Already uneasy about so much, especially her weightlessness, she happens to read about an experiment where rats were raised with regular electric shocks. They lived.
She remembers a boyfriend who gave her honeysuckle blossoms, but always only ones that had fallen off voluntarily, not ones deliberately plucked. He spoke once of the horror of trying to explain in the clinic that the doctor had ordered only one side for shock treatment, not both. The medical staff only sneered an impatient “yeah, yeah” into his petrified face.
Back to the rats. When they were grown, their cage doors were opened to cages in which there was the same amount of food, but no electric shocks. The rats were allowed to move from one cage to the other freely. They explored the new situation. Then, one by one, they returned to the devastating comfort of the familiar shocks.
She wants to cry. She talks to her husband instead, tells him about the rats. “It’s so sad,” she pleads.
“Yeah, yeah,” he says, looking up from his computer screen. “The way they use those rats in labs.”
“That’s not it,” she whispers. “What’s sad is that they returned to the pain.”
“Oh,” he says. “I thought you were sad because you cared about the animals.”
Her energy freezes, expands into silence, a thing she knows well. She aches for the wrong reasons.