Lab Girl

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren Read Free Book Online

Book: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren Read Free Book Online
Authors: Hope Jahren
minutes, and then shunt it back into my fingers in the same way that I could slosh water back and forth in a half-full bucket.
    I spent my breaks in the tiny courtyards that nestled among the hospital’s buildings, luxuriating in the natural light and unrecycled air. One morning I was lying on the grass with my legs elevated, counting the cigarette butts on the ground while trying to drain some blood back into my upper body.
The early sun was striking edgewise on its gables and lattice-windows, touching them with gold; and some beams of its old peace seemed to touch my heart,
I recited from chapter fifty-two. I saw my supervisor peer around the courtyard wall and then motion for me to come inside. For a moment I was terrified that I had lost track of time, until my watch told me that my break still had five minutes left in it. When we got back to the pharmacy lab, both my supervisor and the Pharm.D. were looking at me seriously. “Why don’t you leave out the front door when you run a controlled-sub bag?” one of them asked me.
    “Because I go and use the back stairway.”
    “But you can’t get to the walkway that crosses over to the hospice tower from those stairs,” my supervisor argued.
    “You can if you cut through the cafeteria loading dock.”
    “So you never use the elevator?” The Pharm.D. looked puzzled.
    “It’s a shortcut, and you never have to wait,” I answered. “It really is quicker, I’ve timed it. And, I mean, there’s somebody up there in pain, waiting for this stuff, right?” My supervisors looked at each other, rolled their eyes, and returned to their other tasks.
    It was only partly true that I had developed this route in order to cut my delivery times. I was also compelled to keep moving in order to burn off the endless energy that I possessed at that age, which seized me in ferocious spurts, keeping me awake for days at a time. Hospital work gave me a place to be and a mission to accomplish, complete with repetitive tasks that helped to constrain my racing thoughts.
    Near the end of the afternoon shift, it never failed that some runner would call in sick, giving me the option to work the night shift if it looked as if I wasn’t going to sleep anyway. Sooner or later I would go home at least exhausted if not sleepy, comforted by the night’s companionable wakefulness, and a full paycheck richer in the bargain;
the shells and pebbles on the beach…made a calm in my heart,
I remembered from chapter ten. Plus I was doing something important—or so I had convinced myself.
    About a month after I had explained my delivery routes, I walked into the pharmacy and the Pharm.D. turned and called out, “Lydia, she’s here!” She then turned to me and explained, “Lydia is going to train you to shoot bags,” and just like that, my career as a runner was over. Lydia stood up from her post and cast a sideways glance at the boss. The look on her face didn’t exactly congratulate me on my promotion, but I sensed that Lydia’s training was a necessary hurdle positioned between me and a big fat raise.
    “Come on back and take a load off!” Lydia yelled in her gravelly voice, more to annoy the Pharm.D. than to welcome me. I got excited and
my heart leaped with a new hope of pleasure,
to quote chapter twenty. Instead of delivering the bags of intravenous medications, I was going to make them, and then hand them over to someone else for double-checking and delivery. I pictured myself sitting down at my own workstation and adjusting my stool to the perfect height. I pictured myself walking importantly back and forth from the stock table, picking out exactly the right little bottles of concentrated drugs in the same way that a rich woman confidently seizes upon the perfect shade of nail polish before her manicure. I saw myself take my position, sit up straight, square my shoulders, and begin to work my magic, calmly but quickly—because, after all, someone’s life was at stake.
    “Here, pull

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