Two Biologists and a Boy: I Love the Latex Gloves

From Highline Online

Nov 19, 2012

Geoff often unpacks his work backpack on the floor by his side of the bed. I don’t go over there unless I’m vacuuming, because what may look like random piles of textbooks, digital cameras, charger cords and, at times, large-gauge syringes is actually a secret system Geoff uses for keeping track of things he needs for the next few work days.

If you didn’t know what he did for a living, this may be alarming. Take for example the pile I found this morning. On top of a carefully balled up uniform is a scattering of important looking papers, overlaid by OJ-Simpson-like gloves. Of course, leather gloves are not appropriate for every occasion, made clear by the blue latex gloves lying beside them. Then there’s the black plastic bag, at the ready for any nasty cleanups. I bet there’s a knife somewhere in that pile too. Is this the home of a wildlife veterinarian, or a man who plans to murder his wife? It’s hard to tell.

I’m used to all this, and most of the time I don’t really notice. We have a system. The dirty, bloody coveralls go in a bin by the washing machine. Boots from the lab stay on the front step. We have a strict hand-washing policy in our house, not just to ward off influenza and colds, but also tuberculosis, chronic-wasting disease, random mites and infectious parasites. No hugging until Geoff has taken off his work clothes, especially after a day of performing a necropsy on some poor old wolf to determine how it met its end.

I love this life. I live with a guy who is fascinated by animal behavior, and the mysteries their bodies reveal. One of the many benefits of this is that he doesn’t judge me when I find a dead giant water bug and keep it in the freezer for three months. He looks the other way when he discovers my envelope full of dragonfly wings that I’ve tweezed from the grates of cars for a future art project. He is only slightly alarmed by my photo collection of mating insects.

Yesterday, an ear-full of waxwings raided the mountain ash trees out front, flitting from branch to branch in great whooshes. Eventually one hit our neighbour’s window. I put it in a shoebox on a towel in hopes that it might just be stunned, but the blood curling around its beak suggested otherwise. It was still warm, and so stunning I couldn’t bring myself to dispose of it in the forest out back. Geoff understood. When he came home, he gently confirmed the bird’s passing, then spread its wings to show me the startling red and yellow-tipped feathers against the soft brown of its belly. We stared at it for a while, a bit sad. Then he quietly took it away, so that I didn’t have to.