the behind leading the blind (a Broken World story)
The machine sounded like bacon cooking on the stove. She had converted our bathroom into a laboratory of sorts. Every morning I would walk downstairs to pee and she would walk into her lab to work. I would then return to bed and listen and wonder what mysteries she was uncovering.
I never fully understood what the machine did. She would explain that reality as we understand it has four dimensions; height, width, depth and time (“A point”). Given those four pieces of information you could locate the whereabouts and whenabouts of anything or anyone (“If you know those four you are making a point”).
Her machine gave her a look at the fifth dimension. As she used to say, “What’s behind the other four.”
At first I tried to understand. “You mean like what’s behind a curtain?” I would ask.
“No. Behind the curtain is just more height, width and depth.”
I would try again. “So when you say behind you mean it like what’s behind someone’s words when they speak them?”
“Sort of. That’s definitely warmer.”
Sometimes I would let it go at that. Sometimes I wouldn’t.
“I read somewhere recently that they’ve already proved the fifth dimension exists” I would offer up to keep the conversation going. “A micro-dimension to tie together the fundamental forces of gravity and electromagnetism, which are unrelated in standard four-dimensional spacetime.”
I would be quite proud of myself when I would remember a sentence like that. I would await her reply eagerly but rarely did she acknowledge, let alone appreciate, my efforts to appear smarter than I am.
“You’re talking physics. I want to know what’s behind physics” and with that she would retreat back into her laboratory without a backward glance. A few moments later I would hear the machine starting up.
While I wasn’t allowed inside our former bathroom, I did have plenty of opportunities to peek inside. The machine, like the entire room, looked like something out of a comic book villain’s secret, albeit very small, lair. She would sit in an ordinary task chair and peer into what looked like the love child of a telescope and a microscope. Everything was made from ugly grey metal and looked much too large for a former bathroom. Notebooks littered every surface.
“Does it have to be behind?” I would sometimes yell from the bed as I watched TV, trying to get her to emerge. “Couldn’t it be underneath things?”
I never imagined she could hear me over the steady hum of crackling bacon but one time I heard the machine abruptly stop, followed by the door opening a few seconds later.
“What do you mean?” she asked, a puzzled look on her face.
Flummoxed, I tried unsuccessfully to articulate what I’d meant by my question. In reality I had no idea, I was just trying to get her attention because there was nothing good on the television.
“Well?” she insisted.
“Well… maybe you’re looking in the wrong place. For instance, a politician might have things behind his actions, his true intentions, or motivations or whatever, but a lover would definitely keep those intentions… under.”
She thought it over. “What about a mathematician?” she finally inquired.
I thought it over. “Nope. No such thing” I finally replied.
She ducked back into her laboratory and then just as quickly ducked back out (in retrospect I should have realized that any time there is such double-ducking going on something profound is likely to occur). “I was at a store the other day” she began, “And there was a giveaway at the front desk. If you could guess the right number of gumballs held in this enormous glass jar. Obviously nobody knew the exact count except for the person putting up the prize and that’s when it hit me; you have to be willing to give something away if you want to be the only person to know something.”
The next day I asked her if she liked the song Behind Blue Eyes.
The day after that she moved out, machine and all.
The sound of cooking bacon always reminds me of her. I sometimes wonder if she ever discovered what she was looking for.
“Always try to see behind what you see because all you need to see can be only at the behind of the thing you see!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan