I. The world is blood-hot and personal. —Sylvia Plath THEN This was twelve years ago. We were seventeen, Diane and me, and for the eight or nine months of our senior year, we shared an energy that crackled in both of us, a drive, a hunger, a singing ambition. Then, one night,...

NOW The halls are quiet, soothing. I always try to get there at least an hour before the others, if I can. Sometimes, I skip the elevator, slow and halting. Take the stairs two at a time, coffee splashing up my wrist and arm, trying to beat the clock, beat the relentless ambition...

In my secret thoughts, I imagine Dr. Severin will pick Alex and me for two of the three slots on the PMDD grant. Together, we’ll devote ourselves to the potentially groundbreaking work that she and her colleagues over in Neuropsych will produce. Together, we’ll toil, head to...

THEN Later, too late, I would understand how important my first encounter with Diane Fleming was. How everything was right there, if I chose to look. It was more than a dozen years ago, at cross-country camp, the summer after my sophomore year. She was running next to me, and you...

Later that night, just as we were starting to settle in, tank tops and shorts, sharing two bottles of beer we’d stolen from a room-service tray and rubbing our feet with smelly lotions, Diane started to feel sick and bent over the trash can by the bed. “Don’t be embarrassed,”...

NOW Diane Fleming. The name, Dr. Severin’s scarlet-rind mouth saying it, hovers over me. We all watch her leave the conference room, her phone hissing, the shush of her crepe trousers. Behind, the tart smell of her perfume. “You’ll have to tell me what this means,” whispers...

“We’re a nest of vipers,” Alex says when it’s just the two of us left. “We’ve got PhDs in protein chemistry, bacteriology, molecular biology, even psychology. And we’re all used to winning.” “It’s just nature,” I point out, wiping my lab bench, the sweet smell...

THEN AP Chem brought us together. We went shoulder to shoulder amid all that fire and smoke and mystery. It was fate, Diane would later say. Two days before she arrived at Lanister High, Benjy Dunphy, my lab partner, got suspended for throwing a fist-size chunk of potassium into...

NOW The next morning, I leave my apartment so early, the parking-lot lights are still on. My heart bucking and bounding in my chest, I tell myself it’s just nerves about the PMDD slots, but I know it’s about Diane Fleming. Twelve years later, and the thought of her still feels...

Within the hour, I’m back at work in G-21, and next to me is Diane. We stand a half a dozen feet apart at our respective fume hoods for hours, the exhaust pumping noisily, churning. We stand and we work. We concentrate. At first, I can’t help feeling like we are being observed,...