Is this Love?...Or are the Chemical Impulses Driving my Every Whim?
Science could explain many of the feelings one had, whether it be biological or societal in nature. Surely, there had to be some explanation to my sudden shift in mentality that day.
Carefully analyzing the situation at a later point, I had come up with several hypotheses to try.
Hypothesis 1: The sound of one's voice invoking a hypnotic effect
I had heard of many occasions where the tone and accent of one's voice had a profound impact on some people. For that reason, many movie stars were known for their specific voice and how it could 'charm' an audience.
Was it possible that my biology was tuned to appreciate a voice such as Deidrich's?
I spent the next day searching for more information on the man by means of the internet. Surprisingly, his name had popped up readily. There were even Youtube videos of him, giving talks at a scientific conference. My heart fluttered in anticipation as the cursor hovered over the links.
"Let's see…on the 'Impact of Heat Transfer Resulting from Friction Under Severe Drag'…"
I grabbed a pen and my notebook to jot down how I felt as a zoomed-out image of Deidrich ran through his presentation. All the better that I couldn't see him clearly so that I could focus on his voice.
However, his talk felt similar to any of those that could be found in any conference. His voice was not causing any stirring in my heart. Rather, I felt a calm, familiar feeling as the science tickled the thoughts in my head.
As the talk wrapped up, I looked down at my notebook.
"Oh crap! I did it without realizing!"
On the notebook, carefully written notes of the talk's details had been outlined, the main takeaways having been neatly written such that anyone could understand the key points. Somehow, I had fallen into my normal habit of notetaking, which had not been the purpose of this.
End result – I felt no particular attraction to the type of voice he had, but I did learn a bit about fluid dynamics.
Hypothesis 2: A sense of familiarity with one's looks
Often, a person was conditioned to appreciate one's appearance based on environmental and societal norms. Psychology dictated that a person would look for a mate based on these kind of factors. Perhaps, I had unknowingly developed a complex that coincided with Deidrich's current appearance.
Scanning through my bedroom, I noticed how bare it apparently looked. Typical girls would likely have posters of movie stars or band boys to fawn over but that was hardly within my interest. That was a stark contrast from my apartment suite roommate, Martha, who acted more like a 'normal' girl.
Searching through my reference books and textbooks on the bookshelf, they mainly contained images of old men, likely of my professor's age. None of their feature invoked any tugs upon my heart. Conversely, it would have been odd if I had been attracted to shriveled old men.
Looking through family albums and old college photographs scattered on the floor, I had wondered if a sense of familiarity had been the cause, but there was no one in particular that looked at all like Deidrech. Hovering over an old photograph of my father, who had passed away long ago, I carefully scrutinized his features.
"Good, I don't seem to have an Oedipus complex."
Though I had lost him at a young age, he had been a source of inspiration. The empty study at home that had been kept pristine had been filled with his life's achievements. It was a place that I initially found the confidence to pursue my dreams, a personal wish to continue the path that he had trodden. I sighed lightly, convinced that my respect had not been somehow distorted and projected onto another.
Did I find Deidrich particularly attractive? Seeing stock photos of him didn't seem to trigger anything. How would others find him in general?
I knocked on Martha's door. Maybe she could tell me something more.
After the door opened, a girl with fair skin and hair, dressing in a loose tank-top and shorts plopped herself back in her chair. Her hair had been a mess as she had likely been busy sorting out the data collected on her computer screen. The charts displaying pulses of various magnitudes suggested gas chromatography signals, a standard technique of analytical chemistry.
Though she was a graduate student researcher like me, her room was much more typical of a normal person's. Posters of young boy band members, who had already grown up alongside us, decorated one part of her wall. Various magazines of the latest trends were stacked in a pile next to her desk. Fancy clothes were strewn about, waiting to be collected on laundry day.
"So Kaylen, what's on your mind? I need a break from this. I'm starting to see humps where there aren't any in the graphs."
I held up my computer, which displayed an image of Deidrich, along with a list of his publications, mostly done as part of his undergraduate research.
"How does this person look to you?"
"Oh, is that a new lab member? He seems pretty accomplished, if he did all that in undergrad. Seems like he'd be a good fit."
"No, I mean his appearance. Does he seem likeable to you?"
Martha paused for a moment in confusion, not understanding what I had said. Suddenly, she brought her hand to her face, partially obscuring the eyes and mouth which had widened in realization.
"Don't tell me, have you awoken to the other gender?!"
"I don't believe so. I am simply asking whether you find him attractive as a standard member of the male population."
"Eh…is that really it? You and your tendency to overanalyze things. He looks fine, but nothing particularly special, I guess." Martha looked disappointed. It was best not to give her any opportunity to tease me. I was fully aware how socially awkward I was from my time with her.
"So it's not his looks, huh…," I mumbled to myself.
Disappointed that it wasn't a standard biological response, I slumped back to my room.
End result – Biological urges weren't asking me to mate with him. Neither were they doing anything to drive me away. A neutral outcome.
Hypothesis 3: External factors had influenced my train of thought and disoriented my normal processes
It is often said that chance encounters and coincidental series of events had the possibility of leading to a relationship. The act of being guided together by fate was something that I hardly believed in. Rather, one's need to seek attention and support from those around them, happening to coincide with particular events, was what led to these 'chance' encounters.
Just like how people naturally sought help in times of need, perhaps I had suffered from a 'suspension bridge effect' that had misled me into a state of attraction during my liquid nitrogen incident.
However, since there was a lack of suspension bridges in the area, I settled on climbing a tall ladder in the lab, pretending to work on a piece of my setup. I had a natural fear of heights, so it wasn't easy to do. However, it was just the thing I needed as an alternative simulation.
At the moment, Johann was below me, supporting the ladder with a look of worry. He would be an appropriate replacement for Diedrich.
"Are you sure that you should be doing this? Your legs are shaking quite a bit. Shouldn't you let me do it instead?" Johann suggested.
"N-No, I-I'm j-just f-fine!" I knew that I was most certainly not fine, but I had push forward with the experiment anyways.
My foot suddenly slipped on one rung, sending me over to one side. Not long afterwards, I felt a strong set of arms wrap around my waist as my back pressed against Johann's head. He had managed to pluck me midair and held me aloft.
Though my heart was beating furiously from the initial fear of the fall, it was already starting to calm down. This didn't seem to be enough.
"Um, Johann? I'm sure this must be a strange request, but could you pick up my legs and set me down over there? I don't want to accidentally step on anything on my setup."
"Eh? Like this?"
He scooped up my legs with his right arm. My body turned around, bringing my head next to his. Coincidentally, I found myself staring at his face.
"What's wrong?" He asked.
"Um…nothing, I guess."
There were no feelings of heartthrob from being carried like a princess, unlike before with Diedrich. After Johann gently set me on the ground, he climbed up the ladder to do the task that I had been trying to do.
End Result – The suspension bridge effect didn't work for me. I'm never climbing a ladder again.
Given these outcomes, it was still too early to conclude any driving factor. If only there was a way to collect more data…
"By the way, you've been acting weird lately. What's going on?" Johann asked me suddenly.
I cocked my head at his question.
"You've been strangely…distracted. Are things not going well with your progress?"
"Progress? I think that it's going fine. Likely, I'll wrap up the analysis of this new material by next week. So far, the compounds appear to be holding up even to Gigapascals of pressure."
"That's amazing! Then it'll be even stronger than titanium! These composite materials are really something. Oh, before I forget. The guy you had an interesting encounter with is planning to join the lab. I'm thinking of having him help you with your project."
I had hardly come to any understanding as to why I reacted in such a way from the first encounter. All of a sudden, he would be working alongside me?
It was the perfect opportunity to collect more data. But could my body handle it? How should I even treat him in such close proximity?
Then, it dawned on my mind.
He's younger than me. For now, I should enforce a cold, commanding tone, as a tutor should to her student. He was learning from me, so I'd have to dictate the situation. There was no way that I'd let him draw me into another strange situation!