“How could you just forget your backpack in the auditorium and come home?” his wife murmured as he plugged the electric iron to the socket.
“I don’t know….listen, I’m getting late! Will talk to you in the evening.” Neil said as he quickly switched off the computer. Living in two different continents, separated by innumerable time zones, Skype was the only way they could make each other’s presence felt in their otherwise lonely and stressful lives.
He quickly ironed his shirt and rushed to the coffee machine just as the overheated toaster popped up two half burnt toasts.
“Brilliant!” he muttered under his breath as he took a bite of the nearly blackened toast. His phone beeped. He picked to it to find a message from an old friend back home.
“Off to lab now, will chat in the evening.” he texted as his eyes fell on the wall clock. It was past 8.30.
“Excellent, I’m late again!” he blurted out angrily. He had a meeting with his supervisor, Dr. Julia Andrews, sharp at 9 and a departmental seminar in the evening. He would have to fit in an experiment that was long overdue, somewhere in the middle. In the final year of his PhD tenure, he could hardly afford to delay his experiments. Taking it slow is not a privilege that grad students usually enjoy!
He felt anxiety rising up within him again. At times he felt like a glass of soda! No matter how hard he tried, the bubbles of anxiety couldn’t be suppressed.
He sipped his coffee and glanced out of the window. The first snowfall of the season! After 6 long years in Canada, the beauty of snow barely appealed to him anymore. “Graduate life does that you!” he thought to himself. Quickly he put on his winter jacket and boots, picked up his backpack which he had conveniently forgotten in the auditorium the previous day and had to pick up later in the evening (since when did he become so careless?), grabbed a medicated adhesive for his injured finger (a result of his carelessness in the kitchen again) and rushed out of the door. He had a long day and he was already late!
Half an hour later, a breathless Neil rushed into his lab.
“Hey! Good Morning.” Afreen wished.
“Good Morning. Is Julia in her office?” he asked his labmate.
“Yeah, she came in at 8.” Afreen replied offhandedly. “By the way, she might not be in her best mood.” she added with a wink.
“Of course, that’s what I need now!” Neil thought to himself as he unzipped his jacket.
“What the…….What are you wearing?” Afreen’s abrupt cry made him look down. “Where is your shirt?” she squealed!
“Oh Dear God!” Neil blurted out as he quickly zipped up the jacket over his under-shirt. His head buzzed. How in the world did he forget to wear a shirt?
“Don’t you have a meeting and a seminar to attend today?” Afreen nearly choked on her words as she tried to contain her bubbling laughter.
“Hey guys! What’s up?” they heard Samantha’s voice from the door.
“First snow of the year….doesn’t it feel amazing?” Sam, as the senior technician was popularly known, was saying when she suddenly noticed Neil’s flushed face. “Now, now, Neil, I know you hate the winters….but don’t look so petrified. And please take that jacket off. They have turned up the heater! You are sweating!”
“Sam, actually…” he tried to clear his voice. “Actually, there is a problem.”
“He forgot to wear a shirt!” Afreen blurted out from behind. After few moments of silence, both ladies burst out laughing just as Virendra walked into the lab.
“Who forgot to wear a shirt?” Virendra asked, amused. A Research Assosiate, Virendra was almost an elder brother to Neil and he would make sure that he never missed any opportunity of pulling his legs. “Ahh, I see a great scientist in the making! He is beginning to show symptoms guys!”
“Can you guys please be serious? I have a meeting with Julia. Like right now!” Neil cried. If only our society had allowed boys to cry, he would have been in tears by now.
Incidents such as this rarely happen, let alone in a science lab! The trio tried their best to contain their mirth.
“I could give you a ride back home but you don’t have time!” Sam offered as she wiped off the moisture from her eyes. It had been a long time since she had laughed this hard.
“Look, you cannot possibly spend the entire day in that heavy jacket. You can wear this spare University hoodie while you are in the meeting and the seminar.” Afreen said helpfully.
“And while in lab, this apron can protect your modesty.” Virendra chuckled. “Now go to your office and change into this!” Virendra smacked him on his head and headed off to his work table, smiling to himself.
“Thanks a lot” Neil murmured as he grabbed the hoodie and rushed to his office.
“Hi Neil” Kirsten and Jess looked up at him from their computers just as he entered his office.
God! How could he have forgotten that he shared his office with two women!
“Hi!” He mumbled and rushed back to his lab, leaving behind two stupefied faces staring after him, flabbergasted.
“Sam, Afreen, Could you please not look while I change into the sweat shirt” he pleaded, as he entered his lab again.
“As you wish, your highness” the women laughed out!
As fast as he could, without risking any further embarrassment, Neil changed into the sweatshirt and rushed with his laptop to Julia’s room.
“You are late!” were the first words that greeted him.
As he mumbled his apologies and wondered if Julia should be privy to the classified information of his peril, she noted “Isn’t it too hot inside for that sweatshirt?”
“Umm, No, I am fine…” he tried to sound convincing, wiping off the perspiration that now dotted his forehead.
A pair of amused eyes scanned him and finally said “Up to you….” before moving on with the meeting.
For the remaining part of the day, a sweat shirt and an apron tried their level best to save Neil’s honor while amused eyes and a film of perspiration followed him wherever he went!
Before leaving for home, as he was busy ticking off items from a mental checklist he had made just to make sure he didn’t forget anything further, he heard Virendra call out from the door “Don’t forget to wear your pants tomorrow, Neil! C’ya!”
“Glad to have provided some amusement!” Neil smirked, picked his backpack and left the lab.
On his way back home, he made a Whatsapp call to his wife.
“You forgot your what?” she laughed out loud, pausing only to get the words out of her mouth. “God, aren’t you too young to have Alzheimer’s?” she exclaimed.
“Please… as it is I had a hard day. Can you at least not be a prick?” He retorted as he entered his building.
“Anyway, I’m back home. I will call you after………OH DEAR GOD! NOT AGAIN!” he cried, startled.
“What did you do now?” his wife asked, worried!
“I cannot find my apartment keys! I have to go back to lab. I just hope I left my them there…..”