by Jason Peck

My lab measures the chemical that mammals release when in love. Oxytocin. In sentimental moments, I imagine its crystalline form like frozen tears in the bloodstream.

We matched animals with their mates, coaxed the chemical to its peak, and took blood samples. A chimp's oxytocin jumped by 30 percent. A dog's, up 60 percent upon hearing its owner's voice. And a goat's chemical spike—more than triple. A new record.

As I explain this over dinner, I watch the slight curve of your smile. Our anniversary. Could I ever love you as deeply as a goat could?

No, you say. You tell me science can't measure the spirit like a pinch of salt. You review our first meeting—a sideways glance at a bus stop, a snap detour to a wine bar, the lights dimming, a sense of completeness settling in like patches on a broken highway.

You cross your arms and frown. Was it nothing more than a detonation of hormones? you ask.

It's biology, I respond. Chemicals, hard-wired instincts. I study people in love, and watch the swirl of molecules. I watch sparks travel through brains like kite strings made of fire. I observe courtship tics internalized, the million-year dance of long-dead cavemen.

But my mind's not that far off from yours. I'm at that bus stop ten years ago with you. I'm just wondering at the reactions in my blood, the tiny crystals forming when you talk.

BIO: Jason Peck’s fiction has either been published or is forthcoming in Smokelong Quarterly, Cheat River Review, Pretty Owl Poetry and Prime Number Magazine. He also serves on the editorial board for After Happy Hour Review, which recently celebrated its third issue.