“Let me know if you need something and I’ll go and help you”, had said Manuel, afraid of having sounded patronizing. She was a beautiful, humble girl and he didn’t want to impose pseudo-disinterested help on her. He was afraid he wanted to see her much more than she was available and that would end up undermining their relationship.
It was raining abandonedly and Manuel had decided to start a new book to stem the flow of his emotions before it swept away the precarious love nest they’d built. Busyness was the key to a healthy relationship, that and pretending that something besides her mattered to him. He’d just finished a book so it seemed he’d fallen in love again in an impeccable timing. Every one of his books had been triggered by raw love that he had taken upon himself to sculpt and polish, but this one, as the previous ones, was meant to last forever.
Miguel had been working on his latest article: On the origin of the Universe, and he’d found out that he’d been misinformed at school; he hadn’t been taught Einstein’s theory of relativity, which was simply enlightening. He was ever more embittered by Argentinean public education and he was ever surer to remain in Poland. Relativity plus quantum theory, in their incursions in cosmology, had almost explained the whole universe; just a dose of philosophic speculation was needed to make it complete. There were still doubts about whether the Universe was going to end in an implosion or it was going to expand eternally thus creating a new universe in its bosom. The theory of multiverses had been created, with parallel lives and other nonsensical ideas. Miguel thought that if there were parallel lives to his, he’d gotten the worst of it, so he was simply discontent with that kind of unjustified speculation; it didn’t solve anything and it just added more layers of confusion.
Miguel’s spirit yearned to realize that it was unique and that everything it had done had some sense at all, and for this feeble hope not to hold water it needed to dismiss science-fictional terrorism that promulgated the existence of other realities; for his life to make any sense, it needed to exist in a single universe, where everything had some influence on his environment and on his own life. Parallel universes or afterlife utopias were simply out of the question for someone who wanted to take the reins of his life.
But how difficult was going to be to take control of his life when he depended so much on someone else’s decision; Nadia hadn’t still made up her mind about him. She was a beautiful blond Polish girl with big eyes that emanated their grayish blueness from the whiteness of her face. Although she was attracted to Manuel and she would’ve surely given him a chance in other circumstances, the situation was a little complicated by the fact that she was married. She was attending her flower shop one afternoon when Manuel came in and instead of buying something, he just asked for directions. An hour after he was back just to tell her that he’d found the place and that he thanked her; he also meant to buy a flower for someone special and he asked her advice “What flower do you consider the most beautiful of all?” he asked. She said “I like liriums the most” and she pointed to a white one. So he bought it and after having paid, he handed the flower back to her and said “It’s for you” in which she delighted, not so much for having been given one of her own flowers as a gift but for the handsome face and refulgent dark eyes of her suitor. She smiled and joked “Thank you, my favorite flower, how did you know?” to which he answered “Because its beauty matches perfectly with yours.” After a brief conversation, he left the shop, not without asking her phone number.
Now when he texted her another of his romantic phrases, she was making dinner for her husband. She loved him, but the passion had long ago gone and she felt withering in the bloom of her youth. She’d married him at twenty and now she was only twenty two; they hadn’t had a child yet because he wanted to have a house big enough to accommodate three children before having the first one. It was a peculiar algorithm, but she accepted her husband’s judgment on this matter because she wasn’t so eager to have a child. So when she read Manuel’s trivial phrase, she saw a way out of the stalemate situation she was in; she thought a little of platonic love could raise her spirits and even save her marriage. She answered him, not without waiting the conventional amount of time before texting back suitors, that is to say, four hours. Thus passion could be kept at a reasonable pace, reading and answering messages every four hours. Thus the flame of his desire grew exponentially while she made sure she wouldn’t be burned by it.
Manuel hated texting because he was a humanist and he saw with bitterness how this telegrammic form of conversation took over our lives. He was the kind of person who prefers sporadic misunderstandings to over-communication. He was one of those people who like accumulating feelings for many days before writing a long and urgent love letter. But he’d been born in the technological era and, after being dissuaded from his letter-writing habit by his constant lack of success, he conformed to the general rule and started adapting his art to the meager capacity for expression he found in texting. So he, twenty six by now, had mastered the art of letting the girl now you’re interested without smothering her with uncalled-for effusions of emotions. The problem was that he had a remnant of strong emotions he needed to channel somehow. That’s where writing came in; writing and occasional inconsequential romantic relationships. He’d been with girls he’d found sexy, although he wasn’t in love with them, but those relationships weren’t meant to last long. The moment he’d met Nadia he was demoralized by his lack of prospects for the future and he’d seen a new meaning to his life on her. He just poured out the emotion he’d felt on their first encounter in easy four-hourly installments; he had enough to go on writing for months because neither the cellphone screen nor his heart were big enough to contain all of his feelings. However, after a week of tense expectation, she agreed to meet him.
Excerpt from: Stories of Romance, Society and Madness