Me, Cinderella?

By: Aubrey Rose

“Get Shannon to do it.” Mark shrugged. “She’ll do it if you tell her what it’s for.”

“Sure, get Shannon to do it.” Quentin said, flipping a textbook page. “Can we get on with this problem set already?”

“Sure, how did you get that number nine was an equivalence relation?”

Quentin let his chair fall forward to the ground with a loud crack. Two students at the other end of the library perked their heads up like meerkats at the sound, but Mark and Quentin were already bent over, hot in debate about whether or not the relation in number nine had the symmetric property.

After we had finished a couple of problems, Mark turned to me and spoke softly. “You better ask your roommate soon if you want her to cover your shift. This is important to you, right?”

“Yeah.” I swallowed the lump in my throat. I didn’t want to talk about it here. Not in front of Quentin. Mark only knew my secret because of an accidental slip of the tongue, and I wasn’t about to let Quentin see my pain, too.

“Hey, did you see the weather for tomorrow?” I asked, hoping to change the subject.

“We heard on the radio that it might snow for another three days,” Quentin said. “Do you know what that idiot newscaster said about it snowing today? ‘What are the chances?’ she said. ‘What are the chances?’ I hate it when non-math people talk about probability. “

“What are the chances of it snowing today?” Mark said.

“The chances are one hundred percent,” Quentin said. “Do you know how I know?”

“Because you know everything,” I said, placing my chin on top of my folded hands.

“Because it is snowing,” Quentin said. “That’s how I know.”

“But… it could’ve not snowed,” I said.

“Wrong.” Quentin wasn’t one to mince words.

“Wait. Is this that thing with the destiny and the quantum physics you’ve been going on about all week?” Mark said. He waved one hand in front of his face. “Wait. Brynn. Don’t get him started.”

“Every particle in the universe has led us up to this point,” Quentin said. “Every quark of every atom of every molecule has led us here.”

“Great. Now you got him started.”

“Every single snowflake falling outside of this window was created due to the interaction of millions and millions of particles over billions and billions of years. Because it is falling, it was meant to fall. There was no other way for it to happen.”

Mark leaned back in his chair and put his hands on top of his head. “Thanks, philosopher king. See what I told you, Brynn? This is worse than that one month he decided to go vegetarian.”

“I did go vegetarian, you idiot. I’m still vegetarian.”

“So there’s no such thing as probability?” I asked. “Like, if everything has to happen in a particular way, then everything that happens has one hundred percent probability.”

“Exactly,” Quentin said. “Well, no. If you have perfect initial conditions, then you can theoretically figure out what will happen in the next step of the universe.”

“Perfect initial conditions.”

“So everything has to happen in a certain way,” Mark said. “Isn’t that predetermination? Like, God?”

“There is no God.” Quentin said. “It’s just physics.”

I let my head fall forward onto the table in mock relief. “Whew! Glad that’s settled. Guess we can do some of this homework now.”

“What do you think, Brynn?” Mark asked, not letting the subject drop. “God or physics? Or free will?”

“Or ghosts,” Quentin said. “Don’t forget ghosts.”

“I am one hundred percent indifferent to matters of fate,” I said, picking up my pen. “Sorry to bring it up. Let’s do these homework problems.”

“I bet you think it’s fate,” Quentin said, but turned to the next question along with me.

If fate was guiding my life, it was doing a piss poor job of it, I thought. And although on the surface I agreed with Quentin, I had to think that there was something else to the way the universe worked. I couldn’t accept the fact that my mother’s death had sentenced me to such a horrible fate just by chance. If randomness had broken my life, how could I hope to put together the pieces myself? I had to believe in some kind of free will, or at least a rational destiny, that would give some meaning to the darkness that had crept into my world.

Three hours later, we had untangled most of the thorniest questions in the homework set. Question nine hung between us unanswered, with Mark and Quentin still arguing over symmetry on a subtle point in the relation’s definition. The caffeine had long since disappeared from my system, and I covered my mouth in a deep yawn.

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