Every snowflake is unique like our DNA-or is it?
Dan stood outside his brownstone and stared at the falling snow. Cars parked along the street wore their coats of white until their owners came out to sweep them clean.
A snowflake landed on his eyelash and he thought about how unique each flake was formed. All of them falling, collecting, stacking one on top of another until there was no definitive flake. Only the piles of white stuff that would eventually be trampled by boots, tires, scraped into trucks and hauled away.
Stuffing his gloved hands into the pockets of his wool overcoat, he headed to meet a reporter at the Blue Moon Cafe. Someone had leaked the up coming medical publication about bone marrow transplants and DNA. He'd agreed to the interview.
As he maneuvered his steps along the sidewalk, he thought about all the snowflakes his boots disintegrated, obliterated in his wake. Soon he would be like them. Everything he'd been born as, changed. Was he still the same man he'd been six years prior?? He didn't feel or think any different, or did he?
Entering the cafe he searched the faces for the woman who'd sent him the email along with her picture. No one looked familiar. He accepted a booth near the back next to the window. He wanted to watch the snowfall.
"Mr. Minks? Daniel Minks?" A woman's confident voice interrupted his thoughts.
He looked up to see a statuesque woman wrapped in a bright red wool coat, which she was in the process of removing. Under it, her brown hair danced in the air from the static electricity the action caused. She wore a sweater dress over black tights or those leg things women wore nowadays. Her boots were fur-lined and serviceable instead of stylish.
He'd stood when she called his name and he'd taken her coat to hang next to his on the hook next to their booth. "Call me Dan. It's good to meet you Ms. Regan. Did you have any trouble getting here?" He pressed his lips closed to keep from blathering.
She smiled and her lips parted to reveal white teeth. A squint in the corners of her eyes showed it was a true smile not the artificial ones he'd been used to.
"Please call me Tori. It was fine. I took a taxi over. It's not far, that's why I picked it. Halfway between your place and my work." She'd pulled a leather notebook and fountain pen from her bag as she spoke, unscrewing the cap. "Now I am very interested in what you had to tell me over the phone. I already called the Doctor, whose name you'd given me, and he sent over the DNA explanation." She looked at her notes. "He did tell me he had to withhold some details as he was writing this up for publication."
"I'm sure he would. He's a great guy and deserves to get acclaims for this research. This is just my story. What happened to me happens to everyone. I never heard about these details until after."
A waitperson stopped to take their order. Neither of them had looked at a menu and none had been offered. Asking for suggestions, they took their cue from her and placed their order. When she'd left, Tori took a sip from her water goblet and asked. "Who are you?"
Dan paused and sipped his water, hoping to hydrate his dry mouth. This was going to be a hard story to tell. "I'm glad you have Doctor Bream's reports. They pretty much tell you everything you want to know."
She took her gaze from her notebook and looked at Dan.
He felt her gaze to his soul or was it somewhere else? He looked down at the table where he pressed creases into the napkin.
"You got a bone marrow transplant six years ago. You work for a forensic lab and have your own DNA from swabs and blood on file. My guess is you aren't going to be committing any crimes."
He felt her smile before he looked up to see it. He needed a life, if just looking at this woman he'd never met was affecting him. Maybe it was his new DNA? He almost smiled.
She continued after his nod. "You and your colleagues talked about the possibilities of chimeraism." She paused and waited for his nod. "I had to look that up. At first I didn't get the comparison. It took some explaining from your doctor. You have two DNA blood types in your body."
"Not really. My DNA has been totally replaced by my donor's blood DNA."
"How could that even happen?" Her tone showed her curiosity and compassion all at once.
Dan wanted to reach across the table and hold her hand, but he folded his hands in his lab. "Think about it. I had weak blood and I needed fresh blood to strengthen mine. Since I had leukemia I looked for a marrow donor and we found a match. After the transplant, I had blood transfusions from my donor so my body wouldn't reject the transplant. It didn't take long. We tested my blood before and after. I no longer have the DNA I was born with," he stopped. Their food arrived.
The food on the plate looked nice but didn't appeal to him. The conversation had obliterated all thoughts of food. When he'd seen the results of the test his mind couldn't conceive the ramifications of what had happened. Now it all flooded back.
"So if you sent your DNA into one of the databases, you'd no longer be related to the family or tree you'd been born to." She held her pen poised above the page.
He nodded. She wrote.
"Had you already had a DNA sent into one of them?" Her pen moved in fluid strokes across the page.
Again he nodded. "I did. I got a profile and matches to family all over."
"What if you did it again?" Her expression showed true interest and curiosity.
"It would come back that I'm related to my donor's family. The markers match his DNA exactly."
"Like you're twins?"
He gave a chuckle to that question. It came as a reactive response, not planned. "No. We have gene differences. Even my chromosomes are different."
"Wow, this is amazing." Again her tone showed more fascination than wonder.
"You're telling me." This time he picked up the toasted bruschetta. The crusty texture and seasoned tomato tasted good. When had he liked this food? Odd. He didn't remember ever ordering it. Yet when he saw it, he knew it would taste good.
"What other things have changed?" She dipped her bread into the oil and garlic bowl.
He didn't know if he wanted to get into that. He took another bite and watched as she also ate. Seconds passed and she took a drink then looked at him, expecting an answer. He loved the way her throat moved when she swallowed. He pulled his mind and eyes back to his plate.
"If I were to marry again and father a child, that child wouldn't have the same lineage I was born into."
Her fork dropped. She gulped and then began coughing. Apparently, she hadn't swallowed her drink. He started to get up, but she waved him back to his seat. "I'll be fine," she wheezed.
He waited while she got her breathing under control. She leaned across her plate, her expression serious. "That means your next child wouldn't be a match to the child you had before this happened. Are you married?"
"I'm a widower and I have a daughter." Daniel dipped his bread into the oil and vinegar dish between them and bit off a piece.
"I'm sorry for your loss." He read real compassion in her expression. When her fingers patted his, he almost jerked his hand back in surprise.
"I'm the same person. My personality, my likes and dislikes are the same, so far." He didn't mention he hadn't like the brushcetta before. "Who I am, based on my experiences, didn't change. Only the molecular make-up inside my body has changed."
"How do you feel about that?" Her brows furrowed.
"At first, I was numb. At work we'd discussed all of it. I knew what would happen on paper, but when the tests came back. I saw, well, I didn't see me." He gave her a weak smile.
"I'm sorry. I seem to be saying that a lot. I-apol-ah, never mind. Did you seek help to deal with everything?"
"Not really. I talked to my coworkers about it since they're forensic specialists and understand that aspect. I let it consume my thoughts." he wiped his fingers on the napkin and looked back out the window. "To be honest, until this interview, I didn't realize how insulated I'd become."
"Do you have any fears going forward?" She slipped into reporter mode.
Dan relaxed a bit, this conversation was easier to deal with than the emotional reaction. "I've been living this for the last four years. My daughter has graduated and is attending college. I'm sad to say I need to ask her forgiveness. I've been there for her, but not BEEN there for her, if you get my drift."
"I get it. I don't know her but you don't seem to be a distant dad." She raised her eyebrows at him in question.
He gave a bit of a nod to one side. "True. There are things I see now that I could have done better."
Her phone buzzed somewhere in her bag. She looked at him.
"Go ahead and answer it."
She made the call brief. "Just my boss checking in." She dropped the phone back into her bag. "What affect, if any did this have on your daughter?"
"None that I know of. She was there with me when I was in the hospital. My mother took care of her until I got out. We went back to our normal life. We've talked about the scientific side. She took it all in stride." He shrugged. "I guess. I think now I'll have a different talk with her when she comes home. Thanks for that, at least."
"Normal. You mean you went back to working, cooking and doing all the same things you did before?"
He watched her eyes narrow with a look of disbelief. "You are not different than you were before the transplant?"
"I've noticed small differences in my likes and dislikes. My tastes have changed a little. I don't know if I liked bruschetta before, I'd never ordered it, but I like it now. Why had I not ordered it before? Why did I agree to it today and not order something different as I probably would have in the past?"
She raised her eyebrows, "You went with the flow today. You didn't assert your preference. why?"
This time he grinned at her. "I wanted to try what you liked."
Her eyes widened as she met his gaze. Her lips spread to a smile and she laughed out loud. "Now that's a come on line I've never heard before." She reached across the table and laid her hand over his. "I like it. I hope you liked the bruschetta," she paused, "and me."
"I did. Can we do it again?" He turned his palm up to meet hers and she squeezed his hand.
"I'd like that."
"Do you have enough information for your article?" There was a moment of loss when she pulled her hand back.
"Yes. You have my number. Call me." She looked for the bill but he'd already taken it. "I can expense it."
"I'll take care of it." He stood and helped her with her coat, adjusting the collar around her neck.
At the door she put her arm through his and stepped outside. "My car is around the corner."
He smiled as they maneuvered their way down the sidewalk. Snow fell on the cars parked along the curb, they looked just like those parked outside his house. The flakes lost their unique formation as they piled on top of each other outlining the car's detail.