Schrödinger’s Lost Proposal

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I have his book. The one that was missing. Don’t ask me how, but I have it. And he wrote everything down, afraid that one day he’d be old and not remember. The covers of the book are black leather and the pages have yellowed with age and the writing on each page looks like scratches in ink.
And he speaks in the book of his wife, Annie, calling her ugly and detestable. And she was always talking, in hiss-spit whispers, and sniffing like she had a cold, and the dry rustle of her skirts as she fidgeted in her chair was an irritation to him. A hellish distraction, he said she was, and he could not ever work if she was by him. And he must work, he said. So, he paid an assistant to take his wife to dinner in order that he might concentrate on other business.
Erwin Schrödinger, and he sits in his study and he is not alone. A girl that he had taken a fancy to sits beside him. Her name is Lena. And he wrote of her in the book, pages and pages describing her beauty, and everything measured and noted in neat tables. And he reported the effect she had on him, the increase in his pulse and his vision a little blurred, and how she excited him and he heard music when she was near, and his thoughts in those Lena-beside-him moments reached towards a new clarity. And Schrödinger took scientific papers to bed and a sharpened pencil and between kisses and caresses he made notes on this theory or that, seeing through everything to a newer truth.
And Lena was only seventeen, a student of his, and she wanted to know how things were and how they would be. And Schrödinger’s cat lay curled up at the foot of the bed and he held one finger in the air, calling Lena to quiet. She could hear the purring of the sleeping cat, and Schrödinger’s pen scritch-scratching the paper, and finally some small triumph: a solution arrived at.
And he leapt from his bed to unlock and open a drawer in his desk, and he lifted a small velvet box from the drawer and held it out for Lena to see.
She was excited, lit up like the young can be, and she shook and was lost for words, almost she was.
‘Are you serious?’ she asked him. ‘Do you mean it? Really? And Annie?’
It is all there in his little black book. The one that is lost, except it is also found. And in the book Erwin Schrödinger does not open the box and he does not let Lena open it either. Instead he offers up a paradox and leaves it as a puzzle for her to play with.
‘In this box,’ he says, ‘there may be a ring and there may not be a ring. It might be made of gold and studded with blue and white diamonds, or it might not be anything at all. Indeed, inside the box there is at the same time a ring and not a ring. So long as the box remains closed, we can hold both statements to be true.’
Lena in his bed and she laughed. She thought it was a game he was playing and so like him to be gently teasing her.
‘Why don’t I just open the box?’ she said. ‘Then we would know for certain.’
The cat’s tail twitched and Schrödinger thought she might be dreaming or she might not be. And if she was dreaming, he did not know what shape those cat-dreams could be, if a cat dreamed in pictures or words or smells.
‘If you open the box,’ said Schrödinger, ‘then it will only be one thing and not the other.  And we should all be the poorer for that. Keep the lid of the box closed and we can have all possibilities at once.’
Lena was not a bright student, and Schrödinger was so serious and spoke in earnest, and so she nodded and did not attempt to open it, but kept looking over her shoulder to see that there was at least a box.
And Schrödinger kissed her and touched her neck with his fingers and he said, here and now, that she was everything to him, and he read over a difficult scientific proof and thought he could see a sudden way through it.
There the book ends. And it is only one of a whole life in little black books that he wrote, but this one was mislaid until now. And the detestable Annie remained Schrödinger’s wife, outliving him by four years; and Lena was just one possibility - there were other students after her and maybe they slept with their teacher or maybe they did not; or they did and they didn’t, both at the same time. Just so long as the bedroom door was kept shut, and Annie out to dinner, and the covers of the lost and found book closed, then all possibilities could exist.


About the Author: 
Lindsay Fisher has work published in 'Stories For Homes' an anthology produced for the UK charity Shelter. Lindsay also has a cat; sometimes the cat is in a box and then it both exists and doesn't exist... but Lindsay always opens the box again.

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