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Chapter 12
We drove towards the university and the lab. The FatherProject would soon be over. The weather was warm, thoughthere were dark clouds on the horizon, and Rosie lowered theconvertible roof. I was mulling over the theft.
‘You still obsessing about the bill, Don?’ Rosie shouted over thewind noise. ‘You’re hilarious. We’re stealing DNA, and you’reworried about a cup of coffee.’
‘It’s not illegal to take DNA samples,’ I shouted back. This wastrue, although in the UK we would have been in violation ofthe Human Tissue Act of 2004. ‘We should go back.’
‘Highly inefficient use of time,’ said Rosie in a strange voice, aswe pulled up at traffic lights and were briefly able tocommunicate properly. She laughed and I realised she hadbeen imitating me. Her statement was correct, but there was amoral question involved, and acting morally should overrideother issues.
97/290‘Relax,’ she said. ‘It’s a beautiful day, we’re going to find outwho my father is and I’ll put a cheque in the mail for thecoffee. Promise.’ She looked at me. ‘Do you know how torelax? How to just have fun?’
It was too complex a question to answer over the wind noiseas we pulled away from the lights. And the pursuit of fun doesnot lead to overall contentment. Studies have shown thisconsistently.
‘You missed the exit,’ I said.
‘Correct,’ she replied, in the joke voice. ‘We’re going to thebeach.’
She spoke right over the top of my protests. ‘Can’t hear you,can’t hear you.’
Then she put on some music – very loud rock music. Nowshe really couldn’t hear me. I was being kidnapped! We drovefor ninety-four minutes. I could not see the speedometer, andwas not accustomed to travelling in an open vehicle, but Iestimated that we were consistently exceeding the speed limit.
Discordant sound, wind, risk of death – I tried to assume themental state that I used at the dentist.
Finally, we stopped in a beachside car park. It was almostempty on a weekday afternoon.
Rosie looked at me. ‘Smile. We’re going for a walk, then we’regoing to the lab, and then I’m going to take you home. Andyou’ll never see me again.’
‘Can’t we just go home now?’ I said, and realised that Isounded like a child. I reminded myself that I was an adultmale, ten years older and more experienced than the personwith me, and that there must be a purpose for what she wasdoing. I asked what it was.
‘I’m about to find out who my dad is. I need to clear myhead. So can we walk for half an hour or so, and can youjust pretend to be a regular human being and listen to me?’
I was not sure how well I could imitate a regular humanbeing, but I agreed to the walk. It was obvious that Rosie wasconfused by98/290emotions, and I respected her attempt to overcome them. As itturned out, she hardly spoke at all. This made the walk quitepleasant – it was virtually the same as walking alone.
As we approached the car on our return, Rosie asked, ‘Whatmusic do you like?’
‘You didn’t like what I was playing on the drive down, didyou?’
‘So, your turn going back. But I don’t have any Bach.’
‘I don’t really listen to music,’ I said. ‘The Bach was anexperiment that didn’t work.’
‘You can’t go through life not listening to music.’
‘I just don’t pay it any attention. I prefer to listen toinformation.’
There was a long silence. We had reached the car.
‘Did your parents listen to music? Brothers and sisters?’
‘My parents listened to rock music. Primarily my father. Fromthe era in which he was young.’
We got in the car and Rosie lowered the roof again. Sheplayed with her iPhone, which she was using as the musicsource.
‘Blast from the past,’ she said, and activated the music.
I was just settling into the dentist’s chair again when I realisedthe accuracy of Rosie’s words. I knew this music. It had beenin the background when I was growing up. I was suddenlytaken back to my room, door closed, writing in BASIC on myearly-generation computer, the song in the background.
‘I know this song!’
Rosie laughed. ‘If you didn’t, that’d be the final proof thatyou’re from Mars.’
Hurtling back to town, in a red Porsche driven by a beautifulwoman, with the song playing, I had the sense of standing onthe brink of another world. I recognised the feeling, which, ifanything, became99/290stronger as the rain started falling and the convertible roofmalfunctioned so we were unable to raise it. It was the samefeeling that I had experienced looking over the city after theBalcony Meal, and again after Rosie had written down herphone number. Another world, another life, proximate butinaccessible.
The elusive … Sat-is-fac-tion.
It was dark when we arrived back at the university. We wereboth wet.
With the aid of the instruction manual, I was able to close thecar roof manually.
In the lab, I opened two beers (no cough-signal required) andRosie tapped her bottle against mine.
‘Cheers,’ she said. ‘Well done.’
‘You promise to send a cheque to the............
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