Friday, September 11, 2009

The Optical Engineer

His first wife was a flight attendant, and he likes to be awakened in the middle of the night, as she once did, to a woman straddling him, pumping like a piston and squeezing like a milking machine. The typical male achieves erection four to six times throughout the night, during REM sleep, at intervals of approximately ninety minutes. More often than not I just let him pass out, work for an hour or so, and then check to see if he’s ready. Sometimes he doesn’t even realize he’s fallen asleep. He thinks he’s been making love to me the whole time. Since he drinks, it works out better this way.

So I’m not too upset when he pulls back from my advances. “I’m so sorry. I completely forgot I have work to do. There’s a meeting tomorrow. It won’t take long.” He reaches one hand past me, to the bed table, lays his fingers on a ball point pen and an old envelope, pulls the envelope apart by its seams, flattens it onto a clipboard.

He scribbles the pen around to get it going, then scrawls out a string of numbers and letters. Mostly it’s like little F subscript parenthesis one end parenthesis, little F subscript parenthesis two end parenthesis, long strings like that. There are a few Xs and Ns in there, as well, I think, and some other abuses of the alphabet.

When he’s locked up half the envelope in these inky chains, he swears. “I better do this right.”

He gets out of bed, goes to his desk, finds a fresh leaf of printer paper, and starts copying his equations. They flow without effort, the way I write when I’m deep inside a story, and he writes them with a kind of calculating love, scientific attachment. His work is huge, bigger than us.

“What happens if you make a mistake?” I ask, hanging over the back of his chair, laughing.

His pen never stops plotting its course. “Then a ten million dollar mirror turns back into sand.”

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