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Decoherence is a Lady

Lynne Sargent is a writer, aerialist, and philosophy Ph.D candidate currently studying at the University of Waterloo. Their work has been nominated for Rhysling and Aurora Awards, and has appeared in venues such as Augur Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Plenitude. Their first collection, A Refuge of Tales is out now from Renaissance Press. To find out more, reach out to them on Twitter @SamLynneS, or for a complete bibliography visit them at scribbledshadows.wordpress.com.
The first time you see her you're at a party. You know what she is the moment you see her; your eyes might as well be rulers, microscopes, polarimeters. She is a free spirit, innocent, driven, naive, the most beautiful thing at this party, a billion times more arresting that whatever dumb movie about glowsticks is playing in the background.
You ask her out, of course you do. You see her every day for the first two weeks. She is radiant, exactly as you thought she'd be. Your measurements are so precise, and she is so perfect. You don't need another go at the experiment to confirm your results.
Then she's gone just as suddenly as she appeared, taking a semester abroad. You keep in touch, but it's different. After all, you don't see her every day anymore. She isn't held in place, committed to being before your eyes, observed. You have the photographs of your brief time together, but the other images, the ones you hold in your mind start to blur.
She returns at the start of summer and is an entirely different creature; it's like you're seeing her through an oppositely polarized screen. You finally get her into bed after waiting so long and you start to question all your earlier recordings. If she's so innocent, how can she be this good? If she's so driven, why is she here with you instead of studying? When she's under your hands you notice how her dimensions have shifted, maybe only millimeters, but to you it's like she has slipped into your arms from some other dimension: still wonderful, but maybe not to be entirely trusted.
Still, things are great, for a while. You fall in love, move in together, introduce her to your family: the works. Later, the fights start. After the worst one she goes to visit her sister for a week, and by the time she comes back you don't even recognize her. That polarized screen isn't just rotated 90 degrees, there are two opposite screens on top of each other and the whole picture is black with your rage and she's just some needy bitch who left you when you were at your lowest. Reality rearranges itself around your new perceptions. You don't even care when she leaves.
Years later and miles away you sit and watch the news. She comes on, an up-and-coming politician. "Huh," you think. You never really saw her as the political type, never mind that the summer she spent away she interned at the Hague, or the days you lazily waved her out the door when she was canvassing for her friend on city council.
You start wondering what else you didn't notice, what else she couldn't be around you because you could only see a fraction of her possibilities at any given time. You held her so firmly, so steady. You were always watching, always sure that what you saw was what existed, because who doesn't trust their own senses? Who doesn't trust the repeated observations of a scientist?
If only you'd let your gaze slip, if only you'd remembered that all that is observable is not all there is. If only you'd realized how seeing her only one way chopped off all her potentialities. If only you saw this for what it was: that you were the one who opened the box and killed the cat.
If only you'd realized that she wasn't just your universe, she was all the goddamned universes at once.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, January 25th, 2021


This story came about from a thought about how major shifts in our lives and who we are tend to happen around our relationships: important friendships beginning and ending, breakups, etc. This happens alongside the fact that we present ourselves as different to different people at different times and in different contexts. Still, our intimate relationships actually shape who we are because we are around those people so much. In this way, toxic relationships can actually diminish us. As a writer I started out as a poet, so I love extended metaphors and this piece really allowed me to dive into the quantum nature of who we are because we exist in the world with other people who see (or don't see) us.

- Lynne Sargent
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