There was spaghetti, oil, garlic, and equations all over the kitchen. She had a habit of working out problems on the walls and countertops with pencils, pens, and markers while she tried to cook, which she was doing when she made the discoveries that won her acclaim in Berkeley and Cambridge and Vienna and Tehran, but which gave her the third degree burns down her legs when she spilled the pan of hot oil and garlic, and the pot of boiling water with spaghetti, in her excitement to get down the last figures, sending her to the emergency room where she passed out from the pain and was quickly shot up with morphine, which knocked her equations sideways into her notes on Styrofoam cups and napkins on the bedside table the moment she woke, and covered most of the pillowcase and the top of both hands and even some figures running across the IV patch and tube and drip bag over her head, inventions popularized as “burn geometry,” documented and memorialized in tributes to her work that followed. The last two relationships didn’t end because of her ignorance of the kitchen, but she became interested in thought experiments where incredible cooking skills changed certain values in an interesting way. She followed the train of pain and figures where they went, which was a startling, trancing yet dreary place, as startling as new thoughts can be, as trancing as the drugs, as dreary as the constant pain and slow recovery. In the case of her work it was the drear of vast stretches of follow-up work, the filling in of gaps, the dotting of i’s and the crossing of t’s and the standard modeling criteria expected of her work by her advisor and one time lover, now on and off frenemy, who badgered and hectored and bedeviled her to make her work follow and meet the more conventional tests and proofs while it could be published, which she conceded was a necessary discipline but that pissed her off and bored her and filled her with exasperation, much as her former lover now advisor had done, with his expectations of monogamy, deference, even marriage in the relationship, though her own attempts at an open relationship had been even worse, sending her into rages of jealousy, knocking her work and life sideways, upside down and into something very much resembling the drear and glory of academia, morphine and third-degree burns.
When she returned to lecturing there was no spark or interest in passion, relationships or love. Only work. She refused to wear pants and became a subject of fascination, horror, speculation and longing for the bright red splash of scars down her legs. Some female students winced at the imagined pain, some males saw equations or Persian poetry in the scars, and non-binary students fell in and out of love with something, or someone they could not place or locate. Something vibrated like quantum decoherence, different frequencies all at once, a desire in no one’s body, in forms that did not conform to three dimensions, inside what could not contain, but did. It gave the inside a shape and volume it could not hold from without. Her work had implications for many fields, including biotechnology, and the surface properties of synthetic skin, which she never used.
Gregg Williard's fiction and non-fiction has been published or is forthcoming in Shenandoah, New England Review, Litro, Blaze Vox, Free State Review and Lady Mob's Tea House. He teachs ESL to refugees in Madison, Wisconsin and hosts a late night book reading show on WORT radio.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.