The knapsack problem How to write a book / P and NP / leaving home
“OK, I think I am ready to sleep with you!”
This proposition left me both shocked and flattered, and also feeling a variety of other emotions, but shock was all that came out from my immediate reaction - it was a typical mathematicians’ shock, one of a person who cannot escape from the daunting feeling that they got something wrong, shock that, although useful when solving maths problems, had gotten me in a lot of issues in social situations, as although the way you react wouldn’t make any difference when you are standing in a room, facing a white sheet of paper (or more often one that has some lines written and then crossed out) the situation is quite different when you are with another person - in this case, as I learned later, your primal reactions are, for a variety of reasons, best kept suppressed, depending of course of what your goal is, or whether you have one.
In my situation I didn’t have any goal, but still I managed to disappoint myself of myself: I started throwing stupid questions at Anna ( “But why?”, “Didn’t you said you are a virgin?”) which made her feel more uncomfortable than if I had turned down her suggestion (which wasn’t even a suggestion, but just a comment) and at the same time robbed me of the possibility to agree with it, ultimately making her retract from her thrust, and, perhaps, lust for me: whatever it was that she felt, she no longer felt it or at least she didn’t want to express it in the way she wanted to express it originally and instead she apologized in a way that made it sound like wanting to sleep with someone is some kind of insult and then went on to blame her “outburst” on the stress she felt from her time in the facility and on Catherine, whom she continued talking for the whole time we were walking, claiming that the only reason she wanted to sleep with me was because Catherine was obviously sleeping with Alex and she was always subconsciously copying her.
It was then, when I learned the whole story regarding the relationship between Anna and Cathy: Anna’s parents were long-time friends with Cathy’s and had been comparing the two children’s development since they were infants, however Catherine’s parents became much richer and successful over the years which made Anna’s parents all the more demanding towards their only daughter, and more determined to use her success as a way to get back to Catherine’s parents, who also didn’t have other children. So when, for example, Ann started falling behind in terms of school grades, she was quick to find herself taking private lessons, of course at the same place where Catherine was going.
At first, Ann tried to emulate some aspects of the idealized version of Catherine that her parents were seeing - one that neither got high, nor went to parties as the real Catherine did (up to a point she was pretty successful at leading her double life without anyone knowing), and she quickly realized that it (this version) was completely made up and incompatible with reality. However instead of impelling her to abandoning the goal, this realization made Anna to know more and be more like the real Catherine. So at one point when Catherine went out for a drink, she pretended that she had wanted to try alcohol for a long time but didn’t have anyone to provide her with it and then, after they got drunk together, pretended that she liked it very much and she wanted to try again. But even being close with Catherine didn’t help Anna from feeling like she was “missing the point” as she herself put it that night - “The thing that unnerved me is that everything about her was move vivid, she was better than me both in studying and in having fun, you know? And in terms of personality, all I had was my dirty chats, while she slept till 2 PM each Saturday, I didn’t even dare to ask her how she had spend her Fridays evening.”
My response was rude, but the naivety of her last remark made me want to put a stop to all this train of thought: “Perhaps crying in despair and trying to kill herself?” I said, as earlier I had learned that this was indeed the day of the week and hour when Cathy had attempted suicide, “Probably, but let me ask you something: Didn’t you want to kill yourself at some point? And if yes, than what made you hesitant to do it? Your strong will to live? Or just simple fear?” and when I told her that there is nothing wrong with fear she didn’t answer anything, which made me stop the whole conversation with her, or rather to continue it in the form of a monologue and without sharing my thoughts with her. I ended it by telling her that I didn’t think she was in any way wrong. What I didn’t tell her (for fear of being misunderstood) was that she didn’t have to copy anyone in order to be strong, nor did she have to kill herself in order to overcome her fears, but that was because I myself was (and am) unsure of it, in the same way as I am unsure how being alive compares with being dead. The only thing I was sure was that this relationship (the one between Anna and Catherine) felt wrong to me. Indeed, at that moment I thought that any attempt to emulate a person, living or imaginary, was wrong as I felt that it cannot ever be successful, but why so, again I didn’t know - perhaps it was that our brain somehow always picked up the wrong aspect, the wrong person, the wrong way to imitate. Or perhaps there was some peculiarity in the way that the world is build that forbids our personalities from being modeled after any kind of other representation, like that mysterious second law of thermodynamics, that forbids order being created from chaos, destroying any possible pattern in any possible system, making sure that nothing that makes sense for us stays that way for long. At any rate, our uniqueness is perhaps the single biggest source of stress in our life, as well as potential source of joy which, however, few of us know how to utilize.
I wanted to tell Anna something that would at once get her away from all the troubles that she was soaked into, but I couldn’t think of anything and my failure left me so anxious that I spent the rest of the way worrying that that someone at the facility would notice that we are missing, but we actually arrived pretty quickly and nobody seemed to care that we had left, which again made me anxious - before that going outside seemed like a rebellious act, now it looked more like a useless wander that we underwent, not as a strive towards freedom, but just for a lack of better thing to do.
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