These days, I struggle to remember how long I spent at Southwestern—I’ll go for a ballpark figure and say five years. I spent my days in the library, the lab, and my closet—er, office. At night, I’d go back to my little of-campus flat. It’s funny, but I can’t remember much about that place, I place where spent so much time and felt so much joy. What I do recall about my little home, I’d rather not discuss. I spent time with the woman whose picture was on my desk.

The thing that is the most crystal-clear about that time was how bright the future seemed. Those were heady days—I felt I was on the brink of being a success in life. I was researching something big, something profitable. All that I needed was a little more money for trials. All I needed was a grant—and that was the problem.

The grant man—whose name was Samuel G. Harding, and the “G” stood for Grant—was an absolute beast of a being. Not in the physical sense, mind you—Harding was built like a scarecrow, with gangly limbs and a shock of straw-colored hair. People never took him seriously—until they saw his eyes. Cold, dark, and as gray as the steel spectacles that covered them, Harding’s eyes reflected his character. To anyone who saw him, his cool, menacing demeanor made S. G. Harding seem larger than life.

The man was truly a sadist. Harding’s only pleasure seemed to come from tormenting those at his mercy. He spoke for the grant committee, a committee of one, since the other members were masterfully bullied into compliance with his whims. Whenever a project’s funding was rejected, Harding delivered the refusal in person, and always managed to twist the knife a little more in an already festering wound. Only by total submission to this man’s will could you receive a grant. Few were handed out. That, I suppose, is how Harding kept his position; he always had surplus money for other departments to borrow.

During my time at Southwestern, I tried to distance myself from Harding by not requesting any grants, by sticking to free materials and pocket change. It wasn’t an awful lot, but I got things done without his involvement, and that raised Harding’s ire. I could see it every day in the glare he gave me as he passed by. That expression…it haunts me to this day.

It’s his fault that I waited so long to apply for the funds I so desperately needed; I perused every other option, tried my hardest to find some way around Harding and his infernal grants. It was months before I finally resigned myself to the fact that I had no choice but to go to the grant man. The parties interested in my research (that had refused to fund me, by the way) were hounding me, and to wait any longer would jeopardize my wonderful plans for the future.