“Throughout the narrative you will find many statements that are obviously nonsensical and quite at variance with common sense. For the most part these are true.”
― Robert Gilmore, Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
I was in a panic. I paced the floors looking on every bookshelf, in stacks of magazines, trying to remember where I’d put my ONS Chemotherapy and Biotherapy book when we moved here. I have to take another test before I’m able to administer it at my new facility, and I want to refresh myself.
“Where the fuck is it? Ugh, I’m so disorganized, see if I had a place for everything, I would’ve been able to walk right to it, but noooo, now I’m digging through unopened moving boxes and piles of stuff that has obviously no impact on my needs,” I groused internally, staring blankly at the rows and rows of Luigi’s physics text books and stacks of notes he took while in grad school, seeing the parade of books I bought secondhand to comb through again and haven’t yet, A Farewell to Arms,The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Love in the Time of Cholera. I raised the heels of my feet and reached into the top corner of the highest shelf where I cannot see, and pulled down a book.
When I saw the title, I was stricken. I sat down on the floor and just stared at the cover. Alice in Quantumland. This was hers. Alice was one of her favorite pieces of literature, this girl who falls through a hole and into a realm where nothing makes sense, where curiosity is both an enabling crutch, and a cross to bear, a literary paradigm of existing in multiple states at once. And here, in this rendition, is the evidence of how she and he could have understood one another in a way that I will never be able to understand him, because I am not a scientist.
She had broken off their engagement, citing his anger issues (that after a year I still have no evidence of), her need to explore sexually. And he was heart stricken. He left his country to be closer to her, everyone who speaks his language with mouths shaped as his own, the childhood of his nephews, his brother, his father having recently had a heart attack, and she cast him off like a particularly ordinary handkerchief that had acquired a stain and she didn’t want to mess with restoring it to any aesthete or usefulness.
But when he and I started dating, when it began showing signs of not being vapid or ephemeral, this relationship he had with me, she second guessed herself, and began a campaign to win him back to her. It was intense. It was cloying. It was invasive, particularly when her mother got involved, asking Luigi to keep the door open to her, to be her friend. It was infuriating to me because I saw no need for him to maintain a friendship with her, she’d revoked those rights when she dumped him unceremoniously and was acting out purely because he was moving on. “She’s sick,” he would tell me. “She is bipolar. I would do it for you.” The whole scenario and codependency frightened me intensely. She’d threatened in a fit to drive up to New Hampshire from Long Island, because she believed that if he saw her, if he just lay his eyes on her, it would somehow fix things. “I can’t have this kind of drama, Luigi,” I said repeatedly. “I cannot have this crazy bitch showing up at my doorstep in front of my kids. I will fuck her up if that happens.”
And I would have. I guess I did. When Luigi got his literal dream job, it was on Long Island, it was where she lived. And we were going there together, with my kids. I handled it by sending her a message to please get professional help, because I was going to be there, that I am very real, that she is hurting me and embarrassing herself by continuing in demonstrative manipulation after she rejected him. Less than 24 hours after I messaged her, with her PhD candidacy in Chemistry, she put a cyanide capsule in her mouth and died. She killed herself because I exist, because I’m actually real. She would rather die than meet me.
Her mother was in Paris when she died. She asked Luigi to call all of her friends, to tell them. She asked Luigi to organize a group of people to clean out her apartment. And she barred him from attending her memorial. He did those things. He called, weeping, tens of peoples, telling them of her passing, asking that they join him with her mother to expunge her space. He bowed his head to a constant barrage of harassment during that sorting. He asked her mother for one thing, her gecko, Valentine (Wiggin, from Ender’s Game), and her mother refused him that.
So after all was said and done, when everyone else was gone, he looked through the books that no one else wanted, the books on the roadside in a box awaiting garbage collection. And those are the books I lay my hand on. I didn’t pull a group of bound pages from the top corner of a dusty shelf. I pulled a tragedy. I pulled a sadness. I pulled an allegory on a death and a life. I pulled an awareness that she exists in multiple states. She exists in the dust on the shelf, in the memory of cradling a grown man screaming about how much he loved her. She exists in the frustrations of Alice.
From that shelf I pulled a wish that she would have waited her depression out, given herself the space to grow. I pulled a desire that we could have been friends, we could have known one another, if she had just given into the possibility that if she was prepared to die for him, then she could be prepared to live as well.
Her friends that I have since met, have a refrain. “When she was good, she was sooooo good.” I never got to see that good. I only got to see these dusty books in the corner of the top shelf I cannot reach without engaging my potential.