All rights reserved, 2012. Her name was changed to protect the confidence of the title character.
It seemed less an invitation than a summons. "Students matriculating in the national Medical Scientist Training Program will convene at the Given Institute in Aspen, Colorado for four days of meetings with leading biomedical investigators. Please contact the dean's office for your travel and lodging information." The NIH had forecast a shortage of physician-scientists capable of using the then-new techniques of molecular biology towards solutions of pressing clinical problems. In response, several students from each of the nation's medical schools were selected for three additional years of advanced research training. Like the entire program, the summer conference itself was a work-in-progress.
Still, it sounded like an exciting trip from the Midwest to the Rockies. The list of luminaries who would address us "twenty-somethings" included a pair of Nobel Prize-winners and many also-rans—these were household names in the biomedical sciences whose daring experiments were shaping our understanding of molecules inside living cells. Moreover, the schedule included morning lectures, afternoon outings and social events bracketing the evening meals. This would allow for informal networking among the students and also some time for the scientific legends to look us over as potential post-doctoral fellows in their labs.
The first day went smoothly, if predictably. There were necessary welcomes from program directors, inspirational talks about our futures. And then there were some dynamite lectures from top scientists. We were charged up by the end of the day and "what-if" brainstorming went on too far into the night.
The second day started inauspiciously. One of the luminaries had a last minute conflict and sent a young Assistant Professor to give the talk. Her name was Sylvia Chen. At least, that was the Anglicized name she used. English was all-too-obviously a second language. Giving a scientific talk in a resort town didn't come easily to her either. She wore black horn-rimmed glasses, a navy-blue suit that was about one shade off of black, a plain white blouse, hosiery and black pumps—in the middle of summertime Aspen. Needless to say, the audience --including the luminaries—were in jeans and shirts.
Her lecture was painful. No other word suffices. She made the classic error of trying to pack two hours of material into a forty minute talk. It was the first talk of the day, everyone was short on sleep and caffeine. Heads nodded off as soon as the lights went down for her slides. She garnered only the mildest applause (mostly appreciating that the talk was over, I think) and no questions from the audience. She probably didn't care what the grad students thought—we were eight years or so younger than she was. But she had embarrassed herself in front of the luminaries, and she knew it.
She was one of two faculty assigned to our group's afternoon outing—a hike up to Tabor Lake—but kept apart from the laughing and banter. She was always 10 meters ahead of the group, determined to lead. At least she had changed into jeans, a faded blue shirt, and sneakers that had seen better days. From the back, she seemed thin—wiry, even—yet moved with grace despite the altitude that left more than one student winded.
At the top of the hike, while everyone else was swigging water and munching trail mix, I wandered over to where she was sitting.
"Dr. Chen? "
She jumped like a startled deer.
"I didn't mean to intrude. And I did like your lecture this morning."
She peered over the top of her sunglasses at my name tag.
"Thank you...Pat..." . She barely read my name tag and turned away
"Really I did, especially the part about self-assembly of the ribosome. How did you figure that out?" It had been the only part of her talk that I sort of understood.
She turned back to me and took of her sunglasses. Close up, her almond-shaped eyes seemed black even in the afternoon sun.
"Do you really want to know how I figured it out, or are you just trying to be nice?"
Sometimes a white lie is just a good idea.
"Of course I want to understand your insight! It must have been a terrific feeling when it happened."
Her thin lips parted to reveal a hint of a smile.
"Well, I was on a bicycle ride, ...", she started.
She continued the story as we hiked back to the bus. Her story was more perspiration than inspiration, but that's the true nature of science. She had made several false starts. With time, she refined had her theory and did several elegant experiments. I was impressed. But I was also tired—hiking at 8000 feet will do that to you. By the time the bus had brought us back to the hotels, we were both yawning and looked forward to naps before the group dinner. We found that we were both lodged on the second floor of the old Hotel Jerome about five doors down from one another.
A nap, a shower and a shave, and I felt like a new person. The sun was low in the sky. I put on a clean shirt and a pair of khakis, ran a comb through my hair, grabbed a jacket—it gets cold pretty quickly in the mountains at night-- and set out for the social/cookout/music event of the evening.
It was quite a shindig. A tent had been raised, there was an open bar and a bandstand had been set up. At altitude, a cocktail or two produced a moderate buzz—and vodka and tonics seemed to be the drink of the evening. Wisely, the bartenders were keeping the pours very light. The grilled meats and vegetables were much appreciated after the long hike. The music was said to be "western"—they told us "western" was different from "country"—but to this day I can't make the distinction.
I hadn't noticed Sylvia's arrival. Several of us students were preoccupied, arguing the merits of this versus that experimental approach. We all seemed to be working on similar problems , albeit at different universities. Eventually we agreed to disagree, and to exchange notes on our results.
I went off on search of a beer and spotted Sylvia sitting alone, almost in the shadows. Despite an elegant green dress and a sweater over her shoulders, she looked uncomfortable. I imagined that the other students wouldn't talk to her—she had given such an impenetrable lecture. The luminaries were all senior to her. She seemed out of her element. I picked up a pair of Coors and walked over to her.
"Did you have a good nap, Sylvia?"
Once again she seemed startled. This time, I think it was the use of her given name. Students in her lab likely thought her first name was "Doctor". Then again, they probably didn't bring her beer. And I wasn't her student.
"Yes, I did. And thank you for the beer."
"Coors. Not as good as Tsingtao, but passable."
"How do you know Chinese beer?"
"What else would one drink with Hunan cuisine?"
"Where have you tasted Hunan cuisine?"
"New York, where I grew up."
She sniffed. "What Americans are served as Hunan cuisine is nonsense."
"So what should I ask for the next time?" She had piqued my curiosity.
"It might be too hot for you."
I rolled my eyes. "Yes, it might. That's why God invented Chinese beer."
"Ask for Gan Guo. But ask for it with chicken or pork, unless you want frog's legs or duck's heads."
Dessert and coffee were offered. Fortunately the band realized that the crowd was not riveted by "western-not-country", and had the good sense to switch to some 60's rock-and-roll. Beach Boys. Beatles. Even some Rolling Stones, although the organizer's faces clearly registered dissatisfaction with "Satisfaction". Since just about everyone else was up dancing, I asked her.
"C'mon. Let's dance."
"You can't? I don't believe you. You look like a terrific dancer."
"I mean I won't. It's not right."
"You must be joking. Everyone else is up. Even the Nobel Laureates." It was true. They were not gifted on their feet, but they also looked like they were having a good time, especially dancing with some of the younger female students. (There must have been some interesting letters home to mom after the meeting: "I danced with a Nobel prize winner!")
Sylvia resisted half heartedly as I pulled her to her feet. "None of your students are here, nor is anyone else from your University, and no one is paying attention. So let's have some fun."
As it turned out, she wasn't a good dancer. She was a very good dancer. Good enough so some of the others noticed and even looked her way applauding at the end of each number. She had the gifts of rhythm and fluidity, conscious of her movements without being self conscious. She sat out the slow dances, of course, long enough for us to chat.
"You looked like you were having a good time out there," I said.
She looked away.
"You know, it's okay to have a little fun."
She quickly turned back and looked me squarely in the eye. "Do you have any idea how hard it is for a woman...especially an Asian woman...to become a successful academic in this country? Do you? They will look for any reason to get rid of me, pass me over." She was still tied up in knots from the lecture that morning.
I shrugged. "But look at everyone else. You are seeing them. Even if they are seeing you, you are behaving no differently than they are. Having fun on a summer evening in the Rocky Mountains is hardly bad behavior. They're not judging you. Neither am I. "
She looked away again. "I've had enough of dancing." She pulled her sweater tight and headed out of the tent towards the hotel.
I watched the crowd for a minute or so, and decided to head back as well.
Her pace was slower than it had been on the hike, and I caught up with her about half-way back.
"You're persistent," she said.
I laughed. "More like tenacious, at least according to my professor. He gives me the experiments that other people can't make work. I grab on and don't let go. "
We continued in silence, up the stairs at the hotel. The corridor was empty as we got to her door. She fumbled the old-fashioned key, dropping it to the carpet. I picked it up and opened her door.
She might have been a faculty member, and I might have been a student, but we were at different universities, miles apart. So right about then, we were just two adults. And she looked needy. I bent down and kissed her. Directly, firmly, unhesitatingly.
She resisted, but half-heartedly.
"I can't do this!"
I drew her inside her room and closed the door.
"If you still want me to leave after one more kiss, I'll go."
I pulled her towards me, first gently brushing against her lips, then exploring them with my tongue, then biting them. She pushed away, but only gently and only for a moment.
"No one can ever know."
"No one will ever know."
She pulled the drapes closed before turning on a small light by the bed. She stepped into the bathroom, and I heard her peeing. She called out for me to look the other way as she jumped from the bedroom into her bed.
I also used the bathroom. As I got undressed I pulled a triplet of condoms from my wallet, silently thanking my scoutmaster for instilling into me the motto 'Be Prepared'.
When I emerged, the light by the bed was already out. I flipped the bathroom light off, crossed over to her in the darkness, put the condoms on the nightstand and slid between the sheets.
Maybe I'm different, but foreplay to me has always meant exploration with mouth, hands and voice, exploring the crevices of body and mind. Telling a woman that she is beautiful while roaming her neck, her ears, her mouth, her ears, her breasts. Caressing her belly, her thighs, her butt.
Sylvia's breasts were small but firm. Her nipples were similarly small but erect. As my tongue swirled around one and my hand pulled gently on the other, she began to wriggle, moaning with pleasure. I didn't quite understand what she was saying, but she communicated what she wanted by pulling my mouth hard into her breast.
She jumped when I slid my hand between her legs to feel the wetness there. She was quite aroused, and I easily slid my finger gently between her cunt lips. She arched her back and moaned the moment I touched her clit. It was pleasingly prominent for such a small woman.
Kneeling beside her, I ran my tongue from her breasts, down the center of her belly to her navel, and began making my way towards her pussy.
"Stop! You can't! It's not right!"
I realized that no man had ever gone down on her before.
"Trust me. If you don't like it, I'll stop."
I pulled a pillow under her hips, massaged her thighs and then started licking my way towards her pussy. Her pubic hair was much straighter and softer than Caucasian women's, delightfully so. My tongue found the slit between her cunt lips, her tangy moistness. I slid my lands under her butt to pull her close, and then let my tongue find her clit.
It's hard to know which of us was more surprised for the next few minutes, me with the pleasure of playing with her beautiful clit or her with a new sexual experience. Almost immediately, she started grinding her hips into my face. I could hear her breathing get faster, and more shallow, and she had her first orgasm, gushing juices from her pussy into my mouth. I eased up for a moment, just long enough to let her breathing settle, and started sucking on her clit again. Almost immediately, she started pounding the bed, writhing, almost screaming until she exploded with a second orgasm. And then a third.
My cock was as hard as it's ever been. I'm generous sized but not huge—maybe seven inches fully erect—but when I switched on the light to find and put on the condom, she looked and her eyes got really wide. All of her previous lovers had been Asian men, small by comparison. I rolled the condom on, pulled her to edge of the bed, put the pillow back under her hips and pulled her legs over my shoulders. The head of my cock touched her cunt lips.
"Please, slowly, it's big."
I slid the head of my cock inside. It was pleasantly tight and very hot. I looked at her—we had left the light on—and she nodded. With each stroke, I advanced a little more. With each stroke, her eyes got a little glassier. Finally I buried my cock into her all the way. She gasped and gurgled as she came up to meet my thrust. I felt her clamp down on me as she had another orgasm. Her eyes rolled up, and her brown skin flushed into crimson patches as her entire body shook.
I eased up again—as much for my pleasure as for hers, it was wonderful just watching her climax—before I started thrusting again. It didn't take long—maybe five or six minutes—before she had one more orgasm. Feeling her squeeze around me and watching her shake did it for me, and I exploded, balls contracting, feeling each jet of sperm hotly spreading over my sheathed cock.
I pulled out, careful not to leak any of my cum. We lay there, silent, covered in sweat, breathing hard. After about ten minutes, I got up to flush the condom down the toilet and clean up. I brought her a cool washcloth, which she gratefully applied to her pussy. Then she got up to pee.
"That was fun," I said.
She glared at me.
"You're great in bed," I said.
She glared some more.
"Do you want me to leave?"
She shook her head, and motioned for me to get back into the bed with her. She spooned up to me, her back against my chest. I reached across her, flicked off the light, and within minutes we were both asleep.
I awoke to the darkness and her warmth. Thirsty from the altitude and the sex, I did my best to disentangle our limbs without disturbing her slumber. I padded over to the bathroom, closed the door, and ran some cold water.
I darkened the bathroom before opening the door, only to see the nightstand light on, Sylvia propped up on an elbow.
"Would you bring me some too?"
I refilled the glass and sat on the side of the bed next to her, stroking her shoulder as she drank it greedily.
"No one can ever know," she said.
"No one will ever know," I repeated. "I keep my promises. Do you want me to go?"
"I want to feel you again. Inside me."
This time it was she who pulled us together, face to face, hips to hips, her hands through my hair, down my back, stroking my hardening cock.
"I'm a little dry," she said, motioning me towards her pussy.
"Happy to help," I grinned. She wasn't dry at all. She just wanted my tongue back on her clit, and I was more than happy to oblige. It was gentler this time, she was a little sore.
She reached for the condom, tore open the pack and rolled it on to me. Then she knelt on the bed, raised her butt in the air and simply said, "Please. Now."
I stood by the side of the bed and pulled her hips and pussy onto my cock. She was so light that it was easy to pull her towards me with each thrust. Soon she was down on one shoulder, her hand reaching down to keep her cunt lips spread wide, reaching back to stroke my balls. I could feel her orgasm build and held her close as it washed over both of us, her pussy squeezing rhythmically as she shuddered and rolled over on her side.
We kissed lightly for a few minutes. I hadn't come and was still hard. She motioned for me to roll onto my back, whereupon she straddled me and impaled her pussy onto my cock.
What happened next was more dance than sex. It was as if her pelvis was completely separate from the rest of her body. Her head and breasts were almost immobile, while her hips and cunt did things to my cock that I had never felt before...or since. Twice she brought me to the edge. Twice she reached back tugged on my balls to stop me from cumming. Yet not once did she break our gaze.
I could see the sex flush rising up her belly, reddening her breasts, warming her face. Her breathing became coarse, ragged. We were both close.
Once more I pulled her onto me , found her lips and kissed her hard just as we both started to orgasm. Twice denied, I came very hard and she did as well, panting in the thin mountain air. She finally took a deep breath and exhaled. She motioned toward the window, where the dawn was starting.
"It is time," she said. "You must go now."
"Thank you for a lovely evening," I said.
"Please keep your promise."
I flushed the condom, pulled on my clothes, and looked into the corridor. It was thankfully empty. I went to my room and collapsed onto the bed. I woke up 20 minutes before the start of the morning lecture, hustled through a shower, and made it to the Institute with two minutes to spare. The first speaker was from my University, so it was just as well that I was there. He gave a great talk, much more engaging than Sylvia's, and would later recruit a postdoctoral fellow from among the students who heard him that day.
The afternoon trip was a whitewater adventure down the Middle Roaring Fork River. The bracing water kept me and the other seven students in the raft wide awake, and kept them from seeing my grin. Still, I was anxious to get back to the hotel. When I got to my room, the little red "message waiting" light was on the old rotary phone. I called the operator, who told me there was an envelope waiting for me at the front desk. I went downstairs and retrieved it.
The envelope was plain hotel stationery. The note was short, simple and final. By the time I read this note, she would be back at her lab on the west coast. She wished me well for my future. The signature was a simple letter S. No name, address or phone number. It was over as quickly as it had begun the previous day.
The academic year was in full swing, and I was traveling to a University in the southwestern part of the country as the 'distinguished visiting professor' to give a lecture. This ritual of professorial life is more than a pleasant honorific. It's an opportunity to meet, exchange ideas and perhaps inspire a student or two. They take time, but I have always regarded it as part of the payback for my own training. Part of the ritual is the night-before-the-lecture-dinner at a local restaurant with the host and a handful of young faculty who are eager to hear about career paths, jobs and experiences. We visitors trot out some stories about what we did right, what didn't work, and generally give hope to this next generation. It's always a pleasant conversation.