Quantum Break-up

 

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Two weeks ago at this time I was still with Naomi. There was surprise, anger, sadness, and now all I’m left with are questions. When did the whole thing go bad? When did love turn to hate? When was I wrong? When was I right? The more I think about it, the more I blame the whole thing on her. It was all her fault, yet something bugs me.

“What the hell are you worrying about? She was a bitch!” said Rachel, who had always been on my side, even when she shouldn’t have.

“You really think so?”, I asked hopeful.

“She slapped you, for God’s sake! You know what I’d do if a guy slapped me?”

“She saw me kissing Mary.”

“She saw Mary kissing you.”

“I’m not sure any more. Every time I think of that night-”

“I was there! One second and you pushed her away, how’s that your fault?”

“I know.”

“What’s wrong with you? She shouts at you, she leaves you outside waiting in the rain, and she slaps you. Don’t spend one more second thinking of her”.

Everything Rachel said was true, and so was everything I’d ever told her. Yet, it wasn’t the first time I had that feeling I couldn’t articulate something. Right as she was, Rachel hadn’t been there all the time. She hadn’t seen us in private. She had missed so many inexplicable intimacies, and those unspoken details were now dancing inside my head.

Tony had been a good friend these past weeks. He was playing the neutral game, meeting both of us, but he was Naomi’s friend long before I met him. We all knew he was going to stick with her.

“Just apologise” was his first conclusion.

“Excuse me?” was my reply.

“Apologise to her. Text her or something. Say you’re sorry and then forget the whole thing”.

I wondered if he just wanted to finish our friendship fast, or if he also wanted to date her in the near future.

“Sure. Here it goes. -Naomi, I’m sorry you slapped me. Your hand must really hurt after that. Also, staying in your warm flat at 2 am must have been a pain. You could have been down at the door with me feeling the rain on your skin-.”, I said.

“Who started all this? Who was the one not texting, the one saying I’m too busy?”, he replied.

“Are you really comparing these things?”

“I’m just saying she was lovely to you before you started not returning her calls.”

“You’re telling me everything would have been alright if I had picked up the phone?”

“Yes! That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”

“And she wouldn’t have slapped me, either.”

“Can you really blame her after kissing Mary?”

“She kissed me!”

“So what? You’d been talking to her for an hour leaving your girlfriend alone in a party where she didn’t know anyone else.”

I had to leave the room. This is the kind of bullshit I don’t need to listen to. If it was something I could really blame myself for, I’d take it. I really would. But not this crap. My friend Rachel was right, my soon to be ex-friend Tony wasn’t. That was it. Yet why was there something inside my head still wondering? In these moments of confusion Claire always helped.

Claire’s days were perfectly planned from 8.00 am to 11.59 pm. She wouldn’t waste any time, but she would spend it with me every time I called her. I met her at her lab.

“I don’t know, Claire, I just feel I’m missing something.”

She pointed at her experiment.

“This is a quantum system. Before I send light to take the measurement, it’s in a mixed state. Let’s say it’s not red, or blue, or green. It’s all of it at the same time.”

“Claire, I appreciate you-”

“When I send the light, I can see it with clarity. It’s only blue. Yet, if somebody else had repeated the experiment in the same circumstances, it would be only red.”

“Claire!”

“The thing is that once I see it blue, I can’t stop seeing it blue.”

“Claire! I’m not in the mood today. I don’t want to learn all this shit.”

“I’m just trying to help.”

“I know you are, I’m just, ah, forget it.”

I got up from there and left the room. Claire was my last hope to understand, and she was just telling me all this crap about the mixed state, and seeing it blue and somebody else seeing it red, and this, oh, shit. I turned on my feet and came back to the lab. She was already knee-deep in calculations.

“When you said quantum system, you meant relationship?”, I asked.

“Yup”, she replied, still looking at her papers.

“And when you said light, you meant break-up?”

Yup.

“Was I being a moron?”

“You’re starting to get it.”

“So if I see it blue, could I stop seeing it blue?”

“No, you’ve lost that mixed state. The break-up made it disappear.”

“And another person would see it red?”

“They would.”

“So?”

“So you learn. If you repeat the experiment with identical systems, sometimes you see it red, others blue, others green. You find out the quantity of them in the total mix.”

“But there are no identical Naomis. All I can see it’s blue.”

“You’d better learn from the blue, then.”

I’d better.

The science behind the story

This story is slightly different to previous ones, as the concept is itself explained in the story through Claire. To put it all in a nutshell, a quantum measurement makes the system go into one defined state. However, before we take that measurement, the system could be in several possible states. That’s why Schrödinger’s cat is often used as a metaphor, as it could be alive and dead inside its box before we look at it. In the story the break-up of a couple is used as an irreversible separation of perspectives. For a comprehensive approach to quantum measurements, see the Wikipedia page.


 

Photo from Pixabay, used with license CC0 Public Domain.

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