I wanted to write a poem about Derek, but it would probably be a waste of time.
Derek was my first boss when I was 15 years old working at a university
pharmacology lab. I wanted to write about how he explained science better
than my school teachers and had more patience than them.
He was always gentle when he spoke to me and explained process. He taught
me about accurate measurements; How to dissect albino rats (16 every week)
and remove their pancreas, spleen, and liver. He taught me how to take
their blood and urine samples and measure them daily. He taught me
the importance of cleanliness–
after all, everything must be sterile in a lab.

Hilariously, I recall the time we accidently dropped a gallon jar of ethyl acetate
and as the jar broke into hundreds of pieces the toxic liquid poured down the hallway,
burning our eyes and lungs. The OSHA representative came to the lab
to see what the problem was and we pretended nothing was wrong,
as if we didn’t smell a thing though our eyes were
bloodshot and our throats were on fire.

Derek never touched me
and I’m not sure why.

But he used to touch a few friends of mine who attended rival schools
but I knew through cross-country and track. The three guys he used to molest
were faster than me. They were probably the fastest three in the county.
I was probably the fourth–No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t catch them.
They had this extra something about them I just didn’t have making them special.

Derek was deported a few days after he was on WSAZ, Channel 3 news.
I continued to work in the lab with a pre-med student, but things weren’t the same.

About Stephen Earley Jordan II

Author of "Beyond Bougie", "Cold, Black, and Hungry" and many other books.
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