Friday, September 4, 2009

I Can't Believe She Did That!

Published in O, The Oprah Magazine, August 2006

That summer I felt beautiful in motion, but Camille was just beautiful, without exceptions, even leaning over a Petri dish in goggles, fiddling with a pipette.
        We were interns in the Stanford Genetics Lab, growing yeast cells and then examining their tiny insides.
        Camille was not the usual lab type, though—she had Audrey Hepburn’s haircut from the second half of Roman Holiday and also Audrey’s derring-do and mischievous sparkle—and next to her gamine grace and fluttering French eyelids, I was a graceless, boisterous sidekick.

        But she became a dear friend, and so I minded less.
        I’d never been in close proximity to a beauty before. I saw how it made men come alive and stumble over their words. Once a Ph.D. student followed us out of the building on our way home, talking about yeast and then about France and then about how well he could dance the rumba, up close and grinding. I imagined him, his lab coat swaying to a Latin beat.
        I didn’t want him, or the other men who hung around her, and neither did she: pale Ph.D. students and post-doctorates crouched over magnifying instruments. But I saw how her presence lit them up, like the dye we used on yeast cells under the electron microscope to make them glow in the dark.
            The only place I felt beautiful that summer was in dance class. I’d been dancing jazz since I was 8, and that summer I’d perfected my jeté: a splits in the air landing with a soft ploof sound, like a bird touching ground after flight.
        One day I asked Camille to come to class with me. I wanted to share my favorite activity, and also I wanted be somewhere with her where I felt beautiful too. Camille had never danced jazz before.
        I spoke to her freely of the perils – of listing pirouettes, of pas de bourrée that might pretzel her doe-thin legs, of the myriad details vying for attention, hand, foot, leg, arm, each slipping out of position as she concentrated on the next. I remembered what it was like to be new on the dance floor, and I wasn’t trying to trap her: I told her that no friend of mine had ever dared before.
        She came along. And in the class she mixed up her lefts and rights and once, after an overambitious turn, she almost fell but she caught herself by the heel of her hand. Spindly legs were not an advantage here, and nor was a high center of gravity. She was concentrating too hard for her beauty to radiate outward like it usually did. I admit: enjoyed those moments feeling suspended and alluring beside her.
            But after class and the next day and then for the rest of the summer I noticed her looks less often. I thought instead about the way she’d finished the dance class with unselfconscious aplomb. And about how loyal she’d been to come. When I looked at her, I imagined I saw further in. Beauty thinned next to brave friendship.
      The next day we punctured millions of yeast cells and discarded their little membrane skins. It was just protocol: we hoped to examine their complex and surprising insides, and the skins sometimes got in the way. 


  1. Odd title for this...

    What an amazing piece, I enjoyed this immensely- wow, especially:

    "That summer I felt beautiful in motion"


    "we hoped to examine their complex and surprising insides, and the skins sometimes got in the way."

    It may sound strange, however, I felt Triumphant for you! This is one of the most beautiful beginnings and endings I have read.

    I hope your soul screams "Never Stop Writing!" or I may have to...

  2. I love the association between your growing admiration of a working partner/friend and the subtle association with exploring the inside of yeast cells and throwing the skin away. The human condition has a propensity to look at the surface when really, we don't hang around long enough to see the inside. The inside, the most revealing part of something which may even shed light on an issue, maybe even yourself. Skin always gets in the way, our great misfortune.

  3. Dear Lisa,

    I love your's pure and nourishing.
    I'm sending loving condolences for your father's passing today.

    May you keep writing...
    I'm reminded today our mindfulness can soak up all life has to offer, whether short or long.

    I met your father at a new employees meeting, my first year at Apple.
    My first reaction: I was afraid of Steve Jobs, he had a powerful felt like Jesus Christ walked in that room back in 1985...but I'm glad I followed his and co-founder Steve Wozniak's vision for a world with a computer that would be an "appliance" changing people's lives...the Macintosh, of course:) and now the iPhone.

    Sending you much love and please keep writing,
    Leslie clark, Littleton, Colorado
    Apple Higher Ed Rep 1985-1995
    Buddha follower:

  4. Oh! The genes, the genes! In them, the temperamental components of creativity. Like a variable chain, they pass from the Syrian Magnotes great grandfather, to the grandfather mathematician, to the genius father Steve. They keep moving on...

  5. Replies
    1. Мне нужна почта мамы . Хочу ей передать сообщение от папы . Мы общались с ним на разные темы , я пообещал ему кое что сделать.

  6. Redefining beauty ... inspiring piece.

  7. I love this. I keep reading it and everytime I do, I notice something new. I think I have read this piece about 15 times now.