EXOTHERMIC REACTION Definition: A chemical reaction that produces heat.
Another Coming of Age Confession by Tragic Rabbit
[Disclaimer: Every single word of this story is true and damn me to hell if I lie. All persons and places existed, once upon a time when I was fifteen. No names have been changed though some have been forgotten. The story, in all its parts, belongs solely to TR but the memories are now yours to share. Enjoy and drop me a line if, in fact, you do: email@example.com]
Chemistry Lab Safety Rules:
The teacher is up front, talking notes at us; something about this afternoonís experiment (or maybe more crap about Biorhythms, Mancuso is a nut). The overheads are harsh; I really hate fluorescents. They make it so hard to hide my zits. Today is Wednesday, lab day, and you can feel the room zinging with teen energy; invisible forces lancing off the walls and lighting up our bodies. Reactants and reaction.
Why? Because Dr. Mancuso really is a nutball; he always, and I mean always, goes off and leaves us alone for lab. God knows why, and only God knows what he does when heís gone. Lab Rule #1: Perform laboratory work only when your teacher is present. Unauthorized or unsupervised laboratory experimenting is not allowed. The principal would fire Mancuso if he ever found out; if any student was stupid enough to tell. Not a chance in hell of that. What could be sweeter sugar to a pack of fifteen-year-olds than the proximity of their peers andÖprivacy?
Not a goddam thing, trust me.
So, once a week, for labs, we kiss our crazy professor goodbye (metaphorically speaking; heís at least sixty, though undeniably a lech), and commence our chemical combustions. Oh, we do the assigned work, more or less, or enough of us do it that the rest can vamp, share notes, copy results. This is Honors Chem Class; itís not like weíre hurting for brains in the room. They leak out all over, oozing from ears.
You know, itís funny but thereís just nobody lazier than a bunch of genius kids. What we can get away with, we do get away with, and then all weíve done is raise the bar of indolence. Put us together and we can solve world hunger, that is, if we can be pried from our distractions. Television, our complexions, the latest styles, our stereos, our complexions, our music, what movies came out last week, our complexions, who was mad at whom and what this other person had to say about it.
But the triumphal distraction is the end-all and be-all, the rising and setting of our sophomore suns, the reason for style, for cleverness, the reason we get out of bed in the morning (no small feat when youíre fifteen), and why privacy is the grail we seek without ceasing; that little three-letter word thatíll smite you down faster than any (other) Act of God:
Sex, the touching and glancing and frisson and fullness andÖ
Shit, is he/she looking? At me? Oh, God!
Yay-es! Can I get an ĎAmení, brothers and sisters?
Halleluiah. Bless Dr. Nutso Mancuso and his independent lab assignments. May he live to be a thousand and die in the company of ninety-nine nubile virgins. Allah be praised and God damn his detractors. Those rambling lectures, those freaky tangents on weird shit like Biorhythms and the colors of our psychic energies, all were a small price to pay for Heaven once a weekóa lab to ourselves and two whole hours of time. Thanks to him, our suffering had surcease, if only once a week. Privacy with peers, a roomful of thirty throbbing, clever, canny, crafty kids, and one single assignment. No, not the one Dr. Wackuso gave us but the other one, the mandate from our carnal medulla; our animal corpus and its craving for touch. Itís hard to concentrate, when your body is a traitor.
Case in point.
As Mancuso tells our lab work: a fingertip, nothing more, one tiny fingertip traces against the skin of my neck, just above my collar. I am resolute; I refuse to turn. From the seat behind me, that single fingertip makes patterns. I hold still, face forward, eyes front. I can feel that small patch of flesh lighting up like those colorful, heat-sensitive plastic squares: swirls of bright green, iridescent blue, violet and shocked yellow. The hair at the nape of my neck is standing to attention, shivering in the wind. Other things salute, as well.
Damn, damn, damn. Oh, God in heaven.
I am looking at the teacher but could not, even to save my own precious life, tell you what it was that he just said. Or what that question was that the bitchy tall girl (who looks exactly like Tennille, sans Captain) just asked. All my concentration is directed backwards to that one spot, that point of contact, and nothing else is real. I try to will my mind to the teacher, to the words, to the classroom itself, but itís no good. I canít. I really canít. Iím helpless, drowning in sensation. Sense datum overload. My ears are ringing; all outward sounds are far away. That fingertip slides, veeery slowly, along the edges of my collar and, adding injury, sways tendrils of my longish hair back and forth with each small motion; exciting my scalp in a shivering sideshow. Yes, yes, I know whose finger it is. I ought to know, this isnít the first time.
I hate you, Terry.
And thatís what really rankles. I do hate him, or, at least, I donít much like him, but even so, even soÖ
My body is a traitor. My body is in bliss. Inside my head, I scream: in anger, in anguish. I really do hate you, Terry. I hope I have better taste. Honestly, I do. But itís as if my head and heart have no vote in this; in this, in these little moments that stretch into timelessness; his little experiments, his search for something, and this, this exothermic reaction that I canít suppress. Iíd love to hit him. Slap him; smash him.
Avoid unnecessary movement and talk in the laboratory.
I donít want him to take away that finger, to break that circuit. I couldnít
bear it. Iíll die if he does, Iíll melt into the floor like a bad witch. I may
do that anyway. Everything I am is funneled down into that one, single,
overwhelming sensory input. I close my eyes, giving up my battle to hear
Mancuso. Touch over teach. Touch over taste. Touch overÖand over. My bodyís
casing of skin is alive with feeling; a crawling, gnawing feeling, and a
throbbing lower down that threatens my sanity.
Your concern for safety should begin even before the
first activity. Always read and think about each laboratory assignment before
My lab partner, Gregg, that adorable hippy
boy who thrilled me in August when he insisted on being my lab partner
despite the plethora of mentats and socials and otherwise superior beings in our
honors Chem class, is shaking my arm. Apparently our Prof has made good his
escape; quod erat demonstrandum,
once again, that grownups are
inexplicable. He has left us alone; a roomful of bright boys and girls, all
seething and simmering. Some few are setting up their lab work, pairing off and
putting out (utensils of science, donít be crass!). Gregg would like my
cooperation; heís got the idea, God forbid, that Iím the smart one. Either way,
itís time to work. Without once looking back at Terry, aloof but hoisting my
Chem notebook like a shield, I follow Gregg into the main lab area that adjoins
our lecture room.
The door to the storage room is open.
Now, see, this is where Mancuso really is taking his life into his hands, not to mention his livelihood. It was absolutely not allowed to give the Keys to Chemicals to us kids but, yes, he does it anyway, weekly, on Wednesdays. Unlocks the door and disappears to whatever weird rewards were worth his paychecks. Trusting us not to set things on fire or cause explosions. Actually, weíve done both. Jerry regularly makes things explode, but as it is usually on purpose, Wackuso looks the other way. And Kevin keeps an interesting beaker into which he pours a tiny portion of each weekís potion, curious about what random results might come from these combinations. Now and then, as I say, things ignite.
Wear a laboratory coat or apron and protective glasses or goggles for all laboratory work. Wear shoes (rather than sandals) and tie back loose hair.
Once we blew out the back of the lab but that was (technically) before term started, and so doesnít count. And, as it happens, no one told that affected Bio teacher how events transpired. We all feigned great ignorance, as did our erstwhile hero, the mendacious Mancuso. He is not beloved by members of faculty; perhaps they, too, grow tired of Biorhythms, numerology and other, weirder, Science. Or maybe heís put the moves on some of them as well. I canít count the times heís placed a fatherly hand upon my knee, to tell me what a prodigious prodigy I was, and how he looked to me, to us all, for wondrous things in future. In past, all I can say is that Iíd declined, demurred, deflected; mainly by playing dumb. Amazing how dumb a smart kid can be, when he wants to. OrÖwhen he doesnít.
Who is now following me into the storage room, where Gregg and Wurtz reaction have sent me. My cup runneth over. My list is in my hand. Check chemical labels twice to make sure you have the correct substance. Some chemical formulas and names differ by only a letter or number. Pay attention to the hazard classifications shown on the label. My eyes are on the shelves: bottles, jars and beakers, all neatly ordered, tidily tagged. He speaks my name but Iím busy with titration calculation. No one else is in the storeroom. He sidles up, crabwise, to stand behind me. My body, not fully recovered from his last assault (dry Chem notes and Gregg notwithstanding) reacts unwisely. I am sure my shudder is a secret. I reread my list, forgetting my sequence of events. To wit, I am distracted.
Allow me to explain.
Terry is not precisely unattractive. Terry is slim, about my size and height, his brown hair is long and his skin is pale. He has a vagueness to him that is disconcerting, a dreamy look to his deep green eyes. He wears tight blue jeans, day after day, year after year, varying only his tee shirt slogans. He has a thong around his neck from which dangles a twisty little golden shape that, he says, is a symbol of masculine fertility. He has my phone number but has never called, or perhaps he has and Mother hasnít told me.
In any case, to say that we were friends would be stretching definitions, but to say that we were enemies would be nothing but a lie. We were simply classmates; class after class over year after year; row upon row of desks where weíd glanced at each other (and away) so many times. Strange things happened; some thing changed over this past summer; some way, somehow, this fall has become another world of wonder. Hallways, lockerrooms, and other proximities have doubled their torment. Something new is in the air; Iíve sniffed it elsewhere but itís nowhere so evident, so annoying, so inescapable, as when Terry stands (as he so often does in Chem) within my private, personal space.
I am lifting down labeled lab jars. Terry isÖsniffing at my neck.
I freeze, motionless. His breath tickles the hairs at the base of my neck. If you are instructed to smell something, do so by fanning some of the vapor toward your nose. Do not place your nose near the opening of the container. Delicately, daintily, he moves his nose along my flesh, scenting at me, smelling of me. I swallow hard, and carefully set down the container I am holding. He inhales deeply, drinking me in, and makes a near-inaudible noise low in his throat. I am acutely, achingly, aware that we are alone in the storeroom.
I close my eyes, clench my hand and crumple the damn list. I hate you, Terry. I hate you, butÖ
His lips touch my skin and I gasp, exhaling all my anger. I feel the heat of him behind me, a triboluminescence, as he leans, carefully, very slightly (but very definitely) onto and up against my body. Contact. I moan, softly. Thermodynamics in action. All boards are go.
Houston, we have lift-off.
I turn (unwilling, completely willing) and, as I do, I open my eyes. I say nothing. This boy, I have spent hours and years ignoring him but right now, I canít. The glint in his eyes says he knows it. He reaches out to either side of me to grasp the wooden shelves, netting his prize between two arms. I look at him; his eyes are so near; now transmuted to a deeper sea green. He stares into my own eyes and, again, he says my name. This time my shudder is more evident.
The kinetic energy of a particle is equal to 1/2 multiplied by its mass multiplied by the square of its velocity.
I know Iím breathing fast, but it doesnít matter. My skin has electricity racing across it, a St. Elmoís fire waking up each cell and lifting up each tiny hair. His face is inches from mine and still, magically, no one else has come into the storeroom. Not that there would be objections, Chem lab has but one known purpose. Still, to be caught like thisÖ
But caught, I am. He moves his arms closer, reeling me in.
Did I say that? Did it come out of my mouth? Apparently not, because he doesnít. Stop, I mean. He leans in closer, as if examining the lids of my eyes, the number of my eyelashes. Heís breathing hard, too, a slight consolation. I see only his green eyes, my catalyst; feel nothing but his body so close, but not entirely against, my own. Pheromones; thermal indices. In case of emergency, break glass. I back up, flat against the shelves behind me that seem so solid. Whatever I felt about him, thought about him, before (yesterday, this morning, a thousand years ago) disappears within the circle of this closeness. I know that I donít (really) hate Terry, but I hate that he can (and does), so casually, make meÖ
Theoretical Yield: the quantity of a product obtained from the complete conversion of the limiting reactant in a chemical reaction.
His lips touch mine and I yield entirely. He covers my mouth with his and I exhale into that moist cavern, making some sounds I canít account for. A tongue in my mouth and itís not mine. I suck on it, greedy. No, I canít account for any of this; Iíve lost all capacity for thought. He presses his hardness up against me; I groan.
I am trapped between the shelves (poking sharp into my back at fourteen-inch intervals) and the deep sea devil of his eyes; his mouth on mine, his body grinding. Weíre both panting, itís very hot in here. I push myself against him, too, and make a few more noises. He growls down in his throat, through the kiss, as if to eat me, devour me, swallow me whole.
Each motion creates more motion, ripples and rings of movement, and all centered at our groins. A throbbing, painful, aching, leaking, need. I wrap my arms around his waist, then slip hands lower; grasp and pull us closer. I feel him, like an iron bar, through the denim. I move against him, an automatic response, a sublime heat.
Heat of sublimation: the change in enthalpy for the conversion of 1 mole or 1 gram of a solid to a gas, at constant pressure and temperature.
The pressure between us, inside us, threatens to spill outward. A lab accident, a small emergency. Not so small, from what I can feel; neither, either, both pressing, pushing, feeling, thrusting mindless and moaning into each othersí mouths.
His hands are on my rear, cupping me, mashing me closer, kneading my flesh. His fingers, those proven dangerous digits, slip downward, between and in and against: strumming, seeking, stroking.
is it for me and I writhe and wriggle; his mouth eating up my noises as my solid reaches liquid state.
He pulls back, apart from me, panting like a racehorse, and looks at me. Iím trying to still my heart rate and slow my breathing. He looks me up and down and then, slowly, he smiles. The front of his pants are full (but not damp) and he still manages to lookÖamused. His smile is cat-like, canary-wise; infuriating. He takes another step back, as if to emphasize his own control. He crosses his arms across his chest and heÖsmiles. I grit my teeth. His gold fertility charm gleams in the overhead light.
Any laboratory accident, however small, should be reported immediately to your teacher.
I have just now remembered that I hate him.
I turn back to the shelves and, with every scrap of dignity I can scrape up off the floor, I pick up Greggís list and look up the nearest shelf. I donít speak; I will not speak. I am reorganizing my dislikes, realigning my wishes. I wish he were on fire (and why isnít he?) just so I could refuse to piss on him. I remember every single, solitary time heís pestered me since junior high. Nothing good about him comes to mind just now. I visualize Terry combusting, a spontaneous miracle. I finally hear him leaving the storeroom but, just before he exits, I hear him say, very softly, my name. Like a prayer, like a promise.
And here I am with my list and my wet spot and my humiliation. Any minute now, Iíll have to walk out of this storeroom and finish up the Chem class. A lab to do, a grade to make, a partner to placate. Not that my hippy-trippy Gregg will hassle, heís always sweet to me. Before leaving the laboratory, ensure that gas lines and water faucets are shut off.
The school is right; this storeroom is a goddam dangerous place for sophomores.
Fuck you, Mancuso, what the hell were you thinking?
Disclaimer: Every single word of Exothermic Reaction is true. All persons and places existed, once upon a time when I was fifteen. No names have been changed though some may have been forgotten. The story, in all its parts, belongs solely to TR but the memories are now yours to share. Enjoy and drop me a line if, in fact, you do: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read other TR work at www.tragicrabbit.org or join the reader email list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TragicRabbit/