contact with the ground, his life didn’t flash before his eyes. Instead, he imagined what would happen to her.
She would well up slightly, but only the amount one would expect of a friendly acquaintance. Then, perhaps taking advantage of her slightly raised emotions, Dan would make a move. Those thin cocky lips would kiss that slender neck, and those sausage fingers would free that long mousy brown hair. Of course, he would eventually leave her heartbroken. Then she would move on, and have children with someone Harvey didn’t recognise. He looked like Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate. This man would be true to her until she died.
Gradually, as if the volume of an old scratchy radio was being slowly turned up, he heard Ella Fitzgerald singing Nice work if you can get it.
The body had teary eyes with corneas that had been stained jet black, and was still clutching a thorny rose stem. Blood had pooled in the hand that held it, and dripped down the sleeve of the deceased’s lab coat.