We drove to the coast. I like the feel of surf upon my chest. My eyes closed, my back against the sand. Sun a red blur through my eyelids, the universe calling. The pulse and froth of water, the beat of the moon. She called it work. I would never call it work. Red sun, the beat of the moon, this is a pleasure. The rest is only the natural application of a life.
Can we go somewhere? she said. I want to talk.
She drives, I don’t. She has a car, parked up beside the lab. But she doesn’t drive. We walk down the new tarmac of the complex. A green summer. The sky bare, so far it being only early evening. Reduced from its significance. Only at night can I see. I mean that insipidly. Shall I tell you what I can see in that blue? We passed under the radio telescope. The vast white structures. The disk. The universe pouring in. I dislike breaks from routine. But I came. I like the regulation of a frequency. I came because there was a sense off obligation. Odd that I control all of this. Empire, I think of when I see it, all of my worldly…
What? Anyway, we enter the forest of pines. Sand fraying from the base of the trunks. In the distance, the sea a blue smear. I would walk here when I first came to the complex. I would be driven by a colleague. It’s a delusion, but an acceptable one, that being close to nature somehow inspires.
She talks. About the last time. My theory is that light creates channels towards its source. Think of light as solid. No. Tunnels. You will imagine a tunnel beaming out from a sun. It is only that the tunnels diffuse. They disintegrate. They diffuse at the end of the tunnel nearest to us, in our perspective. This is the wrong word. You need the maths. This is laughable. I laugh a surprising amount. I don’t understand how you don’t understand. You don’t understand how I don’t understand. Not everyone is so fucking clever. We walk. She is no longer talking. For someone who has things to say, she says very little. I say this to her. You are so fucking clever. I consider myself chastised.
She talks about where we first met. A conference in India. My presence required to seek out funding. Awkward meetings. Talks. You feel like another language. Translators relaying. No one can translate. Ideas that are their own separate language, complex and imprecise. At night I dream the actual shape of a sun. The raised magnificence of its complexity. Data like sperm furious around an egg. We met here. She asks for my phone number. Minnows in a tank. Words don’t do it justice. I find it difficult to comprehend a child. A television programme. That someone might commit an act not connected to their essence.
It was late. We drank red wine. She’d actually sent me a text message. I was very nervous. I drank red wine. Even then we were at work. The blue carpet, the drinks machine. My office with its computers. My laboratory. A chair, a table. The artwork. The view outside the window. Freckled shadow of leaves. A sunken lawn, a sculpture. Blue tack on the floor. An intake of breath, the imagined ecstasy of death. To dissolve into the fabric. I experienced an odd feeling of completion as she undressed.
Her first marriage had gone wrong. I don’t know what this means. We were walking by the river. I tried to explain my theory. Like the river, I said. Solid and intricate. You follow the river. So you can follow light. This is really to under describe. Space travel, you mean, she said. Yes, I replied. She would think of astronauts and space craft. This was unfortunate. Aliens shaking hands with men in silver suits. This was impossible. Consciousness, I said, is both the vehicle and the messenger. The frequency of light and the frequency of thought. I don’t tell her. The feel of waves upon my chest, the way I felt diffused. This is the wrong word. The way I was gone. Part of the sea, I said. She is an administrator. She helps me to feed. That time, we were walking by the river. And now we walking towards the sea.
That time in India. I stayed on, flew out to an island. A resort. Lots of straw huts gathered around a pier. You would have hated it. I wanted you to come, but I couldn’t ask you. The look on your face. I realise, now, that I was happier without you there.
One time, I went swimming off a reef. I dropped off the side of a boat and dived. Swimming like that, it’s just like flight. Over the coral, over the sand, over the shells and fish. You feel a sense of power, of authority. You’re protected, aloof. I dived deeper and deeper. Flying. Soaring downwards. And when I was done, when it was my time, I turned back. I flew up towards the light. I flew through the light.
I didn’t know what to say.
If I looked along the coast, I could see the radio telescope inland. The white disc, appearing behind a line of trees. Beaming into the universe, gauging, calculating. Communicating.
I reached for her hand. Our fingers touched. For one second. Two. She let the fingers slide from mine, her arm dropping to her side.
And said: I don’t want to do this any more.