I met Julie at the ASP Convention at the San Diego Hilton in June of '03. She wasn’t your typical scientist. She said she believed in god, that he was pointing at her with a black rod, and soon she wouldn’t exist. Not the usual love thy neighbour shtick, that’s for sure.
She said we should go back to her room. I told her I wanted to see Sam Harris give his lecture on The End of Faith. She replied, “Faith starts with my lips.” It didn’t stop there.
We moved in together after only four months. It was more of a maelstrom than a whirlwind. I was drawn to her, caught in her gravitational pull. She’d clean the house wearing a red dress, something flimsy and cheap, but on her it was thrilling. She’d cook me dinner, a shepherd’s pie, and curve jelly babies around the side of the plate. I took time off work, a sabbatical under the guise of research into the Higgs Boson, that miraculous particle we’re not sure exists, but really it was to spend time with her. My life had never been so exciting. As I scattered formula over whiteboards, Julie painted canvases black. When I asked what they were, she said, “Fires burnt out.” I replied they could be anything. She said I was giving her a headache.
After a while, we talked about marriage. Julie was irrevocably opposed. She said there was no point as soon we would cease to exist, so I bought us a dog instead. We called her Singapore. Within months, Singapore became pregnant, and we ended up with six brown puppies. I told Julie I was taking them down to the shelter, but when I went the shelter was closed, so I left them in a bag outside.
When I got back, she screamed, “There’s nothing left of me!”
I tried to calm her down. She pleaded with me to bring the puppies back, but when I got there the bag was empty. The next day the man at the shelter called and asked what was the meaning of the message left on his answerphone. He said it was disgusting, speaking to him like that. Julie said she couldn’t remember calling him.
She began to spend a lot of time in bed. I missed her being next to me, painting. I wanted her to wear the red dress again. She drank bourbon and complained about her head. I said she should go to the doctor. She replied it was because God was pointing his black rod at her. I told her she was being ridiculous. “You’re a scientist,” I said. “So god damn act like one.”
On our last night together, she whispered in my ear, “Darling, it’s not your fault. Some things you know all your life, as long as you have faith.”
When I look back on her now, I can see she was right. It’s as if she never existed at all.
Dan Malakin: Writer by day. Editor at The Forge Lit Mag (also by day). Sleeper by night. Sometimes. Collection of short stories called Smiling Exercises available now. First novel, a thriller called The Vaccine Slaves will be out early 2017. Say hi at www.danmalakin.com, or @danmalakin.