The lab observation room smells like ozone and static. Jasper pulls the label off of a bottle of water and checks his text messages. Humza buzzes in the first patient and they watch the top of her head enter the elevator.
Tonight, Jasper is taking sleep pods 1 and 2, Humza is taking 3, 4, and 5, and Liz is taking 6 and 7. She measures the heads of Humza’s subjects as well as her own. Humza finds the sensation of parting the hairs of strangers to be very disturbing, but he brings her a soy chai tea every night. It’s a good relationship. Sometimes when they have a very elderly and smelly subject, Humza saves Liz from the horror of yellowed old man toenails. If the tech uses the word “Saturday” while wiring, this is code for “Insane Amounts of Body Odor, Please Kill Me Now” or “This Old Dude Just Tried To Grab My Ass” and usually someone will come in to help. Why is it always the geezers who pinch asses? It was a mystery that Liz enjoyed contemplating and also, she is amused that any resulting litigation would require a lawyer to use the term “morning wood” and that it will be dutifully transcribed on long tape by someone who probably hates their life more than Liz does.

She fades in and out of focus in her lab coat that is worn only for show. The white coat lends a level of authority to their electrodes and smelly glue that they plop merrily onto skulls, knowing that the dried glue will come off in chunks with hair still attached, looking for all the world like leprosy or perhaps syphilis.

Room 5 already contains Humza’s first subject, waiting in a Prouenza Schouler t-shirt and pristine yoga pants. Five is a 43-year-old socialite whose snoring is an embarrassment during ski weekends. Liz quickly circumnavigates this woman’s cranial landscape with a tape measure and grease pencil, dotting her head with Os to mark each electrode site. After Five, she moves onto Six, then Three then Four. She sings her wire song to herself as she glues (Oh Chin EMG, Central EEG, Occipital EEG, EKG oh my oximeter and thermister and EOG and leg EMG and OMG WTF go to sleep you!), air compressor in hand, blowing the glue fumes away from herself and the subject. She’ll be slightly high for at least twenty minutes after the fifth head. She mentally bids adieu to four thousand brain cells.

She hears Jasper over the loudspeaker in Room 7 across the hall, telling the subject to get dressed in their pajamas and someone would be in shortly, which means that he must be done with his rooms already and he and Humza were about to begin. Humza’s voice through the overhead speaker is an aural caramel macchiato while Jasper’s is espresso, a jolt to the brain and the sensation of teeth vibrating, a sharp intake of breath. Liz is a vanilla frappuchino, cold and bland and a drink not to be taken seriously. The bits of real vanilla bean are just a constellation of birthmarks, signs that she really needs to do more skin cancer self-checks.
Seven is a hypertensive banker with obstructive sleep apnea. His nose is gigantic and she loses her measuring stride when she has to go digging through the supply closet for the extra large mask, all the while listening to the Enya piped through the loud speaker, the soundtrack to spas, retreats and sleep laboratories. Maybe also funeral homes, with that “Only Time” song.

When Liz runs the nocturnal myoclonus leg wires, the banker has an erection. She almost makes a comment for the benefit of Humza and Jasper that some things don’t require an extra large, but then remembers that she is actually in the room with the banker, not sitting in the lab playing straight man to their Stadler and Waldorf.

At her desk, there is an unsigned note from Jasper (identifiable by the way he prints everything, as though his right hand is stuck in 7 pt. font) tucked into the spine of her open notebook. She wonders briefly if he has read anything she has written but decides that he would not have resisted commenting on her death list. He has noted a few of Six’s readings, the time of system checks and the subject’s subsequent sleep latency.