“I bet it was an experiment gone wrong. It was probably a biology grad student who lost his mind.”
“You’ve lost your mind.”
“It’s only the ivy on the biology building. I’m telling you it has eyes.”
Eva looked at the wall of green and the tripartite leaves. No eyes there. “Hey,” she said, “I think I see the face of Christ!”
“Dude! I’m not kidding,” James said, hanging his head.
“We have exams in biochem, immunology, and mol bio tomorrow. How many nights have you been awake?”
“It’s not that.”
“You’re usually starkers after the second night.”
“Starkers? Are you dating the Brit in your lab?”
“But if he asked…”
“Get some sleep this afternoon. Then you’ll see there are no eyes.”
Another grad student walked past and gave them a long look and went around the corner.
“But Christ’s face is ok?”
“Sure. He’s smiling.”
James rolled his eyes and made the turn into the quad, and Eva turned toward her apartment. She remembered she had his teaching notebook, and ran around the corner to catch him and return it.
James wasn’t there, but the other grad student was up the path. James must have passed him, running past the wall of ivy. The wind blew and the ivy rustled along with the leaves in the trees.
Eva shrugged. She’d give him the notebook in the class they taught together after lunch.
James wasn’t there and she was pissed. She had to work with twenty five baby-bio students on the photosynthesis lab. The freshmen never prepared and were clueless about the concepts; she could forgive unfamiliarity with the concepts. They also had no freaking idea how to set up the apparatus because they hadn’t removed the plastic from the expensive lab notebook they’d purchased during orientation. That sent her through the roof.
When Eva was done holding their hands for the day – four freaking hours – she marched to James’ lab in the bio building. On the way up the six flights of stairs, it occurred to her that he wouldn’t have missed unless something important had happened. Like he actually took her advice and went to sleep.
She paused on the third floor landing of the 103 year old building. She leaned on the wooden railing, polished by used rather than by custodians, and looked down at the asbestos-tiled wooden steps. She let the twisting pattern of steps become her world and felt the anger slide off her. He was home sleeping. Of course.
She went home to the apartment and her roommates. They were locked in their rooms studying while she ate dinner, then she locked herself in. She studied until midnight and then went to sleep. She wanted a good eight hours so she was fresh for all the exams tomorrow.
Biochem was the first, and the students filled the lecture hall and began the exam. James was nowhere in sight. Eva was now worried. He had never missed a class, and especially not an exam. She must focus on her exam for now.
When she finished and turned it in, she walked back to her seat and looked for James. He was still AWOL. Eva went to the discussion/recitation she taught and absently answered questions. James would be at the next exam. She would give him the third degree then.
James was not at the next exam, or the last exam. He was not at happy hour. No table for them was reserved, no smiling James waving her over to his pitcher of beer. She was an obstacle in the midst of the students flowing through the union. Where could he be?
Sally saw Eva and waved her over. “Have beer with us! Where’s your growth?”
“Don’t talk about James like that.”
“He’s a downer is all,” Sally said into her beer.
“Have you seen him at all today? You’re in the same lab, right?”
“No he wasn’t in. It was kinda of cheery without him.”
Eva had a beer and another. Soon her worries about James were minute and her fun with Sally and the others was large.
“Time for me to go,” Eva told the group.
“Aw,” Sally said. “It’s been such a blast! Stay.”
“Nope. Need to be in the lab bright and early tomorrow.” She walked home past the bio building and the ivy rippled. It looked like the shape of a man walking behind the ivy. Eva shivered. James had her imagination working overtime. The beer didn’t help either.
She wasn’t up bright and early. She didn’t have a hangover, not really. Just a headache and cotton mouth. However, she had overslept. Lucky for her, her mentor never made it in before noon. She got her experiment started and went for a walk.
Sally was outside having a smoke. As she exhaled she said, “You ever find James?”
“No, why?” Eva said.
“He’s not in again today, and boy is Prace pissed.”
“This is bad.” Eva walked over to his apartment and flung open the door.
His roommates, Dumb and Dumber, jumped up from the couch, a bong on the table between them. This was James’ second round of roommates. Eva couldn’t figure out how he always picked such winners.
“You seen James lately?” she asked them.
“Christ, Eva, you almost made me piss my pants.”
“Like your mom is gonna come flying through that door. You seen him or not?” she said as she went to his room. His bed was made. He was the only person college, grad or undergrad, that she had ever known made his bed.
“Do you have his mom’s number?”
“Yeah…” Dumb said.
“Call her. He’s been missing for two days.”
“Fuckin’ eh,” Dumber said.
“You guys pay the rent yet?”
“In full, for the whole school year,” Dumb said.
“Huh.” Maybe James had found a solution to his roommate woes.
sawEva went back to the bio building. In full sunlight, without alcohol, she saw the man-shaped ripple again. “You’re not James,” she said. “You’re not.”
She walked up the six flights of stairs and into his lab.
“Hey,” Sally said.
Eva looked around.
“Prace is in his office.”
Eva relaxed and went to James’ desk next to the window. “Something’s wrong,” she said to Sally.
“Yeah, he’s a downer, but he’s never missed anything. You can sit here if you want, but I got work to do,” she said nodding to her lab bench.
Eva nodded and looked out the window. It was framed with ivy, which waved in the breeze. Up here at the top of the ivy vine, the ivy had reached it’s mature stage. The leaves were shaped differently and it was about ready to open its flowers. The flowers were in round clusters.
One cluster danced in the breeze and two leaves came against the window. The cluster tilted to the left. Two flowers opened, the petals forming around the center like an eye. Here was James’ obsession. There were brown spots at the center of each with black dots in the middle. It blinked.
Eva jerked away from the window. The cluster pressed against the window and the leaves came up around it like hands shading eyes that looked through glass. Eva shivered. Wind could do weird things. It was wind. She walked to closer to the window. “I am a scientist,” she said.
The eyes were brown and had golden flecks and dark flecks in exactly the same places as James’ eyes. The leaves rolled up and pattered against the window. Other clusters floated up behind and eyes blinked. Blue, brown, grey, green. Hundreds of little ivy people peering in at her.
I = ivy