I have three hours to complete my digital clock in my last advanced Physics lab of the second semester of my junior year. In front of me, I have a soldering iron, a partially completed breadboard and ten fingers that are shaking. The shaking makes the chips on my violet nail polish even more revolting. I sit on my hands, now a barrier between myself and the lab bench. The seven other seats in the lab are each filled with a male college student plugging in their iron, pulling out more solder from its sweet coil, studying their circuit diagrams (neater than mine) and not seeing the hands of the only female student shake because I am sitting on them. Problem solved. But how to get through the next three hours handless?
Pure science does not need hands. That's what he told me. Professor White did, my academic knight in shining armor. After that first semester, no, the first exam freshman year. Pure science is not about hands or things, he said, but thought experiments. Einstein-theoreticians predict the world before hands discover it. Your hands, your body is not what is important. He did not know-- the years at the barre, the exquisite pleasure of watching, no feeling, no both, your leg curving, the calf muscles clenching into the pointed toe. But ballet was not a profession; college was for professions and there was no ballet major here. Just now, this required physics course. He did not know-- Your grade on this final is so high, if I curved to you, everyone else in the class would fail, he said. I write the exams expecting everyone to fail. But you, you are brilliant, no your mind is brilliant. I don't know how you knew that much without coming to class regularly-- I knew: 3 days and nights alone with the text book, alone feeling the pot of coffee imbibed sawing its way through my temple, alone reading the theories until fluent in the symbols and equations, alone with the constants, unreal numbers that do not change (genius. what other truth does not change?), the laughing voices of the drunk girls in the hall searing my heart till I cry on the calculator, why this need to be perfect?