Aaron had two great loves: Miranda and physics. Two competing loves.
He met Miranda in college. Meeting her was both a blessing and a curse. He was the flute to her lips, the cello to her bow. Or was it the other way around?
They were right for each other, and they were wrong for each other.
She was a god-fearing woman while he was a hardheaded empiricist. But maybe that’s what drew him to her. She had something his world of particles and surfaces did not.
He tried to invite her into his world, while she tried to invite him into hers. But her world was invisible to him, while his world was hollow to hers.
Having met, having touched, having had, they couldn’t be happy with another, or be happy without one another, or be happy with one another.
Like two stars, from different constellations, that strayed out of orbit and fell into each other’s orbit. Circling each other, like fireflies at night, yet belonging to distant constellations.
After college, they agreed to go their separate ways. That was the sensible thing to do. So she moved to one town, and he to another.
They spoke over the phone several times a week. Sent each other little notes. And pictures. And cards. And gifts.
When she “happened” to be in town, she’d see him. When he “happened” to be in town, he’d see her. One time he took a job where she “happened” to be living.
When together, never quite together; when apart, never quite apart.
He was the wave to her shoreline. Inward and outward. Inward and outward.
And then she died–of cervical cancer. Dead at the age of 43.
He took a sabbatical. Was by her side every day. Watched her fade away, inch-by-inch, until only her serene, piercing eyes were left–like binary stars in the enveloping darkness. And then she returned to her distant constellation.
He had lost her forever. Or had he? She was lost to him in this world, but what about a parallel world?
Was there not another Miranda somewhere in the far-flung reaches of the multiverse? A parallel world where Miranda was alive and well? And waiting for Aaron?
If only he could go there, he could have her back. The theoretical foundations had already been laid. So it came down to technology. Could he design a spaceship to explore the multiverse?
The technical challenges were daunting, but he was highly motivated. This would be the chance to unite his two great loves: Miranda and physics.
As he got into his spaceship, Aaron was putting this world behind him. Putting this life behind him. There was no turning back. If he ever came back, time would pass him by. The life he knew in this world would be long gone. You can’t wink out, come back twenty years later, and pick up where you left off. So it was all in or all out.
But it was worth it. Or so he hoped. Just to see her once more would be well worth it.
And he found her. He lost her and he found her. He lost her in this world, but he found her counterpart in the multiverse.
Of course, it wasn’t quite the same Miranda. There were subtle, and sometimes striking, differences in the parallel world. But it was close enough.
There he lived. There she lived. There they lived. Together again, yet never quite together.
She aged, and he aged. He was losing her again. Not to cancer, this time–but natural, inexorable mortality.
The prospect was almost worse than losing her the first time. To have her, and lose her, and have her back, and lose her again. Lost to each other as the insatiable grave claimed its due.
She predeceased him. Leaving him to his particles and surfaces.
On his deathbed, Aaron had a vision of Miranda. It was the old Miranda, who died of cancer so many years ago–in the world he left behind.
Yet she was radiant like an angel. Young again. Immortal. Beatific. Had she come for him?
She came to say farewell. He was leaving her now. Losing her now.
He sought her in the wrong world. There was a world in which he could have had her back–forever, and better than ever. That invisible world where she went when she died. The invisible world he didn’t believe in. A world beneath and beyond his particles and surfaces.
There was a way into that world from the old world he left behind. Yet you didn’t get there by a spaceship.
And now it was too late. In the parallel world he now inhabited, there was no way to reach her. From where she was, she could come to him–but from where he was, he couldn’t go to be with her.
She kissed him. Then he watched her fade away, inch-by-inch, until only her serene, piercing eyes were left–like binary stars in the enveloping darkness. And then she returned to her distant constellation.