Chasing the kinks in a butterfly’s wings

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It was holding light. Nothing else caught light like that kink. That shimmering kink that died and was reborn each and every night when she brushed out her hair and tied it in a loose bun before sliding between the sheets. It was subtle, but whatever interwove elegance with subtly, it was in the threads of her hair as it was in the pen marks of Einstein’s equations. Max was in an elliptical loop of thinking about indulging her gravity. There was so much time there, in that kink. Well, not that one, but every other replica over the years.
Now Max sat at the bar, barstool facing a leggy blonde. She was touching his knee in nonsense morse code with heavy intent, but his eyes kept short-circuiting over her shoulder to where Grace sat.
Grace shouldn’t be here. She was meant to be history and her presence now seemed to degrade all the longing he had invested in their break up. How could he have wept for a lost love if she wasn’t completely lost? He thought about losing her; about getting up and making some excuse to leave the place and the blonde could follow if she would hurry. One black brogue involuntarily slipped to the floor, ready for the escape. As if like a delicate butterfly ready to take off at the slightest soundless touch of his shoe on the hardwood floor, the kink moved. A skip and then a race of Max’s heart followed as he dared to watch in case her flowing brunette frame was about to give way to that glowing familiar face. His heart wanted to tear in two just to die in the poetry of the moment; a Schrodinger’s escape in an immortal, unmoving moment, but Max had to go. Grace was sat opposite Jim Foltaine and his longterm fiancee, Priscilla. Priscilla was undeniably an excellent friend and never failed to present support to either Grace or Max when it was needed, but she indulged the false aesthetic of her marketing job too much. Despite Jim’s complaints, limp-wristed comments had become her near constant routine. Max suspected it was the reason she and Jim had silently passed the one year mark with no further mention of acting on their engagement. Max knew that Priscilla’s socialite show would draw him into the limelight if she noticed him and Jim was never one to miss a good hand shake greeting. In truth Max could take the awkward separation of his previous two friends, but it was the ring of strawberry blonde cobwebs encircling a freckled egg, that made him desperate to leave before he smashed that rotten egg. With an equally freckled arm draped across Grace’s slight shoulders, Max felt sick; it was like seeing a dead fish flopped on a beautiful wedding cake.
He didn’t want to talk to Ian. It was painful enough to have to see him at work, on the rare occasions when there departments where unified for a meeting.
Max was a physicist and being reasonably handsome and smart enough to do a PhD, he’d had a pretty good run with girls, but Grace had halted his shinanigans without even asking. A few dates here and there during his Masters and then she moved in during the first year of his PhD. Had three beautiful years passed just so she could end up with Ian McCullum, the 46 year old Social Sciences Professor? The sham that students mocked for his pathetic attempts to befriend them? No, it didn’t seem likely. This must be a glitch in the matrix. Grace was too clever, too pretty and too much of what Max needed for that. Max got up and left.
“Where are you going?” chimed the blonde, in a voice loud enough that Max thought it might ruin their escape. “I want to show you something outside,” replied Max, without bothering to think of what. He had developed a habit of showing girls the night sky during his Undergrad years and that seemed to always score, but it wasn’t dark enough yet.
Max put $20 on the bar and got up. “Grace knows this shirt,” his mind recited, panicked and regretting not having worn a jacket. He grab the blonde by the hand and led her out of the place. She probably thought this was all desperately romantic, but Max guessed he would end up paying for that later.
He hastily unlocked the car and opened the passenger door. He had to concentrate not to slam it shut while she was still getting in, but immediately jumped in the car, once she was secure and did his best to avoid the tyres squealing as they sped away. “So what are you going to show me?” asked the blonde, almost irritatingly suggestive. “You’ll see,” Max replied. They both would.
“What do you study?” Max asked, desperately trying to buy time to think of something. “Social Sciences, silly. Remember?”
“Oh yeah.” Max had more recollection of the pinstripes on the bartenders waistcoat than of anything that had featured in conversation, but he wished he hadn’t asked. He began to think of excuses for ditching her, but nothing seemed convincing enough. How could he not think of anything? He reverted back to finding something to show her, which seemed infinitely easier.
 “Listen,” Max said with false intent. He smoothly increased the angle between his foot and shin, so the car accelerated in response. Suddenly he was a physicist on the hunt for auditory prey. There weren’t enough cars about, so he raced to find some. They’d skirt the green fields around the campus and needed to head toward town to catch a engine powered crowd. “You hear that?!” Max shouted as the tones rumbled off the asphalt and car.
“What?” shouted back the blonde.
Another car flashed past and the assonance created rippled in echoes.
“That sound,” Max said, slowing for the upcoming traffic lights and settling himself for a scientific explanation he had rattled out many times before.
“Yeah, the Doppler effect,” said the blonde.
“How did you know that?” Max asked incredulously, before realising how offensive that sounded.
To his relief, she cheerily replied, “it was on The Big Bang Theory and Sheldon wore it as a costume.” Never having seen the show, Max was suddenly flung into a pool of different variations of how it might be possible to wear the Doppler effect. After having swum around with a few more convincing Doppler costume ideas, he came up for air; “huh.”
“Is that what you were going to show me,” she asked.
“I…ermm,” her eyebrow raised, “…I’ll think of something else.” spluttered Max. To his surprise that got a giggle. They were winding their way into town and Max still had no idea what they were going to do there. She seemed happy so he began to calm down, although the tunnel of houses, seemed deeper than usual, like his car was just a toy in a giant mixing bowl. The buildings stood tall with grotesque authority and Max felt he couldn’t break free from his situation under that grey window eyes. He drove to a bar on the edge of town and felt tinged with failure as he let the blonde out of the car. “Another bar?” she looked quizzical.
“Yeah, sorry,” was all he said and crunched out Zeno’s paradox on the gravel, as they walked to the entrance. Inside it was dingy and smelt damp. The stout bar stools were shedding their leather and seemed just as inviting as a venomous snake. Max ordered a beer and so did the blonde, then headed outside. He’d scanned every possible seat rising from the filthy floorboards, but nothing looked nice enough to justify their visit. Outside was the odd denim blue of the evening bleeding into the sky. If he just kept her talking it might get dark and he could roll off facts about the stars, to charm her into a good night. He didn’t want to sleep with her anymore, just to let the stars give her a good time so he could go home. They sat on the hood of his car and clinked beers.
“You know,” the blonde said with a slight breeze tossing her hair, “no amount of physics is going to bring her back to you or make her go away if you can’t think of anything else.”
Startled, Max’s head snapped into a line of eye contact.
“That girl you were running away from in the bar…or guy if I’m mistaken,” she laughed.
“No, girl.” Max barely whispered, held quiet in a moment of surprise.
“She is part of your thoughts, the physics of your thinking. We’re all the way out here avoiding her.”
Max looked sheepish and was suddenly aware of the chilly air.
“I don’t mind,” piped the blonde,“but you could have picked a nicer spot to run to.” She smiled and Max felt sorry. The trees rustled and the night seemed only a few shades away. He apologised and she said it was fine, so they slipped in silence. 

The whole world seemed to lie out behind the bar, as if knocking down the building would reveal the edge of the planet, maybe even the cosmos, but Max knew the feeling. He felt his love of seductive discovery, ever so gently turning cogs in his mind. A curious feeling he’d missed from his work was reaching out to him. He felt the income of ideas, strange and interesting, like a feather on the wind, or slow motion snow. Her words had been so light, but they lifted months of toil and heart ache off his brain and now he floated into the deep blue of the star-filled night. Suddenly, he didn’t feel he had to sustain this endless gloom just to uphold how wonderful the years with Grace had been. They were beautiful, ready to put on the shelf for a distant nostalgic read. He turned back to the time he was in. Yes, Grace had still existed only a few car spaces over in that stretch of time, but when he lifted his thoughts to the heavens, he saw that their time together was never going anywhere. Those years sat like a broken down car he could walk back to through his traffic jam of memories, but he wasn’t trapped in them. Riddles of the universe began to once again unwind in his mind and possibility rained now like a cool relief from choking heat. He jumped off the bonnet.
“I’m sorry but I have to get back to my desk. I think I’ve had an idea that might help my work.”

The blonde looked at him with excited eyes and used a hand and a heel to spring up and spin to the car door, flinging it open and jumping in. Max started driving before asking her if there was somewhere he could drop her off. She said no and that she wanted to see what he was working on. Holding fast to his racing thoughts, he didn't distract himself with bargaining, so he drove straight to his apartment. They stayed up all night, with her watching, reading or making herself tea while he scribbled equations and diagrams into the morning light. They awoke in the afternoon to a comfort neither of them had truly felt before. She smiled knowingly as he looked at his work. There was something in there and he felt the delicate momentum of life. Discovery hardly waited, like an ethereal answer, traced by a finger in a far off sky. Max said she could stay and make herself at home but he had to go to the office.After four years in the office, with distracted trips home to bed and a chain of unfinished meals, Max understood why that blonde hadn’t stuck around longer than a month, but he was ever grateful that she did. He stood in the carpark and pulled the laminated card he’d been given, out of his pocket: “Dr. Maxwell Mactaggart presenting his theory of reverse entropy.”

A shaky anticipation echoed in his body so he scanned the bonnet of his car. He looked for the spot where the sun reflected just a semitone higher, just a note above the rest of the choir of light. It was the place where that girl’s heel had dug in, as she jumped up to chase his idea. The faint ridge of that kink caught the light. She’d graduated that summer and moved away, but that kink stayed with him, chasing his idea. Now he stood in the parking lot of the Royal Society. Kinks had changed the path of his life and he loved this one most because it was as subtle as the kinks on a butterfly’s wings.

Created: Apr 24, 2017

Tags: story, butterfly effect, physics, professor, mending a broken heart

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