64. String Theory
Down every street, in every room, on every station. Her memory, like fingerprints, are everywhere. And they won’t come off, not with prayer, not with alcohol, not with holes in the drywall.
It’s like half his world’s been stolen from him. Nothing’s sacred anymore, it’s all tainted, stained, etched by association. “We walked down that sidewalk, that’s her favorite color, it’s raining, it’s sunny, and there’s the constellation Orion, fighting Tarus – the bull with Seven Sisters on his back. She’s breathing this air, still.”
A red light. Not at this intersection, not in this car, but at a red light, they kissed for the first time. And despite himself, he laughs at how the kiss was broken by horns blaring behind them, and how they were the only ones to make it through the yellow light.
It’s like some grand conspiracy of grief, everywhere but invisible to everyone. But he sees all too clearly.
He drives around trying to find somewhere, anywhere away from her but they had so much in common and what was not common they made so. And now there’s no where to go, nowhere to hide.
He thinks to try the opposite – to return to the bookstore where it all began, but it’s past midnight. The doors will be locked and the lights out and besides, they’ve moved the new fiction shelves to the opposite end of the floor.
To the place where it ended then. But the car won’t go, it knows better (it knows about the hole in the drywall). At first he’s maddened by this minor rebellion but in a rare rational moment he sees that it’s for the best.
In an apartment across town she’s at the foot of her bed with a shoebox in her lap, once a makeshift hope chest. The sides are decorated by unseen hours with scissors, glue, and vintage gardening magazines (a box full purchased at some random garage sale). Once a hope chest. Now? Tonight? Two weeks apart?
It’s garbage day tomorrow and she had planned on emptying it out, piece by piece – the cards, the shirt buttton, the fingernail, the movie stub, the orange plastic spoon, the miscelanea of memories. She was so sure and she started with such determination. But his handwriting. She didn’t see that coming but it’s all so clear to her now – those hours spent deciphering the scrawl and how the most important parts were the least legible. All the fury and anticipation and the glorious instant when the translation revealed itself.
She reaches for the lid but pauses. One thing. At least one thing must go or she’ll never get through this. She needs to perform this one act of self-determination and so she closes her eyes and reaches into the box. And her fingers tell her before her eyes do, what they’ve found. So before she opens her eyes she remembers the park and the pages and this one thing. She smiles and she cries because she’s no longer afraid of feathers.
He’s parked. He’s home but it hardly feels that way anymore and so he stares at the number of his assigned stall, a yellow “14” stenciled onto the wall. The cold is beginning to creep in and he knows he can’t stay here much longer for fear of falling asleep – in the cold, in this car, forever. But he can’t move or he doesn’t want to move. He just peers, deeper and deeper at the number – past the pigment and the binders, deep down into the soup of molecules and beyond. He’s subatomic now, in the realm of Heisenberg’s uncertainty where Schrodinger’s cat is both dead and alive at the same time. But in the macroscopic world where his car is parked, his eyelids droop and then close. In his mind, he continues his descent, deeper down past superstrings and their symphony of quarks and electrons and Tau-neutrinos. At the Planck level he takes a seat and wonders at the chaos of design.
His body is in the hospital now, comatose but alive. She is sitting beside him, holding his hand. In this way she comes to understand how meaningless the argument was that severed their love, how pride on both sides widened the divide, and how in the grand sceheme of it all they are better off together with their conflicts and their compromises than they are apart.
As she strokes his hand, she whispers this newfound insight into his ear but unconsciousness is sitting on the synapses and he cannot hear. And so after she’s done her best to reason with is silence, she prays feebly, desperately.
On a bench across the street from a Mediterranian restaurant an angel stirs, purpose and passion coursing through her veins. She takes to the sky, sword aflame, armored for battle.