The Silver Year: Chapter 7

Chapter​​ 7

A Boy at Heart

 

 

APRIL​​ 2012

 

“What stays with you most from that day?”​​ she asked​​ sitting on the sofa across from​​ him, pen​​ circling her open​​ notebook.

“It wasn’t seeing him dead,”​​ Walter​​ said.​​ “In fact,​​ he looked quite peaceful.” Her pen began​​ scratching​​ at the pace of his speech across the page. “He​​ even had​​ this​​ smile on his face​​ . . . It was when they put him in a body bag.​​ That faceless bundle of flesh and bone will haunt me forever.​​ It’s amazing the​​ guilt you suddenly feel for being alive when face-to-face with someone who no longer has that privilege.”

“Why would you feel guilt?”​​ she asked.

“I wasn’t always the nicest to​​ Brian.”

“You two didn’t get along?”

“Hardly ever.”

“Why was that?”

“I suppose egos got in the way. We just didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things.”

“What were your last moments with him​​ like?”

“Um…” Walter’s fingers unthinkingly began to fidget in an effort to fight his natural urge to always tell the truth​​ even when he didn’t have to.​​ “I... I... I...​​ Do I have to tell you?”

Her​​ bucktooth grin flashed beneath her​​ chipmunk-like cheeks,​​ making​​ her button nose​​ crinkle​​ adorably​​ between her doting, big,​​ brown eyes.​​ “You don’t have to say anything you don’t want to,”​​ she​​ said. “Remember you reached out to me.​​ This is your story​​ Walter,​​ not Quinn Quark’s, Cirkus’s, or anyone else’s.​​ No​​ one knows about this interview but us.”

Maybe it was​​ the​​ disarming​​ English accent, but​​ somehow she’d​​ become his closest counselor and was pulling things out of him that had long been sewn up, when only an hour earlier, she’d been nothing but a stranger—well not exactly. Francis Jones was​​ Rolling Stone’s foremost​​ reporter, and there was a reason why.

However,”​​ Francis​​ said,​​ I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask. A lot of people want to know what happened that night.”

“And so​​ would I,” Walter said.​​ “But​​ I was pretty​​ much blacked out​​ by the time​​ ‘it’​​ happened, so yeah...​​ Um, do​​ you mind?”​​ he​​ said eyeing a bottle of Jameson​​ and an​​ ice bucket​​ filled with mixers​​ on the coffee table.

“Go ahead,” she said.​​ “That’s why it’s there.” She flashed​​ him​​ another​​ grin.

He poured himself a drink,​​ then leaned back in​​ his​​ armchair.​​ The​​ tranquil​​ glow of​​ Francis’s​​ living room​​ fireplace​​ was​​ dangerously​​ homey,​​ a feeling he hadn’t felt in​​ some time.​​ Although​​ Cirkus​​ had given him some money to get by​​ until the show—what they were​​ promoting as​​ “Quinn Quark’s last and final show”,​​ it was nowhere near enough to get him out of Grandma’s. Also,​​ he was paying for it in other ways.​​ 

Unbeknownst to​​ Walter,​​ his​​ emotional​​ soundcheck​​ performance of “See The Sky About To Rain”​​ had been filmed and recorded. With​​ no single or music video to use​​ for​​ promotion,​​ the​​ label​​ instead​​ pushed​​ the video—one tight shot of​​ his​​ genital-swelling​​ face rolling through the emotions of the song​​ until climaxing in​​ a money shot of tears.​​ Being​​ such an emotional performance​​ and​​ recorded​​ on​​ the day of​​ Perfect Crime’s​​ last​​ performance​​ with Squids,​​ the video​​ quickly​​ became​​ a​​ viral​​ hit​​ amongst​​ rock and indie circles,​​ then​​ spread just​​ as quickly​​ into the general public’s circles, but​​ especially their genitals.​​ The swelling was all anyone​​ could​​ talk about.

After the song became a surprise top ten hit,​​ Quinn Quark​​ was then hailed as the​​ return of the​​ rock star, even though​​ Quinn Quark was supposed to​​ be​​ dead and​​ the​​ song​​ was far from​​ being​​ rock n’ roll.​​ But America wasn’t really interested in rock n’ roll again, just​​ the idea of having​​ a​​ rock star.​​ Rock stars are like cowboys to Americans;​​ mythologized​​ clichés​​ they loved​​ to resurrect​​ over and over again.

Walter set​​ down​​ his drink and cleared his throat.​​ “While it​​ does​​ feel​​ good​​ to finally talk about​​ Squids’s death,”​​ he​​ said,​​ “I’m not sure this is the right​​ place. I’m sorry. I hope you understand.”

“Of course,”​​ Francis​​ said, however, there was​​ a​​ pinch​​ of exasperation on​​ her​​ face.​​ “So...”​​ she​​ turned​​ a​​ page​​ in​​ her notebook, “...how’s​​ rehearsal​​ going​​ for next month’s show?​​ How’s it been​​ working​​ with​​ Jason?”

“Rehearsals are going great actually. It just feels great to be playing with a band again. I didn’t realize how much I missed it.​​ It’s like not having sex.​​ And Jason, oh man, it’s​​ like a whole​​ new​​ sex​​ now that​​ we​​ have a bassist who can​​ actually​​ play—shit.​​ I​​ shouldn’t have said that—I​​ mean,​​ I​​ didn’t mean to say that.”

You’re​​ fine,​​ Francis said​​ surrendering her pen to the air. “I can leave​​ it​​ outI can leave anything out. This isn’t a live interview. Remember, it’s just​​ us​​ here.​​ 

That’s reassuring, Walter thought. He didn’t have to be perfect. He wasn’t​​ onstage with thousands of eyes​​ stalking​​ him, just two big brown ones; the eyes of​​ a​​ cutesy cartoon forest animal.

“Thanks,”​​ he said. “Um... what I ‘meant’ was, everyone in the band has nothing but the upmost respect for​​ Jason, and it’s inspiring to be playing with someone of his caliber.”

“Does this mean​​ there​​ might be a​​ possibility​​ we’ll​​ see this lineup​​ of Perfect Crime​​ perform again?”​​ Francis​​ asked.

Walter’s​​ face turned sour.​​ No,” he said.​​ Let’s make that perfectly clear.​​ N-O. There will be no Perfect Crime​​ after this show​​ or Quinn Quark.

“But what about your unreleased album,​​ Love Songs in a Minor Crash?”

“I never finished it. And the songs I had​​ written for​​ it, they​​ weren’t​​ right for Perfect Crime.”

“But​​ maybe​​ a solo project?”​​ she asked.​​ 

“Actually, yes,” he said.​​ “I am​​ considering them for​​ a solo project.”​​ 

“Really?”​​ She​​ repositioned​​ herself​​ on the couch, pen ready to transcribe.​​ “What kind of sound is this new project?”​​ 

“Silence,”​​ he answered.​​ Francis’s​​ eyes hung on​​ him​​ for further explanation, but​​ Walter​​ just smiled.

“I’m sorry,” she said,​​ “but​​ I’m not understanding.”​​ 

“It’s a​​ novel,”​​ he said.

“A​​ novel?” She looked to be reshuffling notes in her head.​​ “Why?”

“Personal reasons. But also,​​ I like the privacy of it.​​ With a novel, my​​ physical image​​ doesn’t have to be packaged alongside my art.​​ I​​ also​​ don’t have​​ to relive​​ the emotions​​ of​​ my art night after night​​ on tour.​​ I can just write it, then move onto something else.”

“That’s​​ surprising to hear from someone who seemingly​​ enjoyed​​ performing​​ very much,”​​ Francis​​ said. “What’s​​ this novel​​ about?”​​ 

“Death,​​ life,​​ love, existence—all the typical stuff,”​​ Walter​​ fibbed.​​ So far​​ his​​ novel​​ was about nothing, because​​ other than​​ his​​ lacquered piece of shit​​ that he tore to bits, he’d​​ still​​ written nothing.

“Care to expound​​ a​​ little more?”​​ Her​​ pen​​ rapped​​ frustratedly​​ against her notebook.

“I guess you could also say it’s​​ a revue​​ of sorts,​​ featuring​​ all​​ the women​​ who have shaped​​ me, good and bad.”

“Past lovers?”

“Some.”

“Can you tell me about​​ some of​​ them? Your love life is something of a mystery to most people.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Francis’s button nose crinkled​​ sharply​​ and her lips pursed into a taut circle.​​ “Okay Mister Huxley,” she said, “well,​​ where do you want to go,​​ because I’m not having​​ much​​ luck driving?”

“Anywhere​​ but​​ my past,”​​ he said.

“Okay,​​ let’s​​ continue with​​ the future​​ then. This novel you’re working on, when can​​ we expect it?”

“Sometime,​​ but you won’t​​ know​​ it.​​ I’m releasing it under​​ a​​ penname.”

“Why​​ is that?”

“Because the​​ book​​ can’t make it on the back​​ of​​ my music career.​​ I couldn’t​​ take myself seriously​​ as a writer​​ if​​ it​​ did.​​ That’s why people can’t know I wrote it.”

“So will anyone ever know​​ the author’s true identity?”

“God, I hope not. All I want is to disappear into​​ obscurity after this​​ farewell​​ show.”​​ 

Francis sighed​​ sympathetically​​ as​​ her demeanor shifted gears.​​ “That’s​​ a shame​​ you want to disappear from the world​​ Walter,” she said,​​ “because the world really​​ seems​​ to​​ like you.​​ A​​ lot of great things​​ have been said about you, you know?​​ Some​​ have​​ even called​​ you​​ genius.”

“Genius?”​​ he​​ said chuckling.​​ “I’m a​​ failed​​ songwriter. The one hit song I have is a cover.

“Oh, but I’m not talking about your music career,” she said.​​ “I agree your accomplishments in music have been blown out of proportion.”

Francis then​​ set down​​ her notebook and pen on the coffee table, then​​ picked up a​​ thick​​ binder from the floor​​ Walter​​ hadn’t noticed and​​ opened​​ it​​ across her lap.​​ “Actually,”​​ she​​ said. “I’m​​ talking about your work in physics.”

“Physics?”​​ Walter​​ said.​​ “I was a C-average physics student.”

“Yes, that’s what you tell everyone...” she said thumbing through the binder’s plastic-sheathed pages, “...but​​ there’s also​​ much​​ more to the story.​​ I hope you don’t mind​​ revisiting​​ your past again—just​​ briefly,​​ but​​ I​​ spoke​​ to​​ one of​​ your​​ professors​​ at UCLA,​​ an Alan Schechter,​​ and​​ he​​ said before​​ your junior and senior years,​​ you were the​​ most promising physics student the department had seen in some time.​​ He​​ also​​ showed me your papers. And while he admitted there was a lot wrong with them, he​​ also said…” She read from​​ the binder: “…‘They’re the type of creative​​ genius​​ of someone who could revolutionize physics.’ And​​ that​​ your choice to apply that creative genius to rock music was​​ ‘an unfortunate​​ result of being young and​​ disproportioned​​ in​​ blood flow between​​ brain and penis.’”

Walter laughed. “Sounds like Schechter,” he said.​​ “But​​ what does​​ he​​ know?​​ He was a great teacher, but a failed theorist himself.​​ A whole life wasted chasing dead-end theories. I’m sorry, but I didn’t​​ want to end up like him. He’s gone so crazy now​​ he’s trying to convince naive journalists who haven’t the slightest clue about theoretical physics what’s going to revolutionize it.​​ Probably because they’re the only ones who will take him seriously now.”

“You​​ don’t have to be condescending,”​​ Francis​​ said​​ under her breath.​​ 

“Condescending?” Walter said. “Okay, what’s the uncertainty principle?”​​ She​​ shrugged.​​ “See,​​ naïve journalist who doesn’t​​ know shit​​ about physics.​​ Not condescending,​​ just​​ the truth.”

“But still,​​ you don’t have to be​​ a...”​​ She tried to come up with a​​ polite​​ rebuttal, but went blank.​​ 

A what?” Walter continued​​ his charge.​​ An asshole? Is that what you want to call me? Go ahead,​​ I’ve been called worse. However,​​ the real asshole here​​ is​​ you.​​ This entire interview you’ve been trying​​ to​​ trap me​​ because​​ you​​ thought​​ by putting together some extensive book report on my life you’d​​ know it better than​​ me.​​ And by the way, just because​​ I’m​​ somewhat​​ famous​​ now,​​ that​​ doesn’t mean you have an all-access​​ pass to riffle through my past

“Actually,​​ it​​ does,” she interrupted.​​ “Maybe I don’t know​​ ‘shit about physics’,​​ but​​ I do know​​ shit​​ about media law.”​​ 

“Whatever,” he said.​​ “I’m done.​​ If you think you’re going to prod any more information​​ out of​​ me,​​ you’re nuts.”​​ Walter​​ stood from his chair and walked to​​ the​​ front​​ door.

Seriously?​​ Francis​​ said. “You asked​​ me​​ for this interview.​​ I thought you wanted to introduce​​ the ‘real you’ to the world?​​ But how am I supposed to do that when you won’t tell me anything​​ about you?

“Well,​​ apparently you already​​ know​​ everything,” he said. “What else do you need to know?”

“How about why someone so gifted continually​​ throws away​​ his​​ talents?​​ Songwriter, physicist, and now you tell me writer. You’re so much more than Quinn Quark​​ the one-hit rock star​​ and I​​ just​​ want​​ the world​​ to​​ know.​​ Isn’t that what you want​​ too, for people to know the​​ ‘real you’?”

Walter stood silent, contemplating.​​ “No​​ actually,” he​​ then​​ said.​​ “I’m sorry​​ Francis,​​ but​​ this​​ was​​ a mistake.”​​ He opened her front door​​ and began to leave.

“Walter stop,” she​​ begged​​ as she ran to the front door. “Why?”

“Because​​ the real me is not who you think​​ he​​ is. Wanna know the truth? I have no​​ novel, not a single​​ page. So cross off writer.” He slashed an​​ invisible pen over the air. “And some crackpot ideas I had while smoking too much pot in college doesn’t classify me as a physicist either; in fact, it’s just an​​ insult to the field.​​ So we’ll cross​​ that​​ off too.​​ I guess I’ll give you​​ songwriter, but​​ as​​ of next month I’m officially resigned of that title​​ also. So there it is: I’m​​ an over-hyped,​​ title-less nobody who can’t commit himself to​​ anyone or​​ anything; just a big fucking face for people to​​ talk​​ about, that’s all.​​ You know, sometimes I wish nature hadn’t made me so brilliant if that’s what I really am. It’d sure make things a lot easier. I envy the average man; the person who can float through life blissfully ignorant​​ of the world,​​ because... because​​ fuck the world!”

The front door​​ then​​ struck​​ its frame like a thunderbolt.​​ 

 

Walter​​ tried to​​ walk​​ to his car,​​ but​​ only made it to​​ the​​ curb in front of​​ Francis’s​​ house. Her unanswered​​ questions​​ began to​​ sting at him like tiny ants.

She’s right,” he said​​ sitting, his head tilted to the night sky.​​ But​​ why?​​ . . .​​ Why-why-why-why?​​ Why​​ Walter—or​​ whoever the fuck you are today, why​​ do​​ you​​ always​​ throw away​​ everything good​​ for something uncertain?​​ Physics for rock stardom, rock stardom for writing, Amber for​​ Catherine—what’s next and when will it stop?​​ But​​ please, just stop. I can’t take any​​ more pain.

A​​ cycle​​ then​​ began​​ to formulate.​​ Every​​ time something became too​​ comfortable,​​ he abandoned it​​ for​​ something new and more​​ challenging.​​ He couldn’t stand​​ to be comfortable, to be stable—to be bored.

“But then who am I?”​​ he​​ asked. “What am​​ I? Can I still be​​ or should​​ I​​ be asking these questions at​​ twenty-five? I can’t keep going around like this,​​ flirting with everything life has to offer. I have to stick to something, stick to someone. I have to be an adult . . . But I like new things. I like to dream. I like change.​​ I like being​​ single.​​ Why does it have to stop?​​ Why does life have to revolve around one resolute identity?”​​ 

The dilemma of being twenty-five.​​ Walter​​ had grown into a man, but was still very much a boy​​ at heart.

“Who are you talking to?”​​ Francis​​ asked​​ from​​ her doorway.​​ Walter stirred​​ to​​ his​​ feet​​ in surprise.

“Um…​​ myself,”​​ he replied.

“You realize that’s kind of​​ crazy,​​ right?”

“Guilty as charged,”​​ he said then sat back down.

She​​ scoffed and​​ shook her head.​​ “So what’s your deal?” she​​ said. “Do you really hate being famous?​​ Does it​​ really​​ drive you​​ that​​ crazy that​​ people recognize you​​ sometimes; that you impact their lives?”

“Just because people recognize me doesn’t mean I affect​​ their​​ lives.​​ I recognize Kim Kardashian, but if she​​ never existed​​ I think my world would be no different.”​​ 

But​​ you​​ don’t​​ represent the world​​ Walter.​​ Kim Kardashian may have no impact on you, but she sure​​ does on the rest of the world—and that’s important. If there’s one thing I’ve learned​​ as an​​ actual​​ writer,​​ it’s that​​ you can’t be so consumed in your own world that you​​ forget about​​ the​​ actual​​ one. Kim Kardashian, as unfortunate as it may sound​​ to you, is the real world.

“Since I’ve already tanked my interview...”​​ Francis​​ continued,​​ putting her hands to her hips, “I’m just going to be brutally honest with you​​ now:​​ you​​ need​​ to​​ buck the fuck up and stop being such a whiny bitch.​​ Yeah, you’ve been dealt some​​ bad​​ cards​​ lately, but​​ there’s a lot worse curses that could be placed on​​ you​​ than being intelligent,​​ multi-talented,​​ good-looking,​​ and famous.​​ Also,​​ if​​ you​​ think writer is the answer to freeing you​​ from​​ fame, you’ll be sorely mistaken.​​ If your intention is to have an impact on people, whether it be through a song, a​​ story, or​​ even​​ a​​ theory, you’re​​ also​​ going to have to deal with them—deal with being famous.​​ People​​ don’t connect with ideas​​ insomuch as they​​ connect with​​ other​​ people.”

Her voice then softened as she walked and sat beside him. “And I know at one point you had no problem connecting with other people,” she said,​​ “especially on a stage.​​ You also loved doing interviews. But I can understand why you’re not so trusting of people now and maybe don’t want to do​​ one. You’re still healing and​​ people aren’t making it easy, including me.”

“No...” Walter said​​ quietly. “You were just trying to do your job, the job I asked you to do.”

Thank you for understanding . . . So, are you going to let me finish it, or am I​​ going to​​ have to​​ call the cops​​ and tell them some madman is talking​​ to himself in​​ my front lawn?

String Theory in 1000 Words (Kind Of)

string-theory-1024x576

By Bradley Stockwell

Because my last two posts were quite lengthy, I’ve decided to limit myself to 1000 words on this one. Before I begin, I must credit the physicist Brian Greene for much of the insight and some of the examples I’m going to use. Without his book The Elegant Universe, I wouldn’t know where to begin in trying to explain string theory.

In short, string theory is the leading candidate for a theory of everything; a solution to the problem of trying to connect quantum mechanics to relativity. Because it has yet to be proven experimentally, many physicists have a hard time accepting it and think of it as nothing more than a mathematical contrivance. However, I must emphasize, it has also yet to be disproven; in fact many of the recent discoveries made in particle physics and cosmology were first predicted by string theory. Like quantum mechanics when it was first conceived, it has divided the physics community in two. Although the theory has enlightened us to some features of our universe and is arguably the most beautiful theory since Einstein’s general relativity, it still lacks definitive evidence for reasons that’ll be obvious later. But there is some hope on the horizon. After two years of upgrades, in the upcoming month, the LHC—the particle accelerator that discovered the Higgs Boson (the God Particle), will be starting up again to dive deeper into some of these enlightenments that string theory has given us and may further serve as evidence for it.

So now that you have a general overview, let’s get to the nitty gritty. According to the theory, our universe is made up of ten to eleven dimensions, however we only experience four of them. Think about the way in which you give someone your location. You tell them you’re on the corner of Main and Broadway on the second floor of such-and-such building. These coordinates represent the three spatial dimensions: left and right, forward and back and up and down that we’re familiar with. Of course you also give a time in which you’ll be at this three dimensional location and that is dimension number four.

Where are these other six to seven dimensions hiding then? They’re rolled up into tiny six dimensional shapes called Calabi-Yau shapes, named after the mathematicians who created them, that are woven into the fabric of the universe. You can sort of imagine them as knots that hold the threads of the universe together. The seventh possible dimension comes from an extension of string theory called M-theory, which basically adds another height dimension, but we can ignore that for now. These Calabi-Yau ‘knots’ are unfathomably small; as small as you can possibly get. This is why string theory has remained unproven, and consequently saves it from being disproven. With all the technology we currently possess, we just can’t probe down that far; down to something called the Planck length. To give you a reference point of the Planck length, imagine if an atom were the size of our entire universe, this length would be about as long as your average tree here on Earth.

string_dimensions

Calabi-Yau shapes, or ‘knots’ that hold the fabric of the universe together.

The exact shape of these six dimensional knots is unknown, but it is important because it has a profound impact on our universe. At its core, string theory imagines everything in our universe as being made of the same material, microscopic strings of energy. And just the way air being funneled through a French horn has vibrational patterns that create various musical notes, strings that are funneled through these six dimensional knots have vibrational patterns that create various particle properties, such as mass, charge and something called spin. These properties dictate how a particle will influence our universe and how it will interact with other particles. Some particles become gravity, others become the forces that attract, glue and pull apart matter particles. This sets the stage for particles like quarks to coalesce into protons and neutrons, which interact with electrons to become atoms. Atoms interact with other atoms to become molecules and molecules interact with other molecules to become matter, until eventually you have this thing we call the universe. Amazing isn’t it? The reality we perceive could be nothing more than a grand symphony of vibrating strings.

Many string theorists have tried to pin down the exact Calabi-Yau shape that created our universe, but the mathematics seems to say it’s not possible; that there is an infinite amount of possibilities. This leads us down an existential rabbit hole of sorts and opens up possibilities that the human brain may never comprehend about reality. Multiverse theorists (the cosmology counterparts to string theorists) have proposed that because there is an infinite number of possible shapes that there is an infinite variety of universes that could all exist within one giant multidimensional form called the multiverse. This ties in with another component of the multiverse theory I’ve mention previously; that behind every black hole is another universe. Because the gravitational pull within a black hole is so great, it would cause these Calabi-Yau ‘knots’ to become detangled and reform into another shape. Changing this shape would change string energy vibrations, which would change particle properties and create an entirely new universe with a new set of laws for physics. Some may be sustainable—such as in the case of our universe—or unsustainable. Trying to guess the exact Calabi-Yau shape a black hole would form would kind of be like trying to calculate the innumerable factors that make up the unique shape of a single snowflake.

The multiverse theory along with M-theory also leads to the possibility that forces in other universes, or dimensions, may be stronger or weaker than within ours. For example gravity, the weakest of the four fundamental forces in our universe, may be sourced in a neighboring universe or dimension where it is stronger and we are just experiencing the residual effect of what bleeds through. Sort of like muffled music from a neighbor’s house party bleeding through the walls of your house. The importance of this possibility is gravity may be a communication link to other universes or dimensions—something that the movie Interstellar played off of.

Well I’ve gone over by 52 words now (sorry I tried my best!), so until next time, stay curious my friends.