Ri is bringing the dipstick out of the Helium Dewar. It is at 8K above absolute zero. The air freezes around it. Ri is hard at work at the lever, her thin arms show the strain in each stretched tendon. I stare at her fair chelidon and my eyes trace the green veins through her forearm.

“Wear your gloves!”

I am holding the frozen steel with my finger nails. I pick up the gloves and put one on. The dipstick is out. White ice covers its surface, and frozen air falls in dense white fumes. I drop the other, and stare at the bare smooth skin on the back of my hands.

People always talk about Mona Lisa’s smile. But there is tension in her hands.

I press the skin of my hand against the frozen steel. And I press it hard. It feels good only for the most fleeting moment. The thought it self had not formed, when the coolness was replaced by pain. That skin was burning.

Ri looks at me, and locks the lever.

I press harder in to the steel. The pain is slowly vanishing.

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