art by Jonathan Westbrook
Things Exist by Imitation of Numbers
by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Golden ratio: In mathematics and the arts, two quantities are in the golden ratio if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one. The Greeks usually attributed discovery of this concept to Pythagoras or his followers. Approx. value 1.61803398874989--symbol φ, first known written definition dates from Euclid's Elements c. 300 BC.
For those who had eyes to see, there were signs. Clea ate beanless vegetarian burritos. Entering a room with a mirror, she turned off the lights. She couldn't listen to most music--she didn't like the tuning. And then there was the silence.
Clea's silence was absorbing and addictive. She looked straight into your eyes. You had, not only her full attention, but more of your own than you'd ever felt before. It wasn't awkward, it wasn't urgent. The silence of clouds driven across a summer sky.
Clea's silence, infectious, spread across the tables of the Student Union bistro. Undergrads, grad students, faculty, security guards, looked up from their books and cash registers, noticing each other.
It was kind of weird, and it didn't last long; conversation filtered back, a warm buzz refilling the space. But it was noteworthy. Clive noted it. He asked.
"I spent five years without speaking, once," Clea said.
Clive couldn't believe it--she was only, what, twenty-six? When would these five years have been? "Jesus. Did your parents raise you in some ashram or something?"
Clea blinked, and looked uncomfortable, which was unusual for her.
He didn't know what he suspected. An affair, a hidden tragedy? Maybe a secret life as a spy? She was a postdoc with a specialization in combinatorics; some of her colleagues got intelligence jobs, but they got them at job fairs, with cushy commutes to Langley or Cambridge. No need for secret meetings in parking lots.
But Clea as a spook was less absurd than Clea having an affair.
That first night--on his beat up corduroy salvage couch in his tiny living room--his hands had shivered on his beer bottle (she didn't drink), and when he'd lunged to kiss her, she'd put a palm on the center of his chest, stopped him. "Wait," she'd said, never looking away. "Tell me more about this. You want to kiss me. Tell me why. Tell me how your attitudes and expectations will change. Think for yourself. Carefully." As if assigning homework.