by Micah White
On the stick two pink lines appear. The climatologist curses and throws the applicator in the trash before fishing it out and examining it again. She sits on the toilet in her cabin, her underwear in a heap at her feet. Her job is to save the planet, she reminds herself, not impose upon it another mouth to feed. She considers the postgrads, the damage done.
She pulls a cocktail dress from her suitcase. Sequins sheen beneath the cabin’s fluorescent bulbs. She dresses, accents herself with heels, mascara, Indonesian pearls. She’d rather not attend the party, even though it is for her. One, two: contact lenses in. Glasses on the nightstand, secure in their case. Today she is forty-two, far over the hill and bound by slowly shrinking ice. She slips her bare arms into her parka to thwart the hallway’s frost.
Through the canteen door she spots her students drinking beer and wonders whose genetic material she bears. She enters the room, her hands on her stomach. The two students stand and smile. The crew begins to sing. A cake is brought. Jazz seeps through speakers. Arctic sea nudges the hull. Balloons burst. Confetti falls like rain.
Adam had been apprehensive. He worried about consequences. He asked if he should get something but she said: no, there’s no need. In the dark of her cabin his beard scratched her neck, and she warmed her hands on shoulders sculpted by years toiling atop glacial fields.
In his toast Adam says: to my mentor. Everyone drinks.
Clint had lost the timidness and stutter she remembered from his freshman year. In his cabin, amid her giggles and his fumbling with her buttons, she begged him to be quiet, to heed the walls. He ran to his dresser, searching, but she said: no, there’s no need.
In his toast Clint says: to my muse. Everyone drinks.
The party slows. She draws her two students close and says: Come, I want to show you something. In the lab she takes from the freezer a six-foot core she drilled this morning. They huddle around it, their heads near enough to feel each other’s heat. In the ice they see the world as it used to be.