The knapsack problem How to write a book / P and NP / leaving home
“I hate this place” I heard the voice of Alex who’d suddenly found himself right next to me (although most likely he had actually been there all along, just without me noticing) “You wanna go for a smoke? Sometimes we go in the backyard, to smoke,” he waved his hand, pointing at an opened window, which, because we were at the ground floor, could be used as a door, which was facing the yard - a gesture that, although delivered with a quite plain and emotionless tone of voice stroke me as most flattering, not only because inviting me with him, meant that he believed me to be better than the rest of the people in the room, a more worthy company etc, but more importantly he saw me as all that without knowing almost anything about me, a fact that I actually found irreconcilable with the way I imagined that social code worked in general - in my mind each social circle or clique had a certain set of principles, like the principle of competitiveness in my school, which I sometimes saw as the axioms of a formal system, and the criteria for acceptance for its members that were derived from these principles not only provided control over who had access to the group but more importantly it created a social context for the conversations that were to take place there. Inviting random people to a group meant that it did not adhere to such principles, which in turn meant that there everything was possible in terms of social context (just like in logic everything can follow from falsehood). The invite, in that respect was a carte blanche for me to act in whatever way I decided and be whoever I pleased. And not only that, but it constituted the encouragement to do so. With it, Alex was saying that he not only liked me, but he would potentially like any of the people that could be living in my brain, which were, otherwise, completely different from each other (save for the fact that all of them liked slipping annoying math metaphors into any innocent train of thought (and also all of them would like that joke as well, I think)).
I took Alex’s hand (he was helping me go through the window) and then I turned around and saw that the girl who I talked to a few minutes ago was right behind me, this was the one who looked somewhat reluctant to talk to me after we exchanged a few initial words, but at that time her enthusiasm had returned and she was waving at me. After I was out, Alex reached out to help her, but she ignored his hand and jumped from the window herself in a very clumsy manner, almost hitting me and almost falling off her feet in the process. Later, when I would get very close, even intimately close with this girl (Anna) I would understand that she ignored Alex’s help mainly because of the self-esteem issues, but then it seemed to me that she was just being snobbishly-individualistic (which was often the same thing but at that time I didn’t know that as well) and so I was immediately drawn to her, albeit partially unsuccessful, attempt to show us that we are useless and herself - independent.
While Anna was still getting up and fixing her dress, Alex rushed towards the fence and left me alone with her. The noises from the room had almost completely fainted when we exited the building, resulting in a silence which was making me uneasy, but which, due to my despise for small talk, I didn’t know how to break without making the situation even more uncomfortable, “So what are you in for?” I heard Anna’s question which, if I were sat, would have made me jump from my chair, while also being exactly the kind of thing that I would have asked her if I weren’t afraid she would consider it inappropriate, “I was caught with a few marijuana cigarettes,” I told her the short version, “And you?”, but instead of answering she just waved her hand in an ironic gesture that was very customary to her and told me something like “You know, the usual stuff,” in a tone of voice that almost made me uncomfortable that I don’t know what the usual stuff is, but at the same time angered me, like all those math textbooks and white papers that would introduce a theorem or some other kind of result without giving any kind of reference, whose authors I’d always considered full of shit, regardless if their refraining from citing their sources out of laziness, or out of some desire to show us that they are so smart and educated that for them stuff like this is so obvious that it goes without saying. I initially, meant to show my annoyance by just ending the conversation as I usually do, but at the same time the reverse idea also came to mind, as if coming from some shadowy alter ego of mine who (the alter ego) later also took over my decision process and proceeded to act on my behalf - “Sorry, what’s that ‘usual stuff’?” I said with a harsh tone of voice.
I was worried whether I was being authentic, though what does authenticity even mean when it comes to personalities - we all basically say and do things that we have seen somewhere and then we stick with them if they bring us good results. If I have to give a definition of authenticity, it would be along the lines of doing things without regard from their outcome, but if that was the case, aiming for authenticity was by definition paradoxical, and not really worth thinking about.
“You are cute,” Ann’s response/reaction was weird, and it left me overwhelmed, so much that I didn’t even have the capacity to consider whether she was being honest and wasn’t trying to play me to stop asking her about her past (like I said, I was even unsure whether my own reaction that provoked her reaction was authentic). But they both (the reactions) felt real and that is what I, then, deemed most important, plus I happened to find Anna beautiful as well - clothes, hair, makeup, body silhouette had all been accounted for, as well as some specific gentle mannerisms without which one does not appear (even with all of the above aspects in place) truly attractive. I thanked her for the compliment and from then on the conversation started going lightly, carrying us through various subjects by our mutual effort to enumerate everything that connected us (we were both from Sofia, we both liked reading books etc.) Very soon I would learn that those weren’t really the strong points in our eventual relationship (because her family was much richer than mine, the Sofia she was from was quite different from the one I was from, and although we both liked books, we did so for quite different reasons - I used them to enrich my understanding of reality and for her they replaced reality completely). Indeed, after knowing her better, I was amazed by the fact that we were able to converse on so deep level with each other at that first meeting, without her leaving the usual kind of reality that she was inhabiting, but it was probably because I wasn’t being myself at that time as well.
At that time, Alex was sitting on the run-down bench at the end of the yard, which was surrounded from all sides with thick trees, and making out with a girl called Catherine, who was a friend of Anna, though, as I would learn later, the two had, despite their best efforts, nothing in common (although from first glance they looked like twins) In general, there were many things about Anna that I wish I knew her better before I had met her, but again if I knew her better, there would be no way for me to understand her on the level that I did when my first impression of her entirely false.
When I saw her, Catherina was sitting on Alex’s lap and hugging him, or rather making him hug her and enjoying how his arms were wrapped around her body. Catherine was, like Anna, attractive and they also studied in the same private school, although Catherine was accepted with a scholarship and Anna wasn’t, a fact which they constantly reminded to each other half-jokingly, although both of them actually took it quite seriously, probably because both were aware, as almost everyone else, that Catherine was much better than Anna at school, as well as at everything else. And maybe this was the point that divided them from each other and made them at a deeper level, as different from each other, as superficially similar they were on the outside. That was not so much a result of Catherine’s supremacy per se, but rather of their awareness of it and the way they chose to threat it. This awareness was making the story of their friendship a sad one, creating in Catherine’s own words “something of a Hegelian master/slave dialectics”. Please take some time to look up this term before continuing reading this book (I am joking, haha).
There are more things that I didn’t know, but I will spare you those and let you experience what I experienced through the story. In short, I was in a good company.
The knapsack problem How to write a book / P and NP / leaving home
Meeting my roommate Alex / Picking friends / Who am I / How switching places would solve both of our issues
Hallway Church and Turing / Being stupid
X Nerd stereotypes / How I got my nickname / Establishing connection with my younger self
Good company Social code / Anna / Catherine
Fence Outside / Not being punished / Discreet and continuous models
Outside This or nothing / The moon / Fractals / Me and Alex / Explanations / Is the world mathematical
What are we in for Anna's kinky alter ego / Marijuana
What are we in for contd The conformist choice / Taboos / Dichotomies /Marijuana
Back to the facility Anna and Cathy / Trying to be like other people / Sleeping with Anna
The sleepover Anna's childish behavior / Critics / Boring robots / Adoring Anna
The sleepover contd Irony / Heroes and deserters / Retreat to where? / Real and ideal / Choices
Us and them The uncut book pages / Envy
Sex Anna's fantasy / What makes us weird / The establishment and being normal
Cigarettes Alex's good night sleep / About me and Alex again / Sex and love / The proof that P does not equal NP