An Inquiry into the nature of Sadness and Reality
Thursday came and went. As the clock next to the sofa ticked of the hours, my ankle monitor ticked of a time of its own. Naome was nowhere to be found.
The weather remained unchanged as weekend came. Skies littered the heavens, blocking out all but the strongest rays of the sun. My tv buzzed on, a HD panorama with more pixels than I could remember and each single one appeared to light up in its own unique colour. Outside though, it was all grey. Clear and wind-free, but all and absolute grey. The brown of the oak, withered slowly away along with the yellow of the road-lines, until they all converged on an undefinable, tedious grey.
A presenter announced an interview with some science professor. The presenter – a she – wore a tight fitting red dress with a wide open chest. It looked like at any moment, her chest would burst from the dress and sprout out into the wild. The professor, named Lawrence something-something, had slapped on a grey suit, a red tie and combed his hair back. I noticed how his hairline seemed to have receded with old age. “Sure would like to see those tits of her escaping that narrow dress” , I thought as I grabbed a coke from the refrigerator. Repairing to the sofa, I bent forward in excitement as the interview started.
- Lawrence, you're an esteemed professor of physics – and you're here promoting your new book which deals with rather complex issues. What can you tell us about the book?
- Well, I spent a lot of time trying to make advanced physical theories more available to everyone, because – in essence – this book does not thread any new fields. It simply seeks to convey in an understandable, sensible way the facts and theories we have already researched and discovered.
- Ok, that seems like a interesting idea. God know all that physics stuff is above me.
The presenter turned sideways and rummaged through some notes, probably written by someone else beforehand – before continuing on, with a sniver of hesitance.
- So you talk a lot about string theory? How the universe is basically made up of strings, stretched out in neat lines. Our endeavours and choices are simply vibrations along those strings, which vibrate separately. Explain to us...lesser people...what you mean by that?
- Aha, well let me gather my thoughts. String or Quantum theory is a very deep and extensive subject which challenged the acknowledged Particle Theory of the days of Einstein...
Ehem, well the string is a universe...or reality. Imagine it is fastened to a point in the past...say the big bang. Then imagine that as you move along that string, you move chronologically in time. Each of the strings is a separate universe a separate reality, and according to how they vibrate up or down, right or left they create a distinct reality.
- Aha, well thats easy enough. I'm sure our viewers are delighted to have it told in such a down-to-earth-like way.
Whilst she searched her notes only to send us of to commercials, I finished my can of soda and placed it on the table. For some reason, I thought of my life. All the stuff about Strings and Reality had put me in a very sombre mood. I tried to recall the last time I had been truly, undeniably happy.
As an adult - sure I had not been depressed - but as I aged I would smile increasingly less. Fewer days were spent laughing, and fewer memories lit up in vivid colour. It was all a blur of bills and responsibilities. Graduating had made me happy, but that was the latest memory of true happiness. Before graduation, christmas was like a festival. Every package was an adventure of its own, every unwrapping succeeded in twisting my face and producing a smile.
Now though, happiness was more obscure. As an adult, happiness proves less tangible. I had never been moved to tears, never cried out in happiness. I woke up tired and fell asleep just as tired. Every day blended in with the next. If I wanted something, I would buy it and perhaps feel a bit lighter as I exited the store. But when I arrived at my car, that shallow materialistic joy would have evaporated, like a small oasis in the desert.
After Naomes disappearance, this feeling had grown stronger. As if somehow, her life affected my own. Come to think of it, I had been a bit spaced and bewildered – not really in touch with the world – in the time after my bike crash. Like the blur of condos and high-rises, the pools and the stores, each day shambled past in shades of white and black. I woke to the present as the show began. The presenter had tucked her breasts in. Oh well, good things do not happen to those who wait. Also, she had seemingly studied her cards vigorously because – almost like the German Blitz – she hailed the professor with thoughtful, and profound questions. She seemed like a different person entirely “Can the strings interact?” , she would ask. Lawrence would nod and divulge some related facts or make the model more understandable by concrete examples or what not. Like a rowing team in perfect unison, they conquered the waves and tides of string theory. Intrigued by the sudden shift in the interview, I grabbed another can of soda and sat down on the glass table only inches from the tv screen. As my ass found the glass, my eyes found a strange bird, coloured and shaped like a parrot of some sort – landing on the long dead Oaks outside.
- You also devote quite a lot of pages to “Schrödinger's Cat”, what is this? I get the basics. Its a thought experiment, not intended to be put into real life practice – but what does it have in common with string, or quantum theory? And why is it significant?
- Ok, So Imagine you put a cat in a box. There is no holes, and the box is entirely black – no way to peek inside or hear what is going on. Along with the cat you place a vial of poison, which if ingested, would kill the cat. Now, closing the lid. You cannot tell whether or not the cat has taken the poison, whether it is alive or dead. You just have no way of knowing.
- Ahem, ok so the cat can be though of as alive or dead at the same time. It's a 50-50 chance.
- Exactly, now according to traditional physics – aka particular theory; The cat is either alive or dead. It cannot be both. The cat is either dead as a corpse or alive, skipping about as a song.
- Yeah, yeah I think we have the basic jest of it.
- So, moving on to string theory. According to string theory – the cat is both alive and dead. Those two possible realities within that box exist equally and separate of one another. It is not before you open the box and peek inside that those two realities - or strings - collapse into one – showing whether the cat is alive or dead. We call this coherence.
- Wow, shit just got deep! So what you're saying is that string theory, as proved by this experiment, allows for more realities.
- Yes, in a sense that is what I'm saying.
- So, let me get that straight. The reality we perceive is one of those strings, sometimes we collide and collude with the strings next to us – Almost like clothes hanging out to dry. But, all those other realities exists as well, we just do not perceive them because of “Coherence”.
- Yes, and what is truly fascinating I think, is how many strings there has to be. I mean, “Schrödinger's Cat” is limited to two strings, alive or dead. But think about our lives, genes and nature. Our parents and friends. Which country we were born in, or where we went to school. Whether we are happy or sad, poor or rich. Ah, I mean the combination is endless! Which makes it possible for an endless number of realities out there. The question is simply which reality we exist in, which reality coherence allows us to observe.
The show ended on that note. Outside, dusk was approaching so I cleaned the table and considered going to bed. But something kept me awake. Standing idly in the centre of my living room – flanked by the clock to my right and the door to my left – my eyes meandered along with my mind.
Was this my Reality?
My peripheral vision, peering at the black window-stain, found the parrot. It lit up in all colours imaginable, from the vibrant green to the ominous red. Was this my world? In my world, Naome should still be here and that parrot should not exist. Granted, it might have escaped from a zoo, but nonetheless the bird seemed so out of place. Here in the cold north, birds usually flew south come winter. That bird however, the parrot with a flat beak, a green and yellow body relieved by a stark red head, was not of the north. Like straight man at a gay bar, the bird did not seem to belong. It simply sat staring in a fixed direction even though cars roared past. It did not care, perhaps it did not know? It did not know that this was not its world, it simply continued on sitting oblivious that the world it had belonged to raced past somewhere else, unaffected by the parrot itself? Dumb Bird?
The clock struck ten with an ominous ring, and I proceeded to the bathroom to get ready for bed. Was this my world? Something had definitely changed the past week. I gathered my thoughts and summarised before sticking a pink toothbrush overflowing with toothpaste into my mouth. True, I felt sad and lonely, but all of that had probably to do with Naome going away – and perhaps my car crash. The brush raced through my mouth, finishing of the molars before working its way down the row of pristine, cavity free teeth. Could I have ended up in the wrong reality? Perhaps something went wrong? Somehow, in my reality Naome would be by my side, and the weather would shift. The longer I pondered, the more lost I became. Perhaps my isolation, that damned ankle sensor, has somehow put a space between me and the reality I knew. Outside, people go to work. They eat at restaurants and laugh at each others jokes. Perhaps for them, the weather changes from day to day – They have probably never seen a parrot either.
I spat a mouthful of sticky white cream into the sink, and began to pick my teeth – a habit which had allowed me to traverse through live without a single cavity. If I am caught in another world than my own, how did it happen? It is not like you can change worlds simply by, ordering wrong at Starbucks or taking the tube an hour earlier than usual. Thinking of where I had went wrong ultimately led me to the single decisive incident in my life. The crash . Universal providence did not deem me worthy of further musings however. As I finished picking my teeth, I smiled in the mirror, noticing something of about myself – though what I could not tell. Inspection done, I jumped.
The phone rings
Having been alone for nearly a week, without even realising it, my senses had been heightened. The three raps at my door, followed by the phone wailing in the hallway proved sufficient in sending me toppling backwards over the bathtub. I slammed my head hard against the railings, and needed some time to gather myself, but managed to reach the phone – by then it had rung for more than a minute. Any normal person would have hung up by now, who could be calling at 10.20 on a Friday evening?
Lifting the receiver to my ear, a woman voiced echoed faintly. At first I could not remember her, but after a while, I recognised her as the woman at the police station.
I nearly fainted as she told me the details. Even though 48 hours had passed, Naome was well and in good care. She asked me about my relationship to Naome and I answered courtly – betrayed only by sighs of relief - that I was her boyfriend. We had not married because of ill will from my parents side, but had been together for close to ten years. The receptionist - I imagined she wore glasses, a tight fitting dress and one of those fashionable scarfs receptionists use - searched audibly through her files. After a while she sighed, I imagined she removed her glasses and fumbled with her case of pencils stacked neatly in a container on top of her desk – next to her name sign.
- Well, as told, Naome is safe and sound. No need to worry.
- Ok, when is she coming home? What happened?
Sighing yet again, the receptionist adjusted her scarf and went on. Outside, the parrot glared at me – colourful against the grey backdrop.
- There is no easy way to say this, so I'll just blurt it out. Do forgive me.
- Come on, then!
- Ehem, Naome has said that she has no wish to see you. She told this to me over the phone, yet I truly believe she meant it. It did not sound like she harboured any I'll will towards you, to the contrary, she spoke fondly of you. Now, Naome was a bit surprised about the police calling and hearing she had been reported missing. She was with her family on some sort of excursion and she could not imagine any of her friends reporting her missing. She had told them about how she was going to spend the coming weeks with her family.
I grabbed the wardrobe, hands shaking, and leaned down. Something was wrong. My breath betrayed my feelings as I shakily bid her continue. The parrot flew off, but I did not notice it. All I could hear was the woman on the other end.
- When it comes to her relationship with you. It took some time and repetition on my part before she even recognised your name, and she was absolutely perplexed that you would have done such a thing. According to her, she has neither seen nor spoken to you since primary school.
- Th...no thats not right. She was there when I crashed. Sh...she was worried about m..me. For fuck's sake, we have been together for ten years! What trick are you pulling?!
Tipping her glasses up using her middle finger, the woman at the other end continued.
- Have you ever worked at an old people's home...mr? Or perhaps an asylum?
- N..No I haven't. What in the heavens are you on about?
- Well, mr....what is you surname again?
- My name is Plinii and my surname, as you already know, is Tacitus.
- Well, Plinii Tacitus. I could report you for aggression agains an officer of the law. Even though I am just a clerk, legalities provide me with enough jurisdiction to exercise some “police roles”. Now, I am gonna choke up all you said to you being a bit sad and it is late after all. Had I however, been more stringent. Had my colleague Tom Spree, whom I love, not brought me the right coffee this morning – I might have followed up on your tone. In addition, I have worked at both an asylum and an old people's home and let me tell you and quench any fantasy you might entertain. Reality is subjective. I have seen old people in their dementia lauding my beef stew, when I clearly see that what they are putting in their mouth is mackerel with potatoes and Bernaise. I have seen people shit themselves, only to trace the filth with their fingers and complementing me on my superior cooking skills. Once I met a man, who firmly believed that he was not George – husband to Alicia – but Oliver Cromwell resurrected. His sole enterprise was to bring about a new age of reformation. Now...Mr. Plinii Tacitus, are you listening carefully?
Audibly frustrated, the receptionist – I had decided to name her Claire – bid me hold as a new costumer arrived. Somehow, I managed to hold the earpiece erect and maintain some sense of composure as she spoke in amicable tones with a woman who wanted to report a stolen bike. Returning to the phone her voice deepened, and the entire earpiece quavered in recognition.
- So, you believe you have been together with this Naome for...what was it...close to ten years? Even though, she refutes any such claim.
- No, I must have been mistaken. It has been a long day.
- Good, Good. And remember if theres anything else, please do not hesitate to call. I, or my assistant Jenny, are on call 24/7.
Dumbfounded, I remained standing in the dark hallway for some time, clutching the receiver. I imagined if I put it down it would put and end to the entire business and it would all become real. If I just held it, if the conversation did not end – somehow it need not become real, somehow id need not take form. But all things - come night - have to end. I returned the earpiece to the receiver and staggered bewildered to bed. So it is true. This reality is not mine. Where did I go wrong? How do I get back?
Asleep in bed. The night drifted past dreamlessly. As all the days prior: The small creatures would march in and begin cutting my hair strand by strand. As the clock ventured towards dawn, so their treasure chest grew in value. One hair at a time.