Supermodel walks into a bar. Sits beside a guy wearing a Polo shirt and blue jeans. Guy’s drinking Guinness and reading Scientific American. She says, “Hi, I’m Nikki, what you reading?” He goes, “It’s not Cosmo, I can tell you that.” To which she responds, “Well, what can you tell me.”
—No joke. True story. Except she wasn’t really a supermodel, just looked like one. Her name was Nikki, though.
—I’ll never forget that.
—I introduced myself as the writer of the article I was reading. Or rather checking to see how I’d been edited. As Nikki sipped a vodka collins, she peered down at the slick page like a swan at a tepid pool, and read my name between my stretched fingers.
“So,” she said, looking into my blue eyes, now, with her pale greens, “what’s your article about, Mister . . . Alan Dyson?”
I must have smiled somehow, because she smiled back. Her incisors lent a sharpness to her smile, and made mine cling to mellow.
—“It’s all about aging, Nikki,” I heard myself reply. “How it might be possible someday to stop the aging process, or at least slow down the relentless slide. Something I’m involved in personally, as a researcher. Does this sound like a subject of interest to you?”
—Her smile turned sly, like I hoped mine appeared, hers curling all the way up one side of those wide, smooth Heidi Klume lips. Then she arched one of her thin eyebrows at me like a weapon.
—“I’ll take that as a yes,” I said, and continued. “You see, Nikki, we’re all born with an internal clock, at the cellular level. As we get older, there’s a shortening of what we call telomeres, which correlates with how cells divide and replicate. Parts of our DNA structure tend to break down over time, so the blueprints for the divisions have missing pieces. This happens in conjunction with shortening telomeres, so what I’m trying to do is stop the telomeres from—”
—“Getting shorter?” she interrupted.
—“And now you want to save me from wrinkle creams and Botox, is that it? So my skin might not have to look like an alligator’s one day?”
—I shrugged and was reminded of my dad, a bonafide geezer since Mom died. And how I didn’t want to end up like him. “You forgot lasers, sonic skin tightening blasts, and calcium hydroxylapatite injections,” I said. “But who said anything about helping you? I’m doing this for all mankind.” I paused significantly. “That, and a hefty bonus if I succeed.”
—I sipped at my Guinness, and for about two point three seconds there she looked intrigued. Then she said, “So who do you work for?”
—“Tactar Pharmaceuticals. Who do you work for?”
—“That would be telling.”
—“You want my phone number too?”
—We were like creatures from different planets. Although opposites attract, or so they say. Still, most scientists don’t even understand gravity, much less the dicey polarity of sexual magnetism. So it was only a vague hope of mine that she was actually weary of those empty-headed sports nuts who drove muscle cars.
—“By the way,” I said. “It’s a Cavalier.”
—“The car I drive. It’s your basic compact, no options. Not even a CD player. And no, I don’t have any tattoos, I don’t smoke, and I live alone. My work is my life. You want my phone number, now? Or are you hard-wired to go after some idiot NBA star who gets twelve million to pitch cola drinks to his fat fans?”
—She laughed at that. So I told her I was also investigating the existence of the gene involved in sports obsessions. The “couch potato” gene, I think I called it. With tiny green chromosomes called “chives.” As it turned out, much to my astonishment, she followed me home out of curiosity. But that was only for one night. I may have been a novelty for her, but the thing about novelty is that it wears off quick. By dawn’s early light she was gone, along with the cash from my wallet, and a really nice brown leather bomber jacket from my closet. Maybe she thought it might fit her quarterback boyfriend, or his nerdy brother. It appeared she’d attempted to abscond with my computer, too, before deciding it was too bulky. But at least she was kind enough to leave me some coffee and aspirin so I could make breakfast.